Offering Education on the Border

For more than 100 years, the Lydia Patterson Institute has been enhancing educational opportunities at the Texas-Mexico border, serving as a high school for students in Juarez, Mexico, who may not have otherwise had access to education at this level. 

LPI is located in the Second Ward of El Paso, an economically disadvantaged area. It is a short walk from a point of entry to and from Mexico. Although close to the border, some students walk or bus for hours to get to that point. The South Central Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church, an eight-state region including Missouri, provides some financial support for the school.

The school has new leadership and is looking forward to the future following a difficult period of restrictions due to the pandemic. 

LPI President Carla Cardoza has been on the job for less than a year. She was born in El Paso and lived in Juarez until age 16. She oversees day-to-day operations and is joined by Dr. Bibiano Maldonado, a new principal who started at the school in November. Not everyone is new, though. Carmen Fourzan is a former student who has worked at LPI for 46 years. She’s a receptionist, school nurse and work supervisor of students on scholarship. 

“We currently have 17 teachers and seven staff members,” Cardoza said. “We have 274 students. We would like to increase that, but for now, it is nice to have small class sizes.”

The school offers grades sixth through 12. The class sizes vary quite a bit, with the current junior class having 70 students. Although size varies yearly, it stays stable with good retention. 

The public schools in El Paso pay about $25,000 more per year than LPI, so the principal and director have recruited friends, some of whom are retired teachers, for open positions. 

“This is a humble area,” Maldanado said. “We do our best with what we have to stretch the dollar.” 

Rev. Scott Moon, a retired Missouri Conference elder, serves on the board of LPI. He’s been involved with leading mission tours there for 30 years and has been on the board for nearly 20 years. 

“My story is not unique. I know of many people who have fallen in love with Lydia Patterson Institute once they have been on site to witness the amazing work of providing educational and faith opportunities to hundreds of students each year,” he said.