In loving memory of Blanca Tijerina, a dedicated advocate for the children of Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers, who's remarkable career in service has left an enduring legacy of love and compassion.
The Champion of the Farmworker
By Tom Hogan, former Migrant Head Start Center and Program Director
For the last 42 years, Blanca Tijerina exemplified devotion to the service of children of Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers. During the early days of Migrant services, Blanca followed families from harvest to harvest in an effort to provide safe shelter and food to the children of hardworking farm-working families. These days, after a 42-year career, Blanca recruits children to participate in center-based Head Start services in rural Genola, Utah.
“I remember meeting the champion of the farmworker, as a fresh college graduate in 1995 when I started my career in Head Start,” recalls Tom Hogan, former Migrant Head Start Center Director, and Program Director. “In those days Blanca worked in the Salem, Utah Migrant Head Start Center. I just remember Blanca sharing with me the passion of why she did the work. She told me of families that lived in a shack of a home, with little to eat, and even fewer opportunities to escape the poverty of the migrant lifestyle. I have always been impressed by her 100% can do attitude. She was never daunted by the challenges she faced. It is an inspiration,” reflects Hogan.
Blanca began her work with Migrant Head Start, like many of our ranks, as a volunteer. Blanca remembers shortly after moving to Utah in 1975 she saw a sign that volunteers were needed to take care of migrant children. Blanca immediately started volunteering at this center called Utah Rural Development. A few months into this volunteering work, members of the Center staff encouraged her to apply for an open position as a supervisor.
Blanca actually hesitated to apply for that position because she enjoyed the direct service work she had been doing. After so many requests for her to apply, she relented. During the interview, the team asked her how she planned to take care of the children and families, to which she answered, “as if they were my own.” This is actually how she has been doing it for the last 42 years, she has hundreds of children and families she calls her own and they all have loved her for that.
Throughout the years the migrant programs have gone through various transitions and Blanca has been there the whole time, an anchor to four generations of migrant families. While it is hard to put a solid number on how many children and families Blanca has served, it’s easy to say that every year during the season just over 100 children have received services in the rural areas of Utah County because of Blanca’s efforts. Don’t think for one minute she doesn’t remember them, so many it’s impossible to name, but there are those that stand out.
Whether it’s addressing the child with severe milk allergies, the child that she helps receive important medical diagnosis that explained his loss of eyesight, or the life-altering dental care, all this she does for the migrant families as a joyful labor of love. While the reasons for why she works so tirelessly are meaningful and deep to Blanca. The benefits of the work have been equally meaningful and deep to those she has served.
Blanca is a person who serves everyone without thinking what it takes to help them, she is simply, addicted to service. She is amazing, giving her heart to the work each and every day of her life.
Blanca quietly confesses, “If I had the opportunity to do anything different, I would do exactly the same, serve and work for the migrant families.”
For the love, dedication, service, and inspiration Blanca provides to the migrant and seasonal farmworker families and community, Centro would like to honor and recognize Blanca Tijerina.