Solana Beach’s Casa de Amistad recognizes local youth

By Kristina Houck

Jessica Aguilar first joined Casa de Amistad when she was in first grade. Now a sophomore at Canyon Crest Academy, she was recently honored as Student of the Year during the nonprofit organization’s end-of-the-year award ceremony on May 27. San Diego County Supervisor Dave Roberts presented her with the award.

“In elementary school, I struggled a lot,” said 15-year-old Jessica, who holds a 4.25 grade-point average. “Casa de Amistad has helped shape who I am today. I feel thankful and baffled and just overwhelmed.”

Casa de Amistad is a Solana Beach organization dedicated to fostering education and character development for local underrepresented children through an educational mentoring program for students in grades K-12.

This year, the organization’s 125 volunteers served 165 students who were recognized during the ceremony with participation certificates and books donated by the Del Sol Lions Club.

“With our high school students, I only have positive things to say about these students,” said Program Director Nicole Mione-Green during the ceremony, which roughly 300 parents, volunteers and community members attended. “They are all leaders here at Casa de Amistad. All of our younger students look up to these young men and young women, and I’m so proud of them.”

Mione-Green noted most of the high schoolers have been at Casa de Amistad since they were in kindergarten, first or second grade, and more than half of the 10th-grade students have participated in the program since they were in kindergarten.

“I admire your dedication to school and to improving your academics.”

More than 30 students received certificates and were recognized by their teachers for being “Rising Stars” in their classrooms. The group included a student who improved two reading levels during the school year.

Roberts also presented Julia Atempa, a sixth-grade student at Del Mar Hills Academy, with the Norma Aviles Award for Character. Julia first came to Casa de Amistad when she was in kindergarten.

Casa de Amistad also honored Volunteer of the Year Ralph Cisneros, as well as parents who participated in the organization’s “Parents in Action” program.

In addition, representatives of Casa de Amistad’s Parents Council recognized Mione-Green and Assistant Director Catalina Beltran for their hard work and presented them with flowers.

The ceremony closed with a slideshow of pictures, which was played to the tunes of Pharrell’s “Happy” and Katy Perry’s “Roar.”

“I’m really proud to live in a county like San Diego that provides a program like Casa de Amistad,” said Roberts, who also acknowledged the organization’s dedicated staff and volunteers, as well as the parents of the students.

“I have to salute, also, the parents that participate. You truly want your kids to have a better life. By coming here, and by having your children come here, you are going to give them that better life that we all hope for all of our children.”

For more information about Casa de Amistad and volunteer opportunities with the organization, visit