This month, Mexica will earn a Ph.D. in comparative literature from the University of Washington, which is not the usual outcome for people who start out as he did. He and I have talked about that a few times since I met him last year, and now he's starting to share his story with other people, especially young people. Every person's story is unique, but I want to tell you a little of his because parts of it are common to many other people who wind up in the juvenile-justice system. Maybe it will spark some thought about how we might, as communities, save ourselves the pain and cost of crime and lost potential.

As a kid Mexica shuttled between Corpus Christi, Texas, and his grandmother's house in Sunnyside, Yakima County, where his mother eventually settled.


Mexica was expelled from school in fourth grade for flipping the bird in the class photo. Expelling students is pretty much guaranteed to get them off track, and Mexica sees that moment as the beginning of his becoming a delinquent. "I pretty much gave up on mainstream society then," he said.     Read More>