When the La Esperanza Schools of Tijuana were established in Mexico — thanks largely to several La Jolla and San Diego people and organizations — it represented more than an educational opportunity for underserved children. It brought an aesthetically beautiful campus to a poor neighborhood that provided learning, as well as an arts program, and created a cultural hub and a center for peace and possibility.
Two events this weekend will celebrate the achievements:
A Bus Tour departs 8:30 a.m., Saturday, Oct. 19 from the H Street parking area in Chula Vista with a tour of the Jardin de Niños La Esperanza and Colegio La Esperanza, as well as a one-hour volunteer work day, followed by a trip to the Heredia Ranch in Rosarito and traditional Carne Asada dinner. Tickets are $80 at americasfoundationgala.eventbrite.com
A 30th anniversary Gala Dinner Dance is 6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 20 at The LOT, 7611 Fay Ave., with a cocktail reception, sit-down dinner, artistic presentation and dancing to a 16-piece swing band orchestra. Dress is elegant cocktail or 1930s Mexican Glamour. Tickets: $100 at americasfoundationgala.eventbrite.com
The Jardin de Niños La Esperanza Kindergarten and Colegio La Esperanza Elementary schools were established by the Americas Foundation (Fundacion de las Americas), a small San Diego-based nonprofit dedicated to bi-national community development and giving aid to disadvantaged children. The Foundation incorporated in 1989.
“There was a lot of misunderstanding and conflict in that neighborhood at that time,” said Americas Foundation president Christine Brady. “There was a lot of prejudice; rich people didn’t want to go to these neighborhoods because they were afraid. The Foundation was looking for a way to help the community develop itself. We decided to build a kindergarten, but we wanted something that transcended class barriers: something that poor people and rich people could appreciate, so it had to be beautiful. After two years, we found artist James Hubbell and he built the most gorgeous kindergarten, so there was more social acceptance.”
La Jolla resident and Americas Foundation vice president Maruca Leach added: “When we first started, we were offered little huts. But led by Christine, we wanted a permanent structure and wanted it to be beautiful. Now, when I go there, I feel the potential of what is possible all the time. I see these kids going from their small houses to this place of magic to be taught. The magical aspect was important to the community. They saw it as a place where things could happen.”
The campus, Brady said, “Brought peace to the community.”
When organizers saw how well the artistic element of the school was received, they knew they had to incorporate a supplementary art program. Now, in addition to a traditional academics, the students participate in a full arts program, including ballet, visual arts and mariachi.
The Americas Foundation works with volunteers, other nonprofit organizations such as the Ilan Lael Foundation, Mount Soledad Presbyterian Church and schools, such as the Coronado School of the Arts (in San Diego and Tijuana) to create cultural events to benefit youth on both sides of the border.
Since its establishment, the schools have served more than 4,000 children, and all attend on a half to full scholarship.
But it wouldn’t have happened without a boost from the La Jolla Rotary Club in 1991, when it worked with the Tijuana La Mesa Rotary Club to obtain a $100,000 grant from the Rotary International Foundation to fund the construction of the first two classrooms and utilities installations of the Colegio La Esperanza elementary school.
“The La Jolla Rotary Club has been crucial,” Brady said. “After helping us set up the elementary school, they set a scholarship program at our school.”
— To learn more, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit americasfoundation.net