CAMP sets the foundation for both.

Fifty years ago, access to higher education was severely lacking for families of migrant workers. In response, the federal government created the College Assistance Migrant Program, commonly known as CAMP, to help first-year migrant students navigate their college experience — financially, socially and academically — and receive support along the way.

Oregon State University’s CAMP program began in the 1980s, and one of the main objectives is to remove financial barriers. Each CAMP student automatically receives $1,800 toward first-year expenses, as well as free tutoring and academic counseling. Students also participate in a social cohort to help build community and connect with other migrant students. In addition, students can apply for the CAMP Scholars Internship Program — an opportunity offered in partnership with University Housing and Dining Services that offers leadership training and hands-on work experience in various places.

CAMP director María Andrade, who has held various roles in the program over the last 17 years, said the sense of belonging that CAMP provides greatly impacts student retention. In addition, more students come back to Oregon State following graduation or enroll at other universities to begin master’s or Ph.D. programs.  

Angel Esiquio Ruiz, ’19, who participated in CAMP and is now its recruiter and outreach coordinator at Oregon State, said many students face transitional challenges such as homesickness and imposter syndrome — where they doubt their abilities to succeed in this new atmosphere. 

“I always try to encourage our students to support one another, to remind them of the support they had back home, and that they can re-create it here at OSU," Esiquio Ruiz said.

Esiquio Ruiz said that’s what led him to success — and made him want to give back. After struggling mentally and academically when he first started college, he began making friends in the CAMP program and built connections with the staff. That guidance gave him the confidence and camaraderie he had been missing.

Alexsandra Cortés, ’14, who is now CAMP’s academic counselor, said she is still close with the friends she made in her cohort nearly 10 years ago. In her current role, she helps students find their path, just like others did for her. And current Oregon State student Ismael Ochoa, who participated in CAMP’s 2022 cohort, said it helped him adjust to an unfamiliar environment.

“Before arriving at OSU, I kept to myself and was not very extroverted,” he said. “CAMP brought out that side of me.”  

CAMP is continuing to find ways to recruit new students, including its summer program, the Oregon Migrant Leadership Institute. It brings high school juniors and seniors to campus for a week to learn about important details such as admission requirements, financial aid and scholarships. It also includes special sessions with representatives from the College of Engineering and College of Agricultural Sciences — to give students a real-life glimpse into those specific fields.  

In the future, leaders hope to develop a partnership with local community colleges to give students earlier access to CAMP resources and support.   

Esiquio Ruiz said CAMP changed his life for the better. And many others would say the same.