When Bill Maness befriended a group of Latino kids hanging out near Peachtree Presbyterian Church, he learned that these kids came from homes where their parents spoke little or no English who struggled to help their children with homework. He started tutoring the students and provided the parents English as a Second Language classes.
The outreach inspired Maness to start LaAmistad (friendship in Spanish) to support Latino and first-generation students and their families through tutoring, mentoring and programming that promotes academic, physical, and personal growth.
“A lot of the parents are trying to help their kids on a curriculum that they do not understand and is in a language that they are not familiar with. So, we take a holistic approach to not only ensure success for our students, but our families as well,” said Angharad Chester-Jones, program director of LaAmistad.
The after school program provides tutoring in reading and math enrichment, preschool education, one-on-one tutoring opportunities, summer camps, mentoring and sports programs for students in grades 1-12.
“LaAmistad has helped Richard gain self confidence, raised his grades and behavior through the mentors and volunteers. It also exposed him to opportunities I otherwise would have known about,” said Alma Chavez, whose son has been a part of LaAmistad for three years.
The nonprofit also hosts parenting workshops and serves as a resource center complete with information on employment, health, counseling, legal and financial services and scholarships. Parents also receive computer training to keep updated on technology as schools move to communicate through e-mails.
LaAmistad also teaches its students and their families the importance of giving back by requiring its participants to record 20 hours of community service in a year.
In 10 years, the program has resulted in 100 percent of the students maintaining an A/B grade average, 90 percent reading at grade level and students earning full scholarships to Emory University, College of Charleston and Furman University.
These results are possible with the help of volunteers.
“We always need tutors, people to volunteer to take our families on field trips, or if you have a special skill like public relations or IT, we can always use any help to continue giving back to our neighborhoods,” Chester-Jones added. A recent field trip took the families to the High Museum of Art to visit the Frida & Diego: Passion, Politics, and Painting exhibit.
“We aim to enrich their lives inside and outside the classroom,” added Chester-Jones. “It’s about raising model citizens to ensure success for our students and families.”
In other news: The Rotary Club of Alpharetta presented Donna Smythe of The Child Development Association a donation of $500 on Feb. 15. The CDA provides service to low-income, hard-working families and their young children in north metro Atlanta. It also provides affordable early learning programs and childcare for toddlers and preschool children.