Update: Mexican students who survived drug violence thrive in America
Alejandro Caballero crossed the U.S.-Mexico border each day to attend high school. Now, he has a full scholarship at Iowa's Simpson College.
September 13th, 2011
06:51 PM ET

Update: Mexican students who survived drug violence thrive in America

Alejandro Caballero attends college in Iowa, nearly 1,000 miles away from his home and family in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. It's his third year studying marketing communications at Simpson College, but he's been going to school in the United States for nearly eight.

Caballero, 20, began crossing the border from Juarez to El Paso, Texas, for school when he was 13. His mother dropped him off every day at the border in Juarez and he made the trip alone to El Paso for six years.

The experience taught him a valuable lesson about responsibility and independence, one that got him through high school and has earned him a full college scholarship three years in a row.

"I would get that feeling of now, after 8 a.m., when mom drops me off at the border, I'm independent. I can do whatever I want. I can go to school or skip school," he said. "Obviously I never did skip school, but it gave me that feeling of being independent, of realizing that I could make my own decisions, and I could make the right ones or the wrong ones."

Caballero was one of several students from Lydia Patterson Institute who spoke with CNN in 2009. At the time, about 70% of students lived in Mexico as Mexican border cities such as Juarez became battlefields in the drug war, and American cities such as El Paso became refuges for middle- and upper-class Mexicans.

But families that could not give up their lives in Juarez sent their children to schools in El Paso.

"If it hadn’t been for Lydia Patterson, I wouldn't have had the chance to go to college because obviously, my family earns very low income, so having a full scholarship is definitely a blessing," he said. "I'm very thankful for Lydia Patterson."

Hazel Barrera also lived in Juarez and made the most of her education at Lydia Patterson. She's now a sophomore Ohio Wesleyan University, double majoring in English and art with a concentration in metals and photography.

"It's really, really cold and I've never seen so many cloudy days, so it's different," she said. "But I like it because the school is small, like Lydia Patterson, and I like it there even though it's always cold.

Caballero is also content despite the colder climate of Indianola, home to Simpson College, which he described fondly as a "small, quiet little town."

He puts his photography and marketing skills to use in his free time by volunteering for his school's public relations department. He has his own freelance photography business on the side but rarely gets around to shooting in between school, volunteering and pursuing internships with marketing agencies.

He attends school on a student visa and returns to Juarez for Christmas and the summer recess. He misses his family, but he feels prospects for a better future lie in the United States.

"It's a complicated question," he said. "I really want to live here; I see a big future in front of me. I want to work with big companies and pretty sure if I go back to Mexico I wouldn't have the same opportunities."

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Filed under: Education • Juarez • Mexico
soundoff (59 Responses)
  1. Jordan scene©

    We need more stories like this. It just goes to show not all immigrants of Latin descent are lazy bums looking for the American handout or criminals etc. These kids come here legally, while they have next to nothing of value, they're working tirelessly to better themselves and set a good example to others like them. Kudos to these kids.

    September 13, 2011 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • AuggieDoggy

      American taxpayers still pay for all these wonderful "students".. Welfare recipients of this countries' largess and generosity. How is it repaid? It isn't.

      September 13, 2011 at 8:32 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Emma Peel

    I'm all for a sappy story, but how on earth did they just get to go to a Texas school? I can't even get my kid into a school in a better school district in the town next to mine, let alone another country....what's wrong with this picture? What, some kid walks into a classroom, sits down, and they let him stay? Meanwhile, that lady from Ohio almost had a felony conviction because she kinda sorta did the same thing? What the hell?

    September 13, 2011 at 7:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • AuggieDoggy

      Since when do we owe Mexicans anything for free education/grants/welfare/Medicaid/Food stamps?

      September 13, 2011 at 8:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ana

      students who go to Lydia Patterson are not receiving anything for free; they actually contribute to the economy of your country because they pay the teachers' wages!

      September 18, 2011 at 3:16 am | Report abuse |

    i bet you he is dealing at school... and has the best deals..

    September 13, 2011 at 7:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ana

      how smart of you...

      September 18, 2011 at 3:17 am | Report abuse |
  4. Jordan scene©


    September 13, 2011 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jordan scene©

    CNN is anti jordan scene tonight.

    September 13, 2011 at 7:50 pm | Report abuse |
  6. RUFFNUTT (arkasas hillbilly dentist)

    @jordan.. they have you computer bugged.. the cnn is after you!!!

    September 13, 2011 at 7:57 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Cesar

    Make a law in Mexico. To be affiliated in any violent illegal gang, first offense, get branded in the forehead. 2nd offense, amputate one hand. 3rd offense, DEATH penalty. This will solve the problem-no doubt.

    September 13, 2011 at 8:07 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Cesar

    Wait a minute! What was I thinking? That would be wrong. The government can't do that to these demons. Then the human rights groups would get upset too. Ok then. Let them brutalize our fellow human beings, burn them in casinos, butcher and be head the innocent. Continue the 20% conviction rate. Bravo! Carry on Mexico.

    September 13, 2011 at 8:22 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jazzzzzzzz

    Geesh... cesar that's is kinda harsh, but the future, looks bleak for many so I would,'t say no to your laws.

    September 13, 2011 at 8:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Karla

      You have no idea how complicated this issue is. It would not be solved with death penalty at all

      September 18, 2011 at 3:18 am | Report abuse |
  10. Cesar

    @Jazzzz: Harsh for the harsh. What was I thinking!!!!! Viva the Mexican drug dealers, extortionists, human trafficers, kidnapers!!!!

    September 13, 2011 at 8:55 pm | Report abuse |
  11. bunga-bunga

    For each its own let this yougter be what he wants to be. If americans don't take advantage of the great opportunity, then welcome all the alliens. Lol

    September 13, 2011 at 9:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • snake

      wrong as shole, millions of american citizens are denied rights that are given to anchor babies, illegals, and visa holders. FU CK THEM ALL!

      September 13, 2011 at 9:19 pm | Report abuse |
  12. snake

    fu ck him and everyone like him. deport this mf'er

    September 13, 2011 at 9:17 pm | Report abuse |
  13. banasy©

    Cesar, how do you *really* feel, hon?
    Let it all out.
    Tell Auntie banasy©.

    September 13, 2011 at 9:18 pm | Report abuse |
  14. snake

    who will be left in mexico to fight and make things right? answer, nobody! and it will all spillover here to the U.S. and then american citizens will have to kill all these animals.

    September 13, 2011 at 9:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alex

      You should really get a little bit educated dude, stop making yourself look ridiculous!

      September 18, 2011 at 3:20 am | Report abuse |
  15. Jazzzzzzzz

    @ CESAR "crack that whip" sir, yes spar the rod, spoil the child , and see what you come out with.
    I do miss the days when neighbors would watch out for each others kids
    Not that I condone EXTREME punishment to your child, just can't let them think there is NO consequences for their actions!

    September 13, 2011 at 9:23 pm | Report abuse |
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