by Madeline Daniels, First Focus Campaign for Children
“It’s a summer day, the sun is rising, and the sound of my mother’s cooking awakes me. Her meal will be enough to get us through the day that awaits us. One would think this was about a child that awakes to her mother’s cooking to go to school like any other ordinary child, but that isn’t the case here. My life is much more complex, even to this day. I live day by day struggling to get past each month with my family. Working in the fields is all we know, it’s all we think we’re good at, it’s what we do to survive.”
Zulema Lopez is a 17-year-old, fourth-generation migrant farmworker, and one of the United States’ hundreds of thousands of agricultural child laborers. Instead of a school year punctuated by football games and dances, hers are defined by family moves and growing cycles: asparagus, then strawberries, then cucumbers, to apples.
“Falling behind in my studies is the main problem that I face every time I move from state to state to work in the fields. For example, during my freshmen year I attended four high schools. I was devastated when my counselor advised me that I was lacking credits and that I was going to be a 2nd year freshmen. Luckily my counselor arranged for me to attend summer school. I dedicated my summer to my studies and managed to gain two credits and catch up in school; though not going to work in the summer set me back financially.… Read the rest