NOGALES, Ariz. (KGUN) — As the sun rises at the border, you see dozens of children and teenagers with their backpacks on ready to make their way from Mexico to Arizona for school.
"Nosotros vivemos en Mexico. Todos los dias cruzamos de Mexcio a estados unidos." Vanessa Castro tells Kgun 9 she lives in Mexico and crosses every day to bring her two daughters to the Lourdes Catholic School.
She said sometimes during the car ride into Arizona the girls are still getting ready. "Los niños son de aca. Entonces, pues, quiero que de chiciqutos aprenden Engles." Castro said while she is not a U.S. citizen, her kids are and she wants to make sure they learn English.
"We basically you know monitor the students. If a student needs help. We provide extra help," said Sandra Contreras, the middle school and high school principal at Lourdes Catholic School.
"Those that are completely Mexican, both parents and students, we provide them with a visa, student visa," Contreras said.In other cases, the students are U.S. citizens but at least one parent is not. "They don't need to have a USA address," Contreras said.
For public schools in Nogales it's a different story. "Usually, they do visit go back and forth. They have grandparents. They have family over there but overall, the district just requires them to prove proof of residency within the district," said Nogales Unified School District superintendent Fernando Parra.
He said students that live in Mexico can attend a public school but they must pay tuition of about $760 a month.
"There's 10 that are attending right now that are U.S. citizens and one Mexican citizen. 11 total for this year," said Parra. But there is a limit for Mexican citizens.
"The Mexican citizens only have a year to be able to do that and U.S. citizens residing in Mexico can continue to do that as long as they enroll in school and pay tuition," said Parra.
At Lourdes Catholic School, Contreras said they have about 60 families that cross the border to attend classes. "The classes are small. Teachers have more opportunity to help depending on their cases," said Contreras.
We caught up with some fifth grader that make the early morning journey to school. "After I eat I go to the line and cross," said Fernanda Gamino. Some of the girls wake up as early as 3 in the morning.
"Right now, I speak more English than Spanish," said Ana Sofia Flores. A big difference for the students that went to school in Mexico before coming here. "In Mexico they do not teach too much English. Only three minutes of English," said Sofia Espina-Gil.
Contreras knows their story well because she used to be in their shoes. "I know what its like to cross the border ,get up early and stay in line," said Contreras. All to come get an education right here at the same school she's now a principal at.
"We didn't think of it in a like, ugh, here we go. We have to go stand in line. It's just a normal, you know, life. That's what you do living in a border," said Contreras.
That's exactly what many families like Castro's continue to do. "Para que ellas pueden ver que si puede. Donde estan, si puede." Castro said it's so the girls know it's possible. "Anyone can get where they want to be and accomplish their goals," said Contreras.
And the students sure do have plenty of goals. "I would like to be a teacher, a chef," said Flores.
Contreras and her staff are working to make sure these little scholars never stop dreaming no matter where they come from "My main goal is to empower kids to live their life to the fullest," said Contreras.