McALLEN, RGV – It could be tempting for the child of a low-wage family living in Reynosa to think that assisting a colonia gang leader by, for example, standing on a street corner all day as lookout and radioing in if the Army approaches, could be lucrative.

The child could then be on a slippery slope towards a life of crime, later assisting even further by agreeing to transport drugs across town. Before long the teenager of a previously upstanding family in the community is immersed in the black economy, displaying the riches that came from ill-gotten gains, such as nice clothes, jewelry, and expensive consumer goods.

INDEX Reynosa, the maquila trade association, is trying to persuade Reynosa children not to go down this path. A foundation it has set up has organized a pilot program in two elementary schools in the city in order to teach children the importance of developing a strong moral compass in life.

“We chose the Carlos Fuentes and Moctezuma schools because they are in a very vulnerable sector in Reynosa,” said Silvia De León, manager of the Reynosa Asociación de Maquiladoras y Manufactureras Fundación.

“The idea is to work in the schools to strengthen the moral values of the children, of the parents and of the school itself, the teachers and the principal.”

De León explained how RAMMAC’s involvement in the two elementary schools works.

“We visit the schools once a month. We have set up parent councils and we invite the parents to come to the school during a break in class so that they can participate in plays with the kids. We teach them about the importance of not crossing a line, of having respect for your classmates. We provide calendars and other materials to the teacher to teach the students certain values, such as friendship, love, respect and honesty.”

De León said the idea for the program did not originate in Reynosa.

“Ciudad Juarez has been doing this for a couple of years now. They have over 600 elementary schools involved in their project. They gave us the know-how on how to develop this kind of program. Some of their funds came from the maquilas but also from the U.S. Consulate. They applied and got a good donation from the Consulate and from other empresarios Chihuahuences.”

The effort in Reynosa is being funded by local INDEX members and affiliate companies. De León said it is too early to say if the program will be a success because it was only launched a couple of months ago. However, she said her foundation has good metrics to measure its success at the end of the current school year next June.

“We will have very objective results from our testing in June. But, after the initial training, the parents, teachers, the principals were very receptive. They were willing to participate and are committed to the program.”

If the pilot program is successful De León wants to see the program expanded. “The idea is to grow this and have it running throughout Reynosa. It could even be extended to Nuevo Laredo, Matamoros. To any other city that wants to start this.”

De León spoke about the program after giving out foundation checks to six local charities at a Christmas Party held at the McAllen Convention Center on the evening of Giving Tuesday. The money was raised at RAMMAC’s anual golf tournament, held in October at Palm View Golf Course in McAllen. De León pointed out that the foundation itself was only created last February.

“INDEX Reynosa has always helped the under-privileged, through different events, such as our golf tournament. However, this past year we decided we wanted to do more. So we set up the foundation. We want to partner up with other organizations in the Valley and also from Mexico and Reynosa. We want to focus on two main areas, education and health.”

De León said the foundation has not given itself a fundraising goal. “We just wanted to start if off and see what happens. Our plan is to grow, of course, and in time to reach New York, to shoot our rocket to the moon. Whatever we can reach we are going to go for it. Little by little. Step by step.”

De León thanked those who contribute to RAMMAC. They are listed at the end of this article.

“I am very grateful for this opportunity to give back to our community. Hopefully we can reach the hearts of the people of the Valley and Reynosa and Mexico. We are going to focus in the first semester of 2016 in building solid projects. We want to help our community. We think it will be a strong year for us, 2016.”

Supporters of the RAMMAC Fundación include Pharr Economic Development Corporation, Cano & Sons Trucking, LLC, Sherwin Williams, Unimex, AIT Worldwide Logistics, C.H. Robinson, Ceva, International Distribution & Logistics, Team Worldwide Global Logistics Solutions, Freight Dispatch Service Agency, Ltd., Holiday Inn Express & Suites, UP Trucking Services, McAllen Economic Development Corporation, Mercedes Benz, Dan Hill Containers II, Ltd., Burns Motors, Dulces Famosos, Cacheaux Cavazos & Newton, International Paper, UETA, Double Tree, Christus Mugerza Hospital, McAllen Convention & Visitors Bureau, The Patio, Southwest Cargo, Palenque Grill, Dairy Queen, Protrans, Palm View Golf Course, Acura, Prologis, Border Freight, Santander Hospital, Parker & Company Worldwide Customs Broker, Plitt Crane & Rigging, Renaissance Casa de Palmas Hotel, Inter Link, MMREIT Property Administration, Tecnologias, Seaboard Foods de México, BSN Medical, Lion Supply and Sustaita Forwarding.

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying this story shows INDEX Reynosa members Martha Ramos, Silvia De León, and Mike Myers.