July 2006 – Kindergarten Graduation

Last month we celebrated the graduation of the kindergarten class from the Food Bank in Juarez, Mexico. While the men suspended plastic tarps to create a shaded area where they could set up folded chairs on the dusty ground, the women hung green and white balloons and paper flowers along the walls. Parents and relatives filed in as the children impatiently lined up to process on stage. The recorded music began and in marched the children – some with big smiles and others looking solemn and serious. Applause broke out as the families proudly cheered them on.

Our little school was started several years ago to serve the students in this very poor area of Juarez. Aurora Villa, who directs the Food Bank, explained, “I had a burden on my heart for the children who would come here with their parents. These kids were not in school because their parents could not afford the tuition. We started a little class teaching a few kids, and it has grown from there. Now there are 54 students who attend. It is the only free school around.” Aurora is working on getting the school officially named after Fr. Richard M. Thomas, S.J.

The principal of our school was earning a lot of money at another school where she worked but she came to help us. Her co-workers ridiculed her but she said, “The poor need an education, too. How else are they going to break out of the cycle of poverty that they are stuck in?” We only teach three grades but Aurora promises the students, “If you want to study further, we will help you continue on.”

One of the students in the kindergarten class has Down’s Syndrome. When Perla first arrived at our school she was very quiet and withdrawn. But with all the love, prayer and acceptance she received, she gradually interacted more and more with the kids and progressed in her learning. About 6 months ago, her parents took her to a specialized school to evaluate her progress. After a series of tests they were told, “Perla is very advanced. She should stay in the school that she’s in.” At the graduation ceremony, the teachers awarded Perla a special gift in recognition of how far she has come.

As I handed out the “diplomas” to each child as their names were called out, I was filled with gratitude to God and to everyone who helped make this beautiful little school a reality.