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Migrant students use their words in speech competition

This is a big weekend for some North County students who are competing in their first high school speech tournament.

The competitors are mostly Spanish-speaking children from migrant families.

César Rodriguez is a bilingual teacher at Fallbrook High School. He coaches students in techniques for extemporaneous speaking, communicating in Spanish mostly and in English when necessary. Wednesday afternoon, he worked with Susana Mondragon, Abisag Padilla, and Julio Tovar Romero — all of them Fallbrook High School freshmen.


“We demand them to think,” he said, “and it’s like: ‘Oh, what do I do?' They try to go to their cellphone and ask Google. But, no, you cannot use it. It’s like removing their support.”

M.G. Perez
César Rodriguez coaches Susana Mondragon, 14, who is practicing extemporaneous speaking in Spanish, Fallbrook, April 27, 2022.

Support is important.

These students and others preparing for the county tournament come from families who work in avocado orchards, orange groves and plant nurseries. The San Diego County Office of Education offers resources and support for 3,100 migrant students in San Diego and Orange Counties.

Christian Garcia is one of the many migrant education teachers who work for the county program. He told KPBS News that they meet students where they are in communication skills, saying, “Either language we support them in developing any of those language-based skills so they can do well and show their proficiency in speech.”


Julio Tovar Romero speaks fluently in Spanish with some broken English. He is committed to attending college after he graduates from high school. He said: “This program give me more, so much opportunity for school and college, and give me information about school.”