It’s bad news that WSU’s High School Equivalency Program lost its federal funding after 42 years of continuous operation. But what a run HEP had, helping some 3,700 students over the years. And what good news it is that the College of Education plans to re-apply for a grant next year, in hopes of bringing more Hispanic and Native American students to Pullman to earn their GEDs and gain exposure to big city campus life.
From the beginning, some of the students whose lives were changed by HEP have helped change the university. In the program’s pilot year, 1967, five of the nine migrant farm workers who enrolled stayed at the university after graduation to earn a degree. The following year, most of WSU’s 32 Hispanic students were also HEP graduates. As the Web site of the student group MEChA explains:
“Former student Moises Terrescano described the climate these students faced: ‘Academic assistance was minimal, and homesickness occurred quite often … no one could deny the fact that they were seen quite “differently” by teachers and students. Their presence seemed not welcomed.’ To overcome isolation and build a sense of community in a predominantly white college town, students organized the first student organization, Mexican American Student Association (MASA) in October 1969. Soon thereafter MASA changed their name to MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan) to become part of the national Chicano Movement. Margarita Mendoza de Sugiyama and Rudy Cruz were two MEChA leaders that brought stability to the organization and made connections to the Mexican communities in the Yakima Valley. When the United Farmworkers Movement arrived in the Yakima Valley, MEChA brought the UFW’s Grape Boycott Campaign to Pullman forcing Safeway and WSU Dining Services to stop selling non-union grapes. This MEChA victory was possible because of the alliances they forged with the Black Student Union, Native American student group and progressive white students.”
Who’s the mystery woman?
The last EduCoug post featured a photo of a teacher in the ’89 Snohomish High yearbook. If you haven’t guessed, that was none other than Associate Professor Tamara Nelson of WSU Vancouver.
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