Casa de Amistad students receive college scholarships


Solana Beach’s Casa de Amistad has long helped local students succeed in school. In an effort to continue to support graduating seniors as they start college, the organization recently launched a scholarship fund.

“We have a really generous anonymous donor making it possible to support higher education,” said Tiffany Farnsworth, board president of Casa de Amistad, a nonprofit organization that fosters education and character development in local youth. “We’re really honored to be part of distributing that money to the kids who have worked so hard at Casa de Amistad for so long.”

Casa de Amistad celebrated seven graduating seniors during the organization’s inaugural Future Leaders Award Banquet on June 2.

Casa awarded six students scholarships ranging from $1,000 to $3,000 to help cover the costs of tuition, fees, room and board, or other college-related expenses. As part of the new scholarship fund, students without computers also received laptops.

“College is really expensive. That’s one of the huge obstacles for low-income families,” said Elvert Vazquez, a graduating senior from Torrey Pines High School who will be studying business at MiraCosta College in the fall. “It’s wonderful to receive a scholarship that’s going to contribute to my education and journey.”

As part of the application process, students submitted an application and two letters of recommendation from non-family members. The newly-formed Casa Future Leaders Committee also interviewed the applicants.

“These are the best of our students and we want to recognize their achievements,” said Mary Ann Petree, a retired Solana Beach schoolteacher and longtime Casa de Amistad volunteer who headed the committee. “Each one of these students deserves to be recognized for how hard they have worked, how far they have come, and for their bright and promising futures.”

Graduating seniors Elvert and Deyvid Diego both received scholarships for MiraCosta College. Other scholarship recipients included seniors Justin Alcaide, who will be attending Cal State San University Marcos; Jessica Bueno, who is going to the University of California, Davis; Frankie Canseco, who is headed to Brigham Young University–Idaho; and Edgar Vergara, who will be studying at Cal Poly Pomona.

San Dieguito Academy senior Lesliee Escobedo was also honored during the ceremony. She received the Gates Millennium Scholarship, a full-ride college scholarship funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Out of 57,000 applicants, Lesliee is one of only 1,000 students to receive the scholarship in 2016. She will be studying biology at the University of San Diego in the fall.

“You’ve chosen to challenge yourself in the face of many obstacles,” Petree said to the students during the dinner. “You’ve chosen to listen to your inner voice to make some pretty hard choices. You’ve chosen to find inner strength. Success does not come easily, but you’ve worked hard to make that happen.

“You had the courage to change and to move forward,” she added. “You had the courage to believe that anything is possible. You had the courage to have big dreams. So achievement is the knowledge that you have studied, worked hard and given the very best of yourselves. We know that you have bright futures. We are all so proud of you.”

The organization’s staff and volunteers also recognized the parents and family members of the students for helping them succeed in school.

“You are all so lucky to have parents who care about you,” said Nicole Mione-Green, executive director of Casa de Amistad. “They care about your future. They’re truly some of the most amazing people that I know.”

Casa de Amistad provides educational mentoring and tutoring services to underserved children and teens in preschool through 12th grade.

The Solana Beach organization offers its after-school program on Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout the school year. In August, the organization offers a summer enrichment program for kindergarten through sixth-grade students.

The academic mentoring program began with just three children in 1997. Today, Casa de Amistad currently serves more than 200 students from Solana Beach School District, Del Mar Union School District, Encinitas Union School District, Cardiff School District, Carlsbad Unified School District and San Dieguito Union High School District. More than 180 individuals volunteer weekly as tutors and mentors.

Many of the seniors who were honored during the inaugural Future Leaders Award Banquet have participated in Casa de Amistad’s programs since they were young students.

“We always know that we have someone that supports us,” said Jessica, a senior at Canyon Crest Academy who has studied at Casa since she was in first grade.

For more about Casa de Amistad, or to donate or volunteer, call 858-509-2590 or visit