El Paso – A Catholic secondary school in El Paso that draws nearly 20 percent of its student population from Mexico is offering a program to help the victims of violence in the neighboring country overcome their traumas.
While the armed conflict among the drug cartels continues to leave numerous victims just across the Rio Grande in Ciudad Juarez, Cathedral High School has begun a program directed at the students who have to live with the violence.
"Many of our students live in Juarez and ... they are exposed daily to the war that exists in (that) city," the school's principal, Br. Nick Gonzalez, told Efe.
"These kids have to suffer in their own flesh the criminality on their streets, and afterwards they must come to study as if nothing had happened, which makes it impossible for a human being, especially at that age," he said.
In the face of the growing violence, the need to establish a program that would deal with the deep problems related to student traumas became evident.
To do that, the school came to an agreement with a former chief justice for the Texas 8th District Court of Appeals, who - more than just being their teacher - has become one of the students' best friends.
"It's difficult for these kids to confide their experiences to each other, since they don't know who is who. None knows for certain what the relatives or friends of other classmates do, and that's why they don't express their problems easily," Judge Richard Barajas, who is in charge of the academic program, told Efe.
About 35 students are enrolled in the class that teaches them how to differentiate the stages of victimization. Among them, is 17-year-old Alan Garcia, who has been a victim of armed robbery and has witnessed first-hand the murders of several people he knew.
"In Juarez they killed close friends, even two classmates in this school, but we ... have to return to our city because we're from there and there are no alternatives," Garcia said.
The student said that a few months ago one of the friends of his father was kidnapped and murdered, and with that the behavior of his dad was different, with fear, sadness and rage overcoming him.
"Through what we learn in this class, I've been able to help my father get out of his depression. I've also taught my mother and my friends why we behave in one way or another, and what is the best way to deal with what happens to us," Garcia said.
"Everyone here is suffering in one way or another, whether in their own lives or because of the problems of their friends," said Barajas, who added that they are not trying to cover the problem up with theories, but it is important for those who have to experience the tragic reality of the drug war to be prepared to confront it psychologically.
Conflict among drug cartels and between the criminals and security forces has claimed some 50,000 lives in Mexico over the last five years.