Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.

When I was teenager I worked on the vegetable farms that bordered my home town of Lansing, Illinois. It was grueling labor that lasted from sun up to sun down, six days a week. There I first met migrant workers: families from Texas that made the trip to Illinois every summer. We worked side by side -- but I knew I had a way out: I would go to college and start a career. Many of those families were stuck in fields for generations, and breaking that cycle is not easy.

Despite those incredible difficulties, Denise Cruz is doing it. The 21-year-old is now far from the sweltering sugar beet fields of Minnesota where she spent her childhood summers. Now the Michigan State sociology student will be spending her summer in Washington, D.C., as an intern sponsored by the National Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Association.

Denise Cruz and Harry Smith