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Posted: 11/27/2017

The Gift of the Gift 

During the last week of programming of 2017, LaAmistad Afterschool at Centro Católico, the Mission of Holy Spirit Catholic Church, held its Christmas party. The usual elements of Christmas songs, decorations, and wrapped gifts for the students were on hand. The parents of the LaAmistad students at Centro had prepared a beautiful, authentic Mexican dinner and it was a festive and happy evening.

What was completely unexpected was a worn, white envelope presented to LaAmistad staff that contained a financial contribution from the parents present. The amount was immaterial. The gift itself was a perfectly tangible representation of the intangible parts of LaAmistad: belief in the promise of every student and family. There was pride on the faces of the parents, recipients turned donors and gratitude on the faces of the staff, providers turned grantees.

November and December tend to be filled with talk about gratitude and giving.  What happened that night illustrated something that we at LaAmistad see regularly---that we are more alike than different and that our human need to contribute in various ways is one of our strongest shared experiences.

 

REACH for the stars, Andi!

Andi Guerrero-Medina, now an 8th grader at Atlanta Classical Academy, began attending LaAmistad Afterschool at Peachtree in the 5th grade. This October, Andi was awarded Governor Deal’s $10,000 REACH Scholarship to attend college.

 “LaAmistad helped teach me manners and how to interact with people. It also has given me a place to focus on my homework with no distractions like TV or phone. The tutors help me whenever I need it”, Andi commented. “Without this scholarship, affording college would be very difficult.”

Changing Minds and Lives: A Volunteer’s Story

Grace Maiola began volunteering with LaAmistad in 2003 at Afterschool at Peachtree Church. She initially volunteered in the 2nd grade classroom and became especially connected to a group of four boys. Over the years, she helped them with their homework, encouraged them to focus on their strengths, and really got to know them. Today those "boys" are 22 year old men who are building their young adult lives for success and managing through mistakes along the way. Grace stays connected to them through texts and visits and credits LaAmistad as an essential part of their development.

In reflecting on making an impact as a volunteer, Grace said, “They are truly planning and thinking about their futures. They value the stumbling along the way and realize they can and they are changing their trajectory. LaAmistad and its volunteers change people’s lives.”

A Holistic Approach Yields Big Impact

For nearly a decade, PlayWorks Group has been responsible for linking LaAmistad with corporate clients in search of an avenue to give back to underserved populations of Metro Atlanta. Recently, they were able to secure over 20 bicycles that were gifted to students that demonstrated the most improved math scores from each of our eight afterschool locations.

When asked about their motivations for sustaining this ongoing relationship, PlayWorks founder and CEO Meredith Martini shared that they value LaAmistad’s targeted focus. “The impact on the Latino community is evident. We see the vision for what can be accomplished through LaAmistad's efforts. We respect the holistic approach, working with the whole person and the whole family. This aligns directly with PlayWorks Group's undergirding values.”

LaAmistad: Friendship and Family

Kevin is a rising 3rd grader who attends Garden Hills Elementary School and has attended LaAmistad Afterschool since he was in 1st grade. Over the two years, Kevin has enjoyed interacting with the various volunteers who encourage him to work hard and strive for good grades. Yet LaAmistad’s influence goes beyond his scholastic achievements.  Kevin shares that “LaAmistad is like my family because I have grown up here and learned a lot about myself and others.” 

From LaAmistad ESL to Japan: A Volunteer's Journey

Justine has volunteered with LaAmistad ESL at Holy Innocents’ for over a year. Justine’s experience has been transformative: after a year of being a volunteer teacher, she and her fiancé are certified to teach English and are moving to Japan to take teaching positions.

“I really got to know my students and consider many of them friends. Through what they learned in the class, they were able to improve relationships with their children’s schools and be more connected to the community. It’s very rewarding.” 







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