About 750 students from San Diego County and Baja California participated in a daylong forum on border crimes Friday at the University of San Diego.
The students who participated in the 14th annual WorldLink Youth Town Meeting , including 200 from Tijuana and Rosarito Beach, were ready to work.
"We prepared them for the discussions with online material they received in advance," said Karla Alvarez, WorldLink program officer at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice. "That way we could get right into the discussions."
WorldLink is a year-round program that engages students in the region on global issues that have local connections.
The forum this year was called "Crimes without borders: Threats to Human Security."
"It's particularly relevant. Most of the students are coming from San Diego and Tijuana," Alvarez said.
Workshops had titles such as "Organized Crime and International Justice," "Human Trafficking: A Global Problem," and "Trafficking in Our Own Backyard."
A San Diego County Sheriff's gang expert, called her 45-minute presentation, which she repeated three times, "Guns, Drugs and Money: Welcome to the Southwest Border."
She said warring drug cartels are behind the wave of violence in Mexico and that street and prison gangs in the United States were heavily involved in trafficking activity.
The expert cautioned the 70 middle grade and high school students who attended her first session that the drug cartels and the gangs that work for them target people their age to join them. She urged those who had younger siblings to educate them about gangs. "Talk to them."
A student from Tijuana asked her whether the Mexican government could effectively wage a war against the drug cartels when there is so much corruption within its ranks.
She responded, "President Calderón is doing the right thing. He's trying to get rid of corruption."
Schools that participated in the forum include Academy of Our Lady of Peace, Bishop's School, La Jolla Country Day, MAAC Community Charter School, Patrick Henry High School, Torrey Pines High School, Colegio Baja California de Rosarito, Instituto México Americano Noroeste, Preparatoria CETYS Universidad Campus Tijuana, and Preparatoria Federal Lázaro Cárdenas.