The Power of Faith and Education
By Fr. Jesse Esqueda, OMI
Eight years ago, we had the blessing of bringing the SEARCH retreat ministry to our Oblate Parish in Tijuana Mexico. Since then, we became very intentional about providing the programs, support, and space where the youth may grow spiritually, personally, and academically. This intentional investment in our youth continues to transform our community.
Hundreds of young people started participating in our retreats and programs. We then realized that many of them had the intelligence and desire for a higher education, but they lacked the financial resources and support. Five years ago, we started the scholarship program and the blessings from this program are unbelievable.
Today 90% of our young adults from our youth ministry are in college. This reality has created an environment where all teens and young adults from our programs feel inspired, challenged, and supported to finish their High School studies and continue with a university education. Most of these students are the first in their families to have a university education. Dreams that seemed impossible for our youth because of poverty and lack of role models are now becoming a reality. One of the blessings of our scholarship program is that the students are putting their knowledge and education at the service of the most abandoned. After they graduate, most of them continue to serve in our programs. In this extremely poor community, there are now many young professionals in key leadership roles in our parish; in addition, new programs are being created to reach more people.
David Rizo and Josselyn Robledo lead our health program. David is a psychology student who will graduate in December and Josselyn is a medical student who will graduate this August. She will be the first doctor from our scholarship program. This health committee now has 12 students who are in medical school, nursing students and physical therapist students. These students visit many families in our parish, and while restricted in what they can do, are able to check vitals, treat wounds, advise about, and encourage the use of already prescribed medications, apply ointments, give baths, cut nails and transport patience to clinics and hospitals. Several doctors are inspired by the service of these students that they are now providing free medical attention for some patients. We hope to get many other doctors involved in this program.
Migrant and Legal Aid Program:
Adriana Ortega is the leader of our migrant program and legal aid committee. Adriana is a young teacher who graduated a few years ago. She now works with over 150 migrant families from our community who receive food baskets, medical support and legal services. The Legal Aid committee includes two lawyers and three law students who help migrant families with free legal services. One of the lawyers has a doctorate in Law and is a specialist in migrant issues. So far sixteen migrants from this program have received their legal residency status in Mexico. Many others are in this same process waiting for positive results on their legal case.
Alejandra Miranda leads our new education program. She is a teacher from our scholarship program who graduated last year. She has 11 other teachers and education students in her committee. This new committee will help students who need tutoring and academic support. They will also train faith education teachers and give workshops to parents so that they know how to support and encourage their children in their education journey. This new program is an addition to our School for Children with Special Needs (Inclusive Education), which has 11 other professionals.
Luis Zepeda is a civil engineer who graduated four years ago and now leads our engineering program. Luis and his committee of young professionals and students just started a new company for engineers. This company will provide online engineering services for companies in the United States. The goal of this company is to provide jobs for theyoung engineers who graduate from our scholarship program and to encourage and motivate engineering students. This new company is a great accomplishment for these young professionals. Luis and his team are also responsible for our roofs program, which provide many needy families with a new roof.
Mental Health Program:
Eduardo López is a licensed psychologist from our community who leads the Mental Health Program. There are now 9 people in his committee: 4 licensed psychologist and 5 psychology students. Eduardo works full time at our youth center providing free counseling sessions to youth and their families. The members of his committee also provide free counseling sessions and lead workshops on mental health for youth, families, and ministry groups of our parish.
These are a few of the many fruits that are emerging from the seeds of faith and education. We are profoundly grateful for the many friends and donors who help to make these programs possible. These young professionals and university students dedicate countless hours, to improve the lives of the most in need of our community. We can only imagine the impact that these young men and women will have in our world.
Fr. Jesse Esqueda, OMI
Tijuana Mission Superior