By Karen Billing
To celebrate the memory of their friend Leona Shaw, a former Del Mar Union School District teacher that had a life-long passion for learning, a group of family and friends recently made a donation in her name to Casa de Amistad. Casa de Amistad is a non-profit, after-school learning center dedicated to the education and character development of Hispanic children, hosted at the Solana Beach Presbyterian Church campus.
Local residents Susan Pfleeger and Randa Krackow presented the donation of school supplies, such as pencils, crayons, paper, folders and books, to Casa on Oct. 9, as well as $365 in monetary contributions.
The donations will be put to very good use.
“We waste nothing,” said Casa de Amistad Program Director Nicole Mione-Green.
As a former teacher herself, Pfleeger was very impressed by the program and said she knew Shaw would be so happy to help a place like Casa.
“This is a wonderful place to be, you guys are so lucky,” Pfleeger told the children. “Leona was a lovely, lovely person and if you happen to use any of these supplies, know that she’s looking down on you and she’s so proud of the progress you have made.”
Currently, Casa’s program has 165 young students enrolled, with 48 still on the waiting list. Casa draws from the Del Mar and Solana Beach school districts, as well as Encinitas, Cardiff and Carlsbad. The children are matched up with volunteer tutor/mentors, mostly retired teachers, and they meet twice a week for two-hour sessions. Together, they finish up homework, run flash cards, read a book or Time Magazine for Kids for 15 to 20 minutes, and then if they have time left over they can play a game.
Additionally, they have a high school and middle school program, as well as a computer lab thanks to a generous donation of 12 laptop computers.
“The computer lab is really important because a lot of these kids don’t have computers at home or access to the Internet,” Mione-Green said.
Shaw passed away earlier this year. She taught in Del Mar “forever,” although no one knows quite how long—she started when the Shores was still a school campus, back in the 1960s. She worked at Del Mar Hills until she retired.
Shaw used to meet monthly for lunch with a group of fellow retired teachers, including Pfleeger and Krackow (a former Del Mar Heights teacher).
During one recent lunch, Shaw’s daughters and granddaughter joined the group to share lovely memories of her and the group decided they should do something charitable in her name. They started collecting school supplies and checks for Casa — each item has a little sticker that reads, “Donated in memory of Leona Shaw, beloved teacher in the Del Mar Union School District.”
As the school year is still new, so is Casa’s year and Mione-Green said they are off to a great start.
Last week students were rewarded with ring pops for returning a card signed by their teachers with an e-mail address for the teachers so the Casa tutors can communicate with the students’ teachers. It’s Mione-Green’s goal that the Casa tutors can collaborate with the teachers on how best they can help the children during their time at Casa.
Currently, Casa has 115 volunteer tutors and they could always use more, especially with the waiting list of students that they have.
“Our volunteers are what makes the program so successful. They are an amazingly committed group of people,” Mione-Green said.
They aim for a one-to-one match-up with volunteers, and many of the partnerships can last for years. Even after meeting just four times so far this year, the students all know where to go and what they need to do.
Last week, after the excitement of fresh school supplies and ring pops, the students and tutors were busy at work.
“They’re such happy little learners,” remarked Krackow. “There’s such a good feeling in the room.”
Mione-Green agreed with Krackow.
“Casa is a really special place,” Mione-Green said. “You can’t really describe it until you’re here and you feel it.”
Learn more about Casa de Amistad at casadeamistad.org.