RCMA award

Isabel Garcia, RCMA executive director/Head Start director (right), accepts the Affiliate Advocacy Award from Eric Rodriguez, vice president of Policy and Advocacy at UnidosUS, and Maria S. Salinas, president and CEO of the Los Angeles-Area Chamber of Commerce and UnidosUS Board of Directors chair.

IMMOKALEE — Redland Christian Migrant Association received the Affiliate Advocacy Award from UnidosUS during the organization’s annual conference, which drew more than 3,000 social change leaders, experts and elected officials to San Diego on Aug. 3-6.

RCMA was recognized for its “commitment to excellence in education and an unwavering belief that migrant students are to be held to the highest standards, so they reach their potential as individuals, and have life choices and opportunities for success,” according to UnidosUS.

RCMA works with many partners, including UnidosUS, to raise awareness of the challenges faced by migrant families and children. RCMA staff, students and parents make legislative visits throughout Florida and in Washington, D.C. RCMA also informs community and business leaders about migrant family issues, and raises money for its Farmworker Advocacy services.

Isabel Garcia, RCMA executive director and Head Start director, accepted the award. Born into a third generation migrant farmworker family, Garcia knows first-hand the challenges faced by the students and families that RCMA serves.

“Receiving this honor from UnidosUS reinforces the importance of RCMA’s holistic approach to engaging and serving the entire family as we provide early childhood education and care,” says Garcia, who has worked for RCMA for 30 years. “Unlike many other educational institutions, RCMA must plan for the effects that migrant travel, poverty and discrimination have on our children and their parents. The fact that students at our three charter schools score higher on several Florida Standards Assessments measures than their peers and that we have more than 40,000 alumni who have gone on to lead successful lives demonstrates that we are making a positive impact on the most vulnerable children in Florida.”

Founded in 1965 as Redlands Christian Migrant Association with two childcare centers in Homestead, RCMA has grown today to operate 66 child development centers and three charter schools and partner with 25 family home care centers and afterschool programs to serve 6,500 children in 21 Florida counties, including Highlands, each year. Most children come from low-income, migrant families who also receive support from RCMA for health care, immigration services and parenting skills. Approximately 85 percent of RCMA’s $82 million budget comes from government grants such as Head Start.

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