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. raven

    @luis: You could call me a lotta things and youd be right. A bigot isnt one of them. Jealous? Maybe. If this kid got a free elementary education and scholarship on my OUR tax dollars that I bust my ass for Im more resentful than anything.

    September 14, 2011 at 3:26 am | Report abuse |
    • IsNot

      Lydia Patterson is a PRIVATE school set up for the express purpose of helping out kids like these, Simpson and Ohio Wesleyan are PRIVATE colleges that get very little in the way of any tax money. The scholarships came from from private monies, as well.

      Your bigotry IS shining through bright and clear and publicly. They were not crossing the border illegally, but checking through the gates every day as thousands of others do to work/visit. Believe it or not, that IS possible. In their case, it would be on student visas and day passes, also issued all the time.

      People also cross the Canadian border in the same manner and for the same reasons. Got something against them or is it just the Mexicans?

      September 14, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
  2. raven

    And as resentful as Ill be IF it was illegally, I will still give the kid mad props for his drive and ambition. And credit for using the resources he did to better himself and his community .

    September 14, 2011 at 3:31 am | Report abuse |
  3. raven

    Caw? Caw ? Thought maybe if I tried another language,someone might answer ?

    September 14, 2011 at 7:30 am | Report abuse |
  4. raven

    Hello ? (tap,tap) This thing on ?

    September 14, 2011 at 7:31 am | Report abuse |
  5. raven

    Hey guys.. over here! see me ? (brushed? Check! Flossed ?check? Showered ?check! *thanks sista* deodorant? check!) whaddu I gotta DO??

    September 14, 2011 at 7:37 am | Report abuse |
  6. raven

    Cmon guys.. its strong enough for a man but made for a woman..

    September 14, 2011 at 7:42 am | Report abuse |
  7. raven(in her best Rod Serling voice )

    It slowly began to dawn on raven that she wasnt IN the CNN blogs anymore..

    September 14, 2011 at 7:46 am | Report abuse |
  8. gung hoe

    Hey raven. Go back to sleep sweetie. NOW

    September 14, 2011 at 8:26 am | Report abuse |
  9. Mr. Raven

    Don't worry gung hoe. I've got her under control. A little wild but under control

    September 14, 2011 at 8:28 am | Report abuse |
  10. banasy©

    Hi, raven...if you're still here...

    September 14, 2011 at 9:00 am | Report abuse |
  11. Andy

    @White90: learn a little history we paid Mexico for much of that land and they tried to renege on it. The rest of the land, or people of the land I should say, ceded from Mexico to join the US so we didn't steal it from Mexico, get your head out of your @ss.

    September 14, 2011 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Simpson College Student

    Alejandro is one of the most talented students I've ever met. He takes every opportunity given to him and gives back to those around him 200%. How many other students can you say that about?

    September 14, 2011 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  13. raven

    If youre addressing me when making accusations of bigotry, youre wrong. I clearly asked for more info and said IF it was illegally in bold type. Like I said,you could call me a lotta things and youd be right but a bigot isnt one. And I stand by what I said. Including the pat on the back . So there .

    September 14, 2011 at 8:00 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Showmeyerpapers

    The former mex lands were purchased paid for the clovis were eastern europeans hunted mammoth and mastadon in north america long before any mex or indian existed hey indian wheres your green card

    September 15, 2011 at 3:23 am | Report abuse |
  15. Showmeyerpapers

    Hipsanics responsible for 75% of denvers crime these days there is a websight with police and ems radio frequencies for many communities name rhymes with radiopreference . Without the p listen for yourselves to the lawlessness these people represent

    September 15, 2011 at 4:12 am | Report abuse |
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