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. ben

    Im not trying to be all mean but pets and animals need food too. Just think if 25 percent of all non whites were processed into animal feed. We could feed dogs and cats and even the fish in the ocean. Plus there wouldnt be so much cheap labor.

    September 13, 2011 at 9:32 pm | Report abuse |
  2. pedro

    I agree with you ben. Way too many mexikins around here.

    September 13, 2011 at 9:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • White90

      To trully close the borders the U.S should give back what it stole from Mexico Texas, California, New Mexico and Arizona. Just think about it we get rid of the Rick Perries, George Bushes, and most of you ignorant a$$h0les that are granted your citizenship in those states by just popping out of your anchor babies moms. Technically you people that are born there are more mexican than you would like to admit. We dont want you in our country you filthy southerns. See? its just a made up border...Mexicans

      September 14, 2011 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
  3. ben

    Those post should sure enough stir em up. : ) I think it was really Banasy typing them. : )

    September 13, 2011 at 9:47 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Scottish Mama

    One day he may a fortune 500 company, employ some americans, go back and start a school in Mexico, open a town to reading, writing, math, engineering, teachers, trades, and have youths of his country not to run with the cartel. He will say I went to school in America, they gave me a chance I would not had, I will give to my people and realize I can make a difference. The people he tells in his country believe that the people above the border are not so bad, the relations improve and they do not let companies go across the border for cheap labor and they make good money. We have a program where they go to school anywhere in the USA and they pay. We need more teachers. We employ teachers that speak spanish and they teach our children real spanish. Are we still the melting pot? We need rules, laws, and compassion. NEVER MIND.

    September 13, 2011 at 10:09 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Cesar


    September 13, 2011 at 10:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      Or maybe he will be a nurse.

      September 13, 2011 at 10:29 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Andy

    Of course they have they've found a new market to sell their drugs.

    September 13, 2011 at 10:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alex

      Oh come on! but who do you think buys those drugs??? it is not other Mexicans for sure!

      September 18, 2011 at 3:23 am | Report abuse |
  7. Marilynn Manson

    I don't like the drugs,but the drugs like me.

    September 13, 2011 at 10:56 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Mick Jagger

    Iv'e never had a problem with drugs, Iv'e only had problems with the police.

    September 13, 2011 at 11:02 pm | Report abuse |
  9. gogogoodie.com

    Glad to hear these kids have a chance at a good life!

    September 13, 2011 at 11:04 pm | Report abuse |
  10. bunga-bunga

    Yu guys don't do nothing for this country, let some mexicans do the job.you bunch of lazy Birds. COME On BE rEALISTIC.

    September 14, 2011 at 12:17 am | Report abuse |
  11. banasy©

    @ben: what?

    September 14, 2011 at 12:25 am | Report abuse |
  12. raven

    I went back to re-read this article twice thinking I had missed something. Did I ?? How did he do this as a child ?? Was there some sorta program or did he sneak here? How the h-e-l-l did he get enrolled ? Did I miss something ? If he DID sneak then holy s-h-i-t, WHAT border patrol?? and Hey Cesar!! Ive been wondering where you were! Ive missed your The world is a ___ and I am its ____ sayings. And Hello my sister! Ive been gone a few days and missed you too !!

    September 14, 2011 at 1:03 am | Report abuse |
  13. Arrrrgh

    So my taxes paid for this kid to go to school and probably eat for free. And now he has taken a scholarship away from an American citizen? *sigh* awesome

    September 14, 2011 at 1:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Taylor

      hahaha no my dear, America is not only about free public school; you should get to know the private school system which gives you nothing for free

      September 18, 2011 at 3:25 am | Report abuse |
  14. Luis

    Shame on you jealous biggots.

    September 14, 2011 at 2:25 am | Report abuse |
  15. Tarantino

    He is young ans naive to still believe in the american dream. America is a sinking boat.

    September 14, 2011 at 2:27 am | Report abuse |
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