The Jackson United Methodist Women hosted a fiesta-themed mission luncheon June 25, raising $2,811 for the Lydia Patterson Institute in El Paso, Texas.

Participating East Feliciana Parish churches included First Baptist of Jackson, Norwood Baptist, Our Lady of Perpetual Help and Second Baptist of Jackson.

With support from the South Central Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church, the Lydia Patterson Institute educates more than 400 youth annually, a majority of whom are from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

The institute was one of the first schools in the United States 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, according to

Beth Dawson, a retired educator and member of the Methodist Women, said many of the students cross the border legally each day to attend school at LPI, finding jobs in the cafeteria or doing custodial work that helps pay their tuition.

“Many of them have to walk two miles each morning to catch a bus and then another two miles after school,” Dawson said.

The Rev. Fernie Rivera, pastor of America Street and Emerging Worship at First United Methodist Church of Baton Rouge, is an alumnus of the institute. As a luncheon guest, he performed several songs on his guitar.

Rivera said the school was very important to his hometown community.

Funds raised were presented to Rivera on behalf of the school.

Dawson said members of the church group were so moved by the school and its story, they’re considering a mission trip to the institute next summer.