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Casa de Amistad Guides Children of the Working Poor Toward College

You can’t argue with a 100% success rate.

At Casa de Amistad, which serves the children of coastal North County’s working poor, virtually every graduating high school student last year who took part in the nonprofit’s tutoring and mentoring services has enrolled at a college or university. With the COVID-19 pandemic precluding the person-to-person sessions, however, Casa de Amistad has had to switch gears and become more of an emergency relief organization.

It is succeeding thanks to nearly $100,000 in philanthropic giving, including a $50,000 grant from the San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund. Backed by the giving, the nonprofit has distributed micro grants to more than 40 Casa de Amistad alumni who are now in college and who have lost their work-study or part-time jobs and to 128 Casa de Amistad families struggling to pay their bills.

“I wish I could find the perfect way to thank you all for being so thoughtful during COVID-19,” wrote one college student. “Casa de Amistad always seems to know just what people need and what will impact them in a positive way. Compassion is such a part of who you are and I am really blessed to have been part of this program since I was in the first grade. I know all of those that are part of Casa de Amistad have generous hearts that have not only touched my life, but other lives as well. Thank you and may God bless you.”

The San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund – which has granted more than $26 million to San Diego area nonprofits and educational institutions impacted by the coronavirus outbreak – is hosted and administered by The San Diego Foundation in collaboration with county Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, co-chair of the San Diego County Board of Supervisor’s COVID-19 subcommittee.

The giving underscores an unprecedented effort by community foundations throughout the country to help those impacted by COVID-19, with more than $1 billion raised to date and more than $800 million already distributed. What’s more, the Community Foundation Public Awareness Initiative estimates at least $1 billion more in additional grants have been made by donor-advised funds managed at community foundations since the start of the pandemic.

Casa de Amistad served just three children on its first night working from a church when it was founded in 1997 but today – as an independent nonprofit – offers an array of education and mentoring programs to more than 260 children and families annually with the help of 300 or so volunteers. Teachers collaborating with the nonprofit say K-12 children taking part in Casa de Amistad’s programs see improved grades, and every graduating senior last year went on to college.

“I would have been so lost without all the counselors and their various knowledge about the college process,” said one high school senior.

Which is why when the coronavirus pandemic hit and school districts closed their campuses, Casa de Amistad worked with families to ensure they had computer and internet access and set up 80 virtual tutoring and counseling sessions each week.

“It was amazing,” said Casa de Amistad Executive Director Nicole Mione-Green. “The transition underscores the dedication everyone here has for those we are serving.”

The stakes couldn’t be higher. Most served by the Solana Beach-based nonprofit are Latinx, and a study by the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp. shows that San Diego’s Hispanic population is the fastest growing and will become the region’s largest group by 2030, yet suffers from the lowest rate of educational attainment by race and ethnicity – with only 15% holding a bachelor’s degree or higher and 34% having less than a high school diploma.

“When most people look at coastal North County – Del Mar, Solana Beach, Encinitas, Carlsbad – they often don’t realize there are large pockets of poverty and such a great need,” explained Mione-Green, who grew up in the area. “Ninety-nine percent of our families are on the free and reduced lunch program. They are the working poor.”

“To be able to give back to my community is really a gift,” Mione-Green said. “It’s an honor and a privilege to help these children navigate their educational journey.”

You can help San Diego families in need by donating today.

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