The Arizona Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Program (located in South Phoenix)

 Interview with Bernice Medina, Family Service Coordinator for the Arizona Migrant & Seasonal Head Start Program conducted on 2/15/02 @ 1:30pm – 2:00pm at the Chicanos Por La Causa, Inc. administrative office on Buckeye Road.  Team interviewers in this group effort were: Akesha Day, Cindy Overton and Juli Owens. 

Bernice’s Background

Bernice graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in Family Studies and Child Development.  She has worked at Chicanos Por La Causa, Inc. a total of three years, spending the last several years with the Arizona Migrant & Seasonal Head Start Program. 

Chicanos Por La Causa, Inc. Background

Chicanos Por La Causa, Inc. (CPLC) was founded in 1969, as a 501 (c)(3), Community Development Corporation (CDC).  The organization's mission is to help individuals and families improve their quality of life by providing them the opportunity for a better education, good employment, and quality, affordable housing. Since its establishment, CPLC has not wavered from its mission, rather it has extended its social services programs and economic development ventures to reach impoverished
people throughout Arizona. 

Arizona Migrant & Seasonal Head Start Program Background

*The Arizona Migrant and Seasonal Head Start (AMSHSP) was authorized by Congress in 1969.  It is a branch of the Head Start Bureau.  The Regional/Regular and Tribal Head Start Programs are each different branches under the same Head Start umbrella.  There are 24 migrant grantees in 16 states.  Program length can be as short as 4 weeks to as long as 10 months. 

Tying this program to South Phoenix…

Although the Arizona Migrant & Seasonal Head Start Program primarily serves migrant and seasonal workers, who live in agricultural areas, the Hispanic population in urban South Phoenix is impacted as well.  Ways South Phoenix is impacted include kinship ties that are renewed or created as migrants come to America.  Also, the Hispanic culture is reinforced as newly arriving migrants remind them of “homeland” traditions.  Lastly, as migrant families, who have benefited from the program, move up to South Phoenix, the physical and economic landscape will presumably change. 


Team:              What does this center do and how long has it been here?

Bernice:          This building houses the administrative staff for the Arizona Migrant & Seasonal Head Start Program.  Personnel at this center oversee (in different capacities) the programs at our seven centers.  Children’s programs/activities/schooling take place at the centers.  Program staff here includes: the director, the health and nutrition coordinator, the child development coordinator and the family services coordinator (my position).  In addition, the regional coordinator, HUB, statewide coordinator quality assurance coordinator and MIS personnel are here.  The vice-president for Chicanos Por La Causa, Inc. is in this building as well.

 Team:              Where are the centers located?

Bernice:          They are primarily in agricultural areas.  We have three centers in Yuma County (San Luis D and San Luis C and Somerton), one in Eloy (Pinal County), another in Willcox (Cochise County) and two in Maricopa County (Dysart and Queen Creek).

 Team:              What unique needs do migrant and seasonal workers have?

Bernice:          They’re new to the area and they generally don’t speak any English, they need help finding resources.

 Team:              Can you provide us with a historical background on these migrant families?

Bernice:          *Historically, there used to be migrant camps.  Families used to pick up and move upstream and downstream following crop work.  Both parents worked in the fields, as did the children.  Now, because few camps still exist, families find it economically difficult to travel in the same way (although they still follow the crops as they work upstream and down stream.) Still both parents work, but the children now attend school, the focus is on education.  

 Team:              How does one qualify for program assistance?  


At least 51% of the earned family income (during the previous 12 months) must have been earned from agricultural work.  More specifically, *the entire family must have moved interstate or intrastate during the past 24 months for the purpose of engaging in agricultural employment that involves the production and harvesting of tree and field crops. (Priority is given to those families that have moved within the last 12 months.)  Children in those qualifying families must be between the ages of 6 weeks to 4 years and 11 months.  The majority of families come from Mexico.

 Team:              What are the goals and philosophy of the program?

Bernice:          We help the children by helping the family.  Our goal is to make the families self-sufficient, because once the child leaves the program; the family is on their own.  *We are committed to the provision of quality childcare services to children and families in and around the state of Arizona.  We believe children learn best in a safe, healthy and nurturing environment that respects their individual needs and rewards their every measure of success.  We believe parents are the principle educators of their children and that the child’s family should be involved in all dimensions of the child’s development.  We believe that by providing opportunities for the family to explore new experiences together, we can make a difference.

 Team:              What services do you offer the children at these centers?

Bernice:          We offer education and health services.  We aim to *provide an environment that will help children grow socially, intellectually, physically and emotionally.  We use a children centered approach to active learning and promote a bilingual/multicultural curriculum.  Regarding health services each child receives a physical exam, screenings and immunizations, along with preventative health education activities.  Children are also provided with a daily breakfast, lunch and snack.

 Team:              What kind of services do you offer families at each center?              

Bernice:          Social services, we try to assist the families with all their needs.  Among other efforts, a case worker (staffed in each center) visits the family once a month to assess how they’re doing and if they need anything. 

Team:              What kinds of things do children learn at the centers?

Bernice:          It depends on their age, for the older kids we try to prepare them for their transition into kindergarten by teaching them “A,B,C’s” and colors.  Spanish and English are taught at the centers as well.

 Team:              How many children do you expect to help this next year?

Bernice:            We are proposing to help 684 children state wide this year.

 Team:              How many are in each center?

Bernice:          *220 children are enrolled in our three centers in Yuma: San Luis D serves 78 children (children, toddlers and preschoolers); San Luis C serves 32 children (preschoolers); Somerton serves 110 children (infants, toddlers and preschoolers).

                        Our center in Eloy serves 37 preschoolers and the center in Willcox serves 53 toddlers and preschoolers.

                        121 children in Maricopa County: Queen Creek serves 37 preschoolers. The center in Dysart (is in partial service now, due to building expansion) will soon serve 84 children, toddlers and preschoolers.   

 Team:              Who are your partners in the community?

Bernice:          Every center has its own contacts.  Center coordinators cultivate partnerships with organizations and businesses within each community.  Our centers are quite spread out across the state.

 Team:              How are you funded?

Bernice:            We are federally funded.

 Team:              Who is on staff at each center?

Bernice:          A center service manager, a family-service worker (our center on the Westside has 3 family service workers), a bus driver (families aren’t expected to have transportation…each center has a bus to pick the children up and bring them home), a cook, teacher(s) and teacher assistant(s) and an office manager. 

 Team:              Do you distribute food to the families?

Bernice:          No, but if they need food we put them in contact with local food banks.  We act as an informational resource for food assistance programs.

 Team:              What is the average size of the family you assist?

Bernice:            A family of five.

 Team:              What sorts of credentials are instructors required to hold?

Bernice:          They are state certified and hold C.D.A’s (Child Development Certificates).

 Team:              How can people help?

Bernice:          People can donate money or goods.  Families are always in need of things like furniture, clothing, and toys.  If anyone would like to donate, just have them call us at the center @ 602-254-4827.  (They can then bring items or monetary donations to our office here on Buckeye Road.)

To speak with Bernice Medina, call her at (602) 254-4827 or e-mail her at

 *Information referenced from an AMSHSP handout provided by Bernice Medina.

Chicanos Por La Causa, Inc.   

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