God Wants You to Graduate
Image: Courtesy of the Office of Mayor Julián Castro
San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro says evangelicals are "at the vanguard of improving education and the democratic participation o

Samuel Gimez still dreams of a life outside San Antonio's West Side.

For now, the 21-year-old is living in this historically impoverished community of low-wage workers, modest homes, and a surplus of neighborhood churches.

He grew up in church with his parents urging him to follow the path of his older brother, who had parlayed a bachelor's degree into a comfortable insurance career and suburban home ownership.

But Gimez dropped out as a junior in high school.

His high school has a perpetual battle with high dropout rates and truancy. Administrators lock classroom doors once the bell rings. Pregnant teens frequent hallways. The lure of gang life competes fiercely with the appeal of graduation.

"The influence was too strong," said Gimez of his decision to drop out. "I wanted to fit in with the crowd and be accepted."

Gimez lives with his parents in federally subsidized housing. Last year, he said, he was saved through the ministry of Youth for Christ. Now, he's a YFC intern, getting a small stipend and eager to help teens encounter God while mulling his own future.

High Hopes After High School

About a quarter of Hispanics nationwide drop out of high school, according to Hispanic America: Faith, Values and Priorities, a November 2012 study by the Barna Group.

Despite recent signs of progress in Hispanic college enrollment, the battle remains challenging in Latino communities where youth struggle to envision themselves with high school and college degrees and professional jobs.

How should the Hispanic evangelical church respond? What's at stake should sizeable numbers of its youth continue to remain in the ranks of the uneducated in this country of opportunity?

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God Wants You to Graduate
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