Twelve years ago, Maria Casta Lopez traveled from Mexico City to the United States with her husband and newborn
child. Like all immigrants, Casta came to the United States in search of a better life for herself and her family and a
brighter future for her children. Casta and her husband had another child and soon both boys were in enrolled in
Atlanta Public Schools. Her boys were bright, playful, and full of wonder, but they lacked a place to grow and learn
outside of school. When the boys were six and seven years old, Casta enrolled the boys in LaAmistad and their lives
The boys came to LaAmistad for after school tutoring and sports programs. They also found mentors in the
LaAmistad volunteers. Casta enrolled the boys in Sunday School at Peachtree Presbyterian Church, Vacation Bible
School, and all the youth opportunities that Peachtree had to offer. Also, Casta took the opportunity to educate
herself. She attended all the ESL classes offered at LaAmistad, took very thorough notes during all of the parent
education workshops, and began volunteering with various programs at the church. Casta now volunteers five days
per week at LaAmistad, works with the Latin American Association at their Inspíra Summer Camp, volunteers at
Garden Hills Elementary School, and generously gives her time to several programs at Peachtree Presbyterian
Church. She is very grateful for the myriad of opportunities that LaAmistad has given her children that would
otherwise be impossible.
Casta is an invaluable volunteer and an incredible role model for LaAmistad families along with other families in
the community. Her story is one of inspiration, dedication, and achievement. Like most parents, Casta dreams that
her children will one day go to college and become doctors and lawyers, but most of all Casta wants her children to
reach their dreams.
Harriett Swennes began volunteering at LaAmistad 10 years ago and has seen the program grow from a handful of
students and volunteers to a comprehensive program that has served hundreds of students and families. She served
as the co-director of LaAmistad for over two years and now volunteers twice a week as a classroom lead.
Harriett is inspired by the love of the children and multi-cultural community that is created at LaAmistad. Students,
parents, and volunteers set aside their busy schedules to support a shared goal: breaking out of poverty through
academic success. Harriett views LaAmistad as a place where students and parents can learn from volunteers and
the volunteers can grow and learn from the families they serve. She believes that "people of different cultures
working together are very special" and that working together "fosters trust among Hispanic families and helps us as
volunteers understand people of cultures different than our own."
LaAmistad provides an environment in which students, parents, and volunteers can grow together in trust and
understanding. The growth of the program in serving both students and families in addition to the daily successes
of the students drive Harriett and many other volunteers to support LaAmistad year after year. We are truly blessed
to have such devoted and enthusiastic supporters.
Our students rock! LaAmistad students are driven, active, and committed to their academic success. LaAmistad students have won countless awards in math
and science, consistently make honor roll, and have been highlighted in their schools for their academic success. LaAmistad students have earned scholarships
to private schools such as Marist and Pace and college scholarships to schools such as Emory and University of Charleston. Our students are proud of their
achievements and approach challenges with ever growing self confidence. LaAmistad students are dedicated to their studies and determined to go to college.
At LaAmistad, college is not an “if”, but a “where”. LaAmistad students are proud to serve as role models for their families and their community.
|Hover over the images below to read their stories.