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Jóvenes Adelante Turns Dreams into Reality

By Jan Rife, photo by Jerry Rife


Marjorie Pope y Fernando Pattlán

A young man walks swiftly through the predawn darkness of San Miguel de Allende. Stray dogs slink though the shadows while the silence is broken only by church bells and roosters. He is going in search of a dream. “My dream is to be one of the best attorneys in San Miguel de Allende,” Fernando Patlán says. “I want to make my parents, my employers, and everyone at Jóvenes Adelante proud of me. I want to show people that all is possible.”

Fernando is the eldest son of hard-working parents, a skilled artisan and his wife. Fernando’s parents didn’t have the chance to finish school themselves, but they believe whole-heartedly in education. They’ve always urged their son and his four siblings to aim for the stars.  Fernando started school at five and then skipped a year, to graduate at 16. Now at 20, he’s in his fourth year of university. He’s earning top grades and working as a paralegal. By late morning, his classes over, Fernando dashes home for breakfast. He eats and then walks quickly to the law offices of Martin Martinez. He works through the afternoon, breaks for a meal, sometimes a tutoring session, and then returns to work until 8 or 9pm. Sometimes he works on Saturdays.

“It’s more than a job” he says. “I’m learning all kinds of law. And I speak to some clients in English.”

Fernando’s English skills have blossomed in the three years that his mentor, Marjorie Pope, a former reading and language specialist, has worked with him. “He’s bright” said Marjorie, “and eager to learn. It has been a great pleasure for me to work with such a committed student and watch his language ability skyrocket.” Marjorie is part of a team of JA volunteers who support San Miguel’s worthiest financially disadvantaged scholars. JA’s patronage goes far beyond scholarship money. JA caters to students with group and individual programs tailored to their specific needs. “These students just don’t fail,”  Marjorie says, “and there are two reasons why. First, they are chosen so very carefully. And second, they are monitored and supported every step of the way.”

Fernando’s five-year scholarship was funded by a part-time resident who received a small inheritance from her mother, a former teacher. The donor, who wishes to remain anonymous, says, “My mom’s spirit continues to live and grow; what a joy! Anyone who receives an inheritance should consider sponsoring a student.” Whether you’re a local or an expat, whether you live in San Miguel full- or part-time, consider joining the JA community. The time or money you donate will help shape the future of San Miguel, and the world.

It has been a long day for Fernando. University studies and legal work have left little time for anything else. Yet he still faces an evening of homework. He finds himself again on a dark street as he walks home. But each step takes him closer to his dream.

Jóvenes Adelante helps the best university students with the greatest financial need not only to graduate, but also to succeed professionally. Since 2001, Jóvenes Adelante has had an 82 percent graduation rate among its scholarship students. To learn how you can sponsor a student or volunteer to work with these inspiring young adults, see or email


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