Migrant farmworker to graduate from PSC

Posted at 3:48 PM, May 05, 2016

He spent most of his life picking fruits and vegetables in central Florida, but migrant worker Leonel Navarrete always had bigger dreams, like getting an education.

Thursday night he's graduating with a degree from Polk State College.

"I didn't want to live like this for the rest of my life," he said. "That's when I started to realize that doing well in school can really open doors."

Navarrete, who moved here from Mexico when he was 6, started working the fields with his mother by age 11.

Even now, in between classes, he's working the fields with his mom to help pay the bills.

Thursday he will earn an Associates in Arts degree but plans to continue on to earn his Bachelors in order to become a teacher.

"It will be a new beginning for me," he said. "It's pretty exciting for someone who comes from nothing to something. I think that's a pretty powerful story."

Polk State College officials said many migrant farmworkers attend the college, but very few are able to finish to due lack of support or resources.

Navarrete worked tirelessly to find scholarships and received enough help to get through Polk State.

He hopes to stay in the area and become an elementary teacher.

Polk State College graduation ceremony is Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the Lakeland Center.