FULL STORY: A Safe Haven From Juarez Violence
POSTED: Thursday, January 6, 2011 - 6:20pm
UPDATED: Sunday, January 9, 2011 - 1:11pm
EL PASO- EL PASO- 2010 was the worst year to date for Juarez, with more than 3,000 people killed. But one organization on this side of the border is trying to make a difference, one student at a time.
The Lydia Patterson Institute, or L.P.I., is a private school with just over 400 students grades 6 through 12. Of those, more than 70% live in Juarez.
More than just an education, L.P.I. provides students a peace of mind, if only for a few hours each day.
17 year-old Demetrius Hernandez is your average high school senior. He wants to study chemistry in college and today sits bored through geometry class, waiting for the bell to ring.
From geometry it's on to lunch, a daily routine that starts in a very dangerous way.
That's because Demetrius lives in one of the deadliest cities in the world. Juarez recorded nearly 3,100 murders last year.
For Demetrius, that means a harrowing drive to the border each morning, where Mom drops him off. He walks across the bridge and into the safety that L.P.I. provides.
"I don't know how to describe it. It's just great to be here because it provides shelter, it provides a great environment of love," he says.
"We've provided an education to students on both sides of the border," L.P.I. President Dr. Socorro de Anda told us.
She says students call her school a safe haven; a place where they can leave troubles behind, and just learn.
"They say as soon as we cross over to the other side, we can breathe again," she remarked.
Few, if any, that attend class here have yet to be affected by the violence. Stories of mothers or brothers being murdered are commonplace. For Demetrius, it was a cousin, gunned down in April.
"Just imagine you're celebrating Christmas, New Years, without one person in your family. How can that feel?" he said.
Reverend George Miller is the school's chaplain. He says the school copes by coming together, one family made stronger by violence on the border.
"With the counselors, and with the teachers, and the staff, we pull together and help each other in support."
Normal kid during the day, Demetrius crosses back into Juarez each night, just praying to make it home.
But despite the never-ending violence, he remains positive, looking forward to a future where he might return to Juarez, chemistry degree in hand.
"There's always hope. Even in dark situations. Our families are in danger, we do understand that. We're suffering, our hearts are damaged. But there's always hope," he said.
L.P.I. is a private school, receiving all of its funding from tuition and the Southern Methodist Church.
It seems the safety the school provides translates to success. 100% of graduating seniors over the last three years have gone on to college.