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School Builds Bridges Over Borders


—By Rod Jones<\/em><\/p>\r\n

There it is again—that persistent 4 a.m. alarm blaring from the clock. Time to get up. Snooze is not an option. You have 30 minutes to get up, get ready, and get to the border checkpoint. <\/span>\r\n<\/p>\r\n

Welcome to Monday. And Tuesday. And every other weekday for the rest of the school year. It’s still dark outside—and will likely be dark on the return walk home—but the promise of a bright future is just around the corner. This is the kind of dedication that sends many a student on the path of success at the Lydia Patterson Institute.\r\n<\/p>\r\n

The private United Methodist school blocks away from the U.S.-Mexico border has been educating students from both countries for more than a century. Some students come from its home city of El Paso, Texas. Others from neighboring Juarez, Mexico.<\/p>\r\n

La Lydia took seniors, including Emiliano Tarin, to a college fair in Texas. Photo provided by Tarin. Luisa Torres and other La Lydia students helped clean the school. Torres snapped a photo at the U.S.-Mexico border crossing on her way to school. Photos provided by Torres.<\/figcaption><\/figure>\r\n

St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Oklahoma City has been a prominent supporter for several years, and this is why: “‘La Lydia’”—as it is commonly known to friends—“has been dedicated to building bridges between two countries, two cities, and two cultures.” \r\n<\/p>\r\n

An astounding 95 percent of Lydia Patterson’s graduating seniors go on to attend a college or university. That figure is far higher than the national average. According to the latest figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, less than 70 percent of high school graduates in the country as a whole go on to college.\r\n<\/p>","

Even for those who don’t, having a degree and experience from La Lydia can have a profound, positive impact on graduates’ lives, said institute President Dr. Socorro de Anda. <\/p>\r\n

“I can’t begin to tell you how seriously they take their education,” de Anda said. “Not everyone gets the opportunity to receive a private education for free, and they all realize that.”<\/p>\r\n

She said many Lydia Patterson students go to college in hopes of gaining skills to bring back home to help improve their community. Common career choices include medicine, education, and church ministry.\r\n<\/p>\r\n

With such a high rate of college-bound hopefuls in a school that enrolls around 300 students, Lydia Patterson uses staff counselors and a network of United Methodist volunteers across the country—especially in the Southwest—to help students find and apply for higher education.\r\n<\/p>\r\n

One of those champions is the Rev. Josh Attaway (BM Music\/Business ’12), pastor of St. Luke’s Edmond United Methodist Church. Attaway helps Lydia Patterson high school students find internships and places to stay, and also helps the graduates connect with the scholarships to continue their education. The church offers four scholarships each academic year.\r\n<\/p>\r\n

Attaway learned about Lydia Patterson while growing up in the United Methodist Church. Since becoming a pastor, he has hosted several interns who have come up during the summer as part of a high school-lay servant extracurricular program. He has been to El Paso a few times to witness what life is like for students there, including walking with students from the border to the school and sitting with them in class.\r\n<\/p>\r\n

“It’s gratifying to help these students reach their dreams,” Attaway said. “We help open doors that otherwise wouldn’t be open.”\r\n<\/p>\r\n

Luisa Torres played and sang in the school’s mariachi band. Photo provided by Torres.<\/figcaption><\/figure>\r\n

Luisa Torres, an OCU sophomore who plans to enter the nursing program this fall, is one of this year’s Lydia Patterson scholars. Her major of choice was inspired by her mother, a nurse in Juarez.\r\n<\/p>\r\n

Torres describes her childhood as normal, but in a dangerous city with cartel violence often spilling into the city streets. Her father and brother are journalistic photographers. \r\n<\/p>\r\n

“They don’t even print their names with their photos because they don’t want the gangs to know who they are,” she said.\r\n<\/p>\r\n

She says her hometown is safer than it used to be, but the cartels have left many areas of poverty in their wake. She plans to return to Mexico to do mission work after she gets her nursing degree.\r\n<\/p>\r\n

Torres has embodied OCU’s nickname—Over-Committed University—since high school.\r\n<\/p>\r\n

“I was very involved in school. I helped organize chapel service and played in the mariachi band. I was there every day from 7 a.m. to 6 at night,” she said.\r\n<\/p>\r\n

All scholarship students at Lydia Patterson are required to make some kind of labor contribution to help the school. With duties like sweeping, mopping, and serving in the cafeteria, Torres said the requirement helped keep the school clean and well maintained.\r\n<\/p>\r\n

“It made the school like a family. Everyone is responsible for taking care of it,” she said.\r\n<\/p>\r\n

Adding those extra few hours at the border crossing had Torres up early every day and late getting home, but she says it was all worth it. Especially on the day she learned she was accepted to OCU.\r\n<\/p>\r\n

“One day during my senior year, the president called me to the office,” she said. “I was so scared, but I couldn’t think of anything I did wrong. What a relief when the president said I had been accepted.”\r\n<\/p>\r\n

Torres had spent the summer before that year in an internship at St. Luke’s, during which she was able to explore the city and campus.\r\n<\/p>\r\n

“Every time I wake up, I’m thinking how grateful I am to be here.”\r\n<\/p>\r\n

Emiliano Tarin, also an OCU sophomore nursing hopeful from Lydia Patterson, remembers his first time on campus.\r\n<\/p>\r\n

“The first moment I saw this place, I fell in love,” Tarin said. “Just seeing these old historic buildings and landscape, it felt like the place I wanted to be.”\r\n<\/p>\r\n

Tarin described the extra steps and paperwork it took to enroll in both high school and college in the U.S. as a Mexican citizen—made easier with the support and encouragement of family, friends, and school staffs on both sides of the border.\r\n<\/p>\r\n

“The hardest challenge and test for us now is to have the strength to be so far away from home,” he said.\r\n<\/p>\r\n

Both students have found activities to help them get over any lingering homesickness.\r\n<\/p>\r\n

A musician herself, Torres volunteers at El Sistema Oklahoma, a music school for underserved children with partnership support from OCU, St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, and Delaware Resource Group. Several of the children need help with English, which allows Torres to utilize her skills and personal experience.\r\n<\/p>"]

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