It Started with a Dream | San Miguel de Allende | Atención San Miguel
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It Started with a Dream

Clockwise Marjorie Pope, Jan Rife, Fernando Patlan. Photo by Jerry Rife.

Clockwise Marjorie Pope, Jan Rife, Fernando Patlan. Photo by Jerry Rife.

By Jan Rife

While attending university, Fernando walked to class before dawn; he worked in a large law office, often until late at night. Back home, he studied, then started the routine again. Despite long hours and lack of sleep, Fernando graduated with the highest grades of his class.

Fernando credits his family and Jóvenes Adelante for being “the wind beneath my wings,” explainig, “I was first in my family to attend university. My parents hadn’t walked that path. Still, they were there for me, always.”

The Patlans are strong members of their community. Every Easter, they create the uppermost arch on Avenida Independencia, in front of Fernando’s law office. They’re the first to welcome the Señor de la Columna pilgrims on their way to San Juan de Dios church.

As Fernando’s family was always there for him, so was Jóvenes Adelante. JA chooses students carefully, then draws in sponsors, mentors, tutors, therapists and other support. Staff and volunteers monitor students’ progress meticulously and help resolve personal, school and family issues. Throughout all, mentors provide encouragement and support.

Marjorie Pope was Fernando’s JA mentor. “Fernando was ideal for Jóvenes,” she says. “He had the burning desire to succeed; he just needed the chance. When I tutored Fernando in English, he learned as quickly as I could prepare his lessons. Now, he provides bilingual service to his legal clients. Being a mentor is such a fulfilling experience!”

I used proceeds of an inheritance to become Fernando’s sponsor. That gift continues to give back to the world, and to me. When Marjorie shared with me the joy of working with Fernando, we became a team of three. As we grew to know Fernando’s family, all of us felt like family.

Upon graduation, Fernando studied to become a notario público, a specialization involving stringent exams and government certification. He completed his course work and is working on his thesis.

Last year, at 22, he opened his own law office. Now, Fernando is living his dream. His younger siblings are following his lead. His brother Enrique and sister Monserrat both study law. They work for Fernando, augmenting their studies with practical experience. Marjorie tutors Monserrat with English. His dream is now theirs.

Fernando’s other dream: a woman named Fernanda whom he met in secundaria. Fernanda finished university last year and works as a physical therapist. Last December, after years of courtship, they were married in the Parroquia. They live in an apartment below Fernando’s law office and are building a home nearby.

Fernando dreams big. His dreams are brilliant. So are those of Jóvenes Adelante.

Jóvenes Adelante’s mission: to unlock a radically more expansive future for SMA youth by easing financial barriers to higher education, and by developing life and leadership skills. For information, to join our mailing list, or become a sponsor or volunteer, visit; call 415 150 0030; or email

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