BROWNSVILLE, Texas -- By the time you catch the late local news, hundreds of children and their parents living on the Mexican side of the border may have already gone to bed.
And by the time most people begin to hit the snooze button on their alarm clocks the next morning, those same families will have already begun to line up at a port of entry to go to school in the U.S.
"The early bird gets the worm" goes the saying. And these kids are hungry before the break of dawn.
Every weekday dozens of kids, teens, and parents leave their nest in Mexico and walk several miles to the port of entry in Brownsville, Texas and over to the nearest bus station.
KENS 5 was up early to talk to one student as she walked to catch her bus.
“As a citizen of the United States, the education is much better if you have the opportunity to come to school here,” said 17-year-old Jennifer Garcia, who wakes up around 4:30 a.m. to make it across the border on time.
Opportunity is the worm for these early bird students and Garcia, a junior ROTC cadet, has been feeding for a year by walking two hours round-trip.
“I would like to graduate from college with a criminal justice degree and then I would like to enlist," she said.
Education and enlistment in the Army is how Garcia said she plans to pay it back.
“For a better future and be someone in life,” she explained.
She hopes to return the favor to her parents who are supporting her efforts.
At the other end of the station, Liliana Cerda and her son Ovidio wait for the bus. Liliana made sure to be the first in line with her son to get on the only bus that will get to the elementary school in time for class.
“I’m a mom and a dad at the same time,” Liliana said as she sat with her son in the front of the bus.
She's a single parent living in Mexico and doing what’s necessary to give the best to 9-year-old Ovidio, who dreams of one day becoming a police officer.
In order for that to happen, they must continue to walk the walk and leave the talk to city bus driver Sandra Caballero.
“They have to continue and do better than their parents,” said Caballero, who added that she constantly reminds kids riding the bus not to drop out of school.
Nobody really knows exactly how many students commute from Mexico. Some cross by car, others by foot, and all must somehow provide proof of residency in Texas in order to enroll in school.
Between Garcia’s discipline, Cerda’s determination, and Caballero’s encouragement, these early birds are just steps away from reaching the American dream.