CSUMB’s “Junior Otters” Celebrate Graduation

By Scott Roark | July 28, 2017

Laughter and smiles filled the University Center Ballroom and World Theater on Friday, July 28th, as approximately 200 “Junior Otters” and their families celebrated the completion of a transformative summer academy at California State University, Monterey Bay.

For some of these students, it’s the first exposure to a college setting – it can completely change their lives.
Berj Amir

During the month of July, these children, almost all from migrant households, come to campus from throughout Monterey County and receive instruction in language arts and math in the morning. In the afternoon, it’s dance, art, theater and music. The children are in the 4th through 8th grades. They come from as far away as San Ardo.

Junior Otters at the University Center
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Exposure to college

"For some of these students, it’s the first exposure to a college setting – it can completely change their lives,” said Berj Amir, a retention advisor with CSUMB’s Educational Opportunities Program. “CSUMB is proud to be a part of this effort. We want to show them that college is a possibility.”

This exposure to college life means new skills for young students. Learning sessions are conducted in technology-driven “smart classrooms.” Video editing classes are held in the University’s tech labs. Other classes train in drama, voice and dance.

We want to expose students to their Latino culture through visual and performing arts
Carl Del Grande

Those skills are on full display during the closing ceremony. Video shorts produced by the students, along with skits celebrating the importance of science and the arts from their perspective, can help students find an identity.

Migrant education

“We want to expose students to their Latino culture through visual and performing arts, and allow them to explore technology,” said Carl Del Grande, the administrator and coordinator of Migrant Education for the Monterey County Office of Education (MCOE). “This year’s theme was STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering + Arts and Mathematics) and the activities and presentations reinforced this.”

The Junior Otter program is a Migrant Education Student Academy (MESA), part of MCOE’s Migrant Education Program Region XVI. It’s operated in partnership between CSUMB, El Teatro Campesino and the California Mini-Corp Program.

Next year, the program will celebrate its 10th year with keynote speaker Luis Valdez, founder of El Teatro Campesino and a CSUMB founding faculty.

Monterey Co. Office of Education photos