Art showcase testifies to fun of Casa de Amistad’s summer program

Although school is out for the summer, local students have been busy learning at Solana Beach’s Casa de Amistad.

When the organization’s two-week summer enrichment program came to a close last week, students shared their art, music, photography and writing work during a student showcase Aug. 6 at La Colonia Community Center.

“I believe that all kids should have access to arts,” said Nicole Mione-Green, program director of Casa de Amistad, a Solana Beach organization that fosters education and character development. “This is just a really great way that we’ve been able to do that.”

Casa de Amistad, which offers mentoring and tutoring services throughout the school year, provides a free summer enrichment program every summer to underserved kids.

Nearly two dozen children in grades 1-8 participated in this year’s program, which focused on STEAM and offered a variety of science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics activities for students.

Through the summer program, Casa de Amistad continued to collaborate with San Diego Youth Symphony and Conservatory. At the start of the year, the two organizations partnered to offer a new after-school music program for students.

The young musicians performed for parents, volunteers and community members during the student showcase.

Casa de Amistad also partnered with Outside the Lens this summer.

The San Diego-based nonprofit, which teaches digital media and photography to San Diego youth, provided a one-week photography camp for Casa de Amistad students. Students learned basic digital photography and worked on two projects, including a self-portrait and another piece accompanied by a poem.

“I love teaching photography to kids because it helps them be more critical about what’s around them,” said Jennie Goldstone, resource development at Outside the Lens. “They start to be more observant, and they appreciate the beauty around them.”

Middle school students and those entering high school worked on oral history projects.

In collaboration with the San Diego History Center and the Solana Beach Library, six students interviewed subjects, then created poster boards and wrote essays. The eight-week project kicked off at the start of summer.

“I think it was really important for our middle school students, because they got an opportunity to practice their writing skills over the summer and prepare for the next school year,” said Casa de Amistad’s program coordinator Melissa Salatore Farrell, who led the project. “They also got to learn about the community through their interviews.”

Gissell Cruz, 14, an entering freshman at Torrey Pines High School, interviewed longtime Solana Beach resident Manny Aguilar, president and board chairman of La Colonia de Eden Gardens Foundation.

“I thought it was interesting to interview him and learn about the history of Solana Beach,” she said.

“I enjoyed learning interview skills and meeting new people,” she added.

Merilyn Navarro, 12, who will soon start seventh grade at Carmel Valley Middle School, interviewed her mother’s boss, Marcy Rogers, president and CEO of San Diego company SpineMark.

“I enjoyed writing the essay,” said Merilyn. “I got better at writing.”

During the program’s last week, Mione-Green led art classes, where students learned about painters Katsushika Hokusai, Frida Kahlo, Jackson Pollock and Diego Rivera. Students read and discussed books on each of the artists before painting their own pictures inspired by the artists’ work.

“It feels nice having other people see my work,” said Mariana Duran-Perez, who proudly shared three of her paintings at the student showcase.

Mariana, who will start eighth grade at Earl Warren Middle School in the fall, has participated in Casa de Amistad’s programs since she was a first-grader.

“I’ve learned different ways to finish my homework,” she said. “I’m grateful that the tutors are there. They’re taking time to help us without getting paid. It’s amazing how they help us.”

Casa de Amistad offers a summer enrichment program every year. In previous years, the program was offered only on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This year the program was expanded, with classes from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

In addition to the daily classes, this year students also went on a field trip to the USS Midway Museum, a maritime museum in downtown San Diego. They also met Solana Beach photographer Aaron Chang and toured his Cedros Avenue gallery.

“We want our kids to be busy all summer,” Mione-Green said. “Our summer enrichment program is a great way to keep students busy, get them out into the community, and expose them to opportunities they would never get a chance to experience.”

For more about Casa de Amistad and volunteer opportunities, visit