Whitman student and Puentes intern, Miriam Zuniga, reflects on the film Every Row a Path. Produced by the DreamFields Project in partnership with Reel Grrls, the film is a collaboration between Jill Freidberg and the youth who actually appear in the short documentary.
The screening of Every Row a Path was held at the Central Cinema in Seattle. The screening started off with 5 young women from Mount Vernon, WA who made the film, speaking of their excitement at being able to screen the documentary here in Seattle. The opening scenes of the film were somber with shots of field workers picking fruit at dawn. The young women then took turns recording each other, asking some hard hitting questions like “How was your life as a migrant child?”
Hearing middle school girls talk about having to help pick fruit in the fields of Mount Vernon after school was heart wrenching. Having to see young children make the conscious decision to help their family financially instead of focusing on their education really brought into perspective how a parent’s economic stability is inherently tied to a child’s ability to succeed in school.
The film was combination of the young women’s middle school and high school experiences and how much they had grown in that time. The baby faces from their middle school years, where they were just starting to realize their predicament morphed into high school determination to better themselves, but to also further help their families. They went to school, picked fruit afterwards, didn’t get home till late at night and then, they did their homework.
One of the young women recalls starting her homework around 2 am due to having to help with dinner and helping get all of her younger siblings to bed after they got back from picking in the fields. Another remark that really brought into perspective all of the hardships migrant children face, was when one of the young women spoke of how much she hates the tulip festival in Skagit county.
Everyone loves how beautiful the tulips look when in bloom, yet all she sees is the long painful hours planting those tulips. The beauty was marred by the back breaking work she was forced to endure to survive.
Despite of all of the hurdles that the young women had to go through to achieve success, with the help of their Migrant Leaders Club at the Mount Vernon Middle School, they were able to graduate from high school. They dealt with pregnancies, having to take care of their siblings, after school jobs, as well as balancing migrant work and school. With all of the scholarships received, all of the young women are now in various colleges across the state while continuing to advocate for migrant children. They want to become immigration lawyers and special education teachers, among other professions.
The Q&A following the screening was just as exciting and informative as the film. One of the questions asked focused on male migrant students and their high school graduation rates. The question was particularly important since the film was focused on 5 women and at the founding of the club, it was all girls. One of the young women partially answered explaining that male migrant students have even lower graduation rates since they leave school to work in the fields from a young age. For boys, education was not even an option, the only option for them was to work. Then, a young man was brought up to the stage and told his story of having to drop out of 9th grade to help his family out but due to the success of his girlfriend, one of the young women in the film, he was planning on getting his GED.
It was heartwarming to see how these 5 young women are inspiring, not only their family members, but members of the community to continue their education despite financial hurdles. The young women are no longer members of the Migrant Leaders Club since they are in college now, but the club is still active. The club tours around the country screening the film and bringing awareness to a highly underrepresented population. It is both amazing, but also heartbreaking that this migrant student club is needed since no child should have to balance working in the fields with obtaining an education.
You can do your part by becoming informed about where your food is sourced from since often food systems affect the quality of life of migrant families and their children. Additionally, screening the film and raising awareness was suggested by the five women, alongside having frank conversations about unjust work conditions and vulnerable populations who are often lost in a cycle of poverty.
To view the trailer, check it out here: http://www.everyrow.com/trailer.html