In Birmingham, there is no question in middle school graduates’ minds that the end of summer vacation marks the beginning of another, unavoidable school year.
For teens in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, a high school education is not only avoidable, but unaffordable, inconvenient and unavailable. At an age American teens associate with a babysitting gig or driver’s education, Mexican teens often begin jobs or families of their own.
At the beginning of April, members of the (FPC) youth group began construction of a classroom building in Leona Vicario, Quintana-Roo, Mexico, that will provide schooling for youths, grades 10-12, through the Yucatan Peninsula Mission (YPM).
The 13-person group spent four days pouring 28 concrete columns, creating the foundation of the school’s original classrooms.
Wilian Cen Colli, a YPM representative in Leona Vicario, said with the remaining construction needed at the site, the school could open in February 2013.
Located in the Mayan area, he said Leona Vicario is a “meeting point” that could reach potential students in up to 30 communities. When open, the Christian faith-based school will have a capacity of up to approximately 300 students.
Construction of the Leona Vicario school began about five years ago, said Amy Morgan, Associate Pastor and director of youth ministries at FPC Birmingham. The church has worked with YPM for more than 10 years, sending support, youths and volunteers to Mexico to help fulfill the organization’s mission to promote change through service projects in the area.
“Some people are skeptical about short-term, international missions,” Morgan said. “We could take all the money we spend (to travel and work there) and send it, and they could do the work a lot faster themselves … (but) what I like about working with them is that we have worked with them for ten-plus years. We have a relationship with our Mexican hosts … I feel really good about bringing groups, and it’s a transformational experience for those (who are) there.
“In that transformation those people come back, desiring to support the mission more … There is a continuing relationship that happens, (and) we get to see the progress of the school and of what we’re doing.”
She added that Mexico is not a desirable destination for mission groups because of violence in the country and the recent break between the Presbyterian Church of the U.S.A. (PCUSA) and the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico.
In August, the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico (INPM) voted to end its 139-year relationship with the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. (PCUSA) after the PCUSA’s decision to allow the ordination of sexually-active gays and lesbians, according to the PCUSA website.
“I think it’s a time when our neighbors need our help the most,” she said.
Cen Colli said in the Yucatan Peninsula, 15 percent of youths do not complete primary school, 40 percent do not continue their education after primary school, 35 percent finish high school and ten percent continue their educations after high school.
Seventy percent of youths, he added, engage in farm work. “The more adventurous leave their communities to seek work in the city, (as) gardeners, dishwashers, builders,” he said, “And most of them marry from the age of 14.”
School is not currently an option, he said, but it is the “only way these communities can survive and have access to more job opportunities.”
The FPC Birmingham participants included:
- Amy Morgan
- Danny Beale, 18
- Richard Eriksen
- Charlotte Eriksen
- Louise Eriksen
- Richard Eriksen
- Thorsen Eriksen
- John Jevahirian, 16
- Nick Jevahirian, 14
- Laura Nagley, 14
- Sarah Nagley, 17
- Hailey Willett, 16
- Julie Willett (parent)
The author, Charlotte Eriksen, grew up in Birmingham and is now the editor of Wheaton Patch in Wheaton, IL.