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For more than 100 years, United Methodists have been reaching out across the border to increase educational opportunities. In 1913 Lydia Patterson, a Methodist laywoman acting through the women’s missionary society of her church, noticed that young Hispanic boys in el barrio had no school to attend and began to set up schools in the homes of some Mexican Methodists. 

Today at the Lydia Patterson Institute more than 400 young men and women, a majority of whom are from Ciudad Juarez, continue to be educated in a challenging academic environment while being nurtured in Christian values. 

LPI was one of the first schools in the U.S. to emphasize the teaching of English as a Second Language in 1921 and to then merge students into the appropriate grade level to put them on the path toward graduation from high school. Felixhy Dominguez was born in a small town in Mexico and went to elementary school there. As a member of a Methodist church in Juarez, she was familiar with Lydia Patterson Institute and had some friends who went there. She applied in middle school and was able to get scholarships based on her academics. 

She found the school to be challenging but supportive. She maintained the high standard for grades, and was active in lay ministry and choir. The big challenge about going to the school was actually going to the school. 

“I crossed the border by myself every day,” she said. “It was a very different experience than getting dropped off at the front door of a school.”

Dr. Socorro de Anda, director of LPI, remembers Dominguez first coming to the school. 
“I still recall when she arrived at LPI not much taller than the front desk,” she said. “She was very outgoing and full of self-confidence. She excelled in all she did, and I always knew she would be an asset wherever she went.”

Dominguez credits LPI with helping her develop quickly and learn responsibility. Attending a school in the U.S. that was there specifically for Mexican students was a cross-cultural experience, and an intentional one. Dominguez said living near the border is cross-cultural by nature but in random ways. She grew up listening to radio stations and music from the United States. 

“I would sing the songs and know all the words, but I didn’t know what they meant,” she said. “But being familiar with the words still helped when I was learning English in school.”

She said her English instructor at Lydia Patterson Institute was amazing, teaching the language but also the culture of the United States. 

Students on scholarship at LPI work in the cafeteria or as custodians. When it came time to apply for college, several United Methodist colleges and universities in the South Central Jurisdiction came to Lydia Patterson Institute to recruit students. Dominguez was offered a scholarship to Central Methodist University in Fayette. The school provides scholarships for two students from LPI to attend the university, so when one graduates a new scholarship spot is offered. 

Dr. Socorro said when she first started working for LPI 37 years ago the relationship with CMU was already well established. 

“When I began my journey at LPI, Hector Bencomo was a student at Central Methodist. Hector graduated from CMU and later on got his master’s degree and stayed in Missouri as a teacher,” she said. “CMU continues to partner with us, and at present, Ana Flores and Carlos Reyes are students at CMU. We are indebted to CMU for the many years that they have joined us by continuing our ministry from pre-collegiate education into higher education.”

When Dominguez first moved to Fayette the town was smaller than she expected, but she appreciated how close it is to Columbia. 

Dominguez graduated in May 2021 and is working full-time in communications for the library at Central Methodist University. She’s considering other higher education options. 

This past Christmas was her first without her mother and brother. Her mother was at CMU for her graduation. While in Fayette she’s been an active part of Saint Paul UMC and serves as youth leader there. 
Leaders at Central Methodist University echo the comments from LPI on the two schools’ relationship, saying it has been mutually beneficial. 

“The young people that are awarded the Lydia Patterson scholarship are some of the most resilient and inspiring students in higher education,” said Dr. Joe Parisi, vice president for enrollment management at CMU. “Often they have overcome tremendous challenges, while also attending high school and ultimately college. It’s an honor getting to know them and being a part of their educational journey.”