Colegio Richard Neumann is one of three public high schools on a stretch of road we can see outside of our living room window.
Students regularly walk past our building in the afternoons to return to the public bus stops for their journey home.
Every day, we observe hundreds of students moving around the city, just blocks from where we live.
How can we begin to reach them?
First visit to one of the high schools
We met with the school director to learn about this public high school and learned there are 1700 +/- students in this one, the smallest of the three on the street.
Because of space issues, one shift runs 800 in the morning, and about 900 in the afternoon. Students come from areas all over the city, as the school is not organized like districts in the US.
Though the school is physically located in a “rich” area of town, the “rich” can afford to send their kids to private school. These students come from the more “humble” areas of town. As he rattled off those areas, it became clear those humble areas are also areas of urban poverty, what many in the US might call “the hood.”
We also learned of a school for troubled kids, with current enrollment of about 500 students. This would make the 4th public school in our neighborhood. Students kids from the same areas that had already had encountered the judicial system or had discipline problems.
Issues of the community
The director told us of physical needs of the school: athletic equipment, jerseys, shirts, etc.
But as we met with some other teachers, they told us of other social issues that they confront:
- Teen pregnancy
- Absentee parents
- Broken families
- Apathetic or addicted parents
- and the lack of positive character development.
They quickly rattled off the number of pregnant students in the various tri-mesters of pregnancy.
As we heard these things, we grieved on the inside.
These are the people on the margins in our community. Surely, our church can do something!
This lit an explosive passion!
Our first reaction was one of “why haven’t we visited sooner?” This sparked all sorts of creativity.
Our second reaction was brainstorming ways our church can minister to these needs:
- Setup prayer booths near the public bus stops.
- Buy athletic equipment.
- Volunteer to clean up after events.
- Offer to organize English conversation classes.
- Lead assemblies for the students on character, life, and morality.
We also realize that our church may find that people from the margins may not come to our church initially. Social class divisions run strong in our culture. However, it is our prayer that our church could give itself away in ministering to the community.
The amount of need is overwhelming. Given that this is one of four schools, we still need to visit the others.
Pray with us that the Lord will guide our discernment process about what we can do here to make a difference in our community.