MEXICO CITY, Mexico — Each year, alumni of Benemerito de las Americas trek to the block "B" painted above the houses on a hill overlooking the Church-owned school. There they tidy-up the massive letter and slap on a fresh coat of whitewash. Call it an exercise in tradition, an annual opportunity for former Benemerito students to remain connected to a campus of academic and spiritual learning.
Now entering its 40th year, Benemerito — named for the Mexican icon Benito Juarez — continues to be an educational haven for LDS Mexican students.
Benemerito's objective is to help the young people of the Church in Mexico accomplish their intellectual, social and spiritual goals, said Elder Lino Alvarez, a former Seventy who now directs the school stretching across 90 acres in northern Mexico City.
The school opened inauspiciously in 1964, welcoming about 120 students to the still-growing campus. Yet its fruits were soon evident as thousands graduated to become full-time missionaries and eventually Church leaders in their native land. Today enrollment peaks at 2,400, with the student body split nearly even between girls and boys.
A large chunk of Benemerito's graduates go on to pursue higher education, providing Mexico with a growing number of LDS professionals and technicians contributing to the development of their country and faith.
"Seminary is a very important part of Benemerito," added Elder Alvarez. Many students from cities outside the capital reside on campus and worship in Benemerito wards, allowing them to participate fully in Church youth programs without leaving the school grounds.
Charged with the motto "Intelligence, Power, Light and Truth," Benemerito's opportunities extend beyond classroom and chapel. Photos on the walls inside the gymnasium celebrate the Benemerito's athletic tradition. The school fields basketball, volleyball, soccer and football teams that compete throughout Mexico. Performing arts groups such as Benemerito's renowned Ballet Folklorico are also popular.
Located flush alongside the traffic and organized chaos that is Mexico City, the campus remains a place of peace and learning as it enters its fourth decade. Benemerito was little more than a dream when Elder Alvarez, a convert to the Church, was young. He's grateful such an institution exists for subsequent generations of LDS youth in Mexico. Benemerito's student body, he says, "gives us great hope for the future."