Mexican Students Travel To The U.S. To Develop Projects To Combat Drugs, Violence In Home Country
WASHINGTON -- With her senior year of high school starting in a week, Melissa Parra, of Chihuahua, Mexico, was focused on a problem that most of her American peers would never face: drug cartels.
"It just gets closer," Parra, 17, said of cartel violence in her hometown in northern Mexico. Just two days ago, her mother called to tell her about a boy in her community who had been killed.
"He had good grades. He was a good guy," Parra said. "He was working to help the family."
Parra does not expect to stop the violence, but she sees an opportunity to change the environment that makes her classmates vulnerable to cartel recruiters. That was one of the goals of the project she designed this summer. Parra worked alongside 76 other students from across Mexico who came to the U.S. to develop community service projects in hopes of fighting the drugs, violence, and truancy that plague their country.
Parra spoke Wednesday at a ceremony on American University's campus where groups of students presented plans targeting domestic violence, self-esteem problems, childhood development, bullying and risky behavior – all problems that they felt underscore the country's larger issues.
Sonora Horta, of Pachuca, Mexico, said her group was working to address what she called "the root of all problems."