Those of us who have volunteered with Vecinos Unidos for a number of years have seen hundreds of children come through our doors. Many of them have attended all six years of the program and multiple nights each week, so we know them well. Once students leave our program, however, we seldom know what happens to them unless they have a younger sibling who also comes. We always hope they’re doing well, but we just don’t know.
Recently, I accompanied the mother of two current students to their parent teacher conferences. Their mother speaks little English and their father wanted to be sure that the children were doing well in school. When we sat down for the first conference, an additional teacher came in to interpret. I introduced myself and explained our program to both of the teachers. The young teacher who was interpreting said brightly, “I know first-hand about Vecinos Unidos because I was one of your first students.” She fondly remembered Darryl and Maria Smith, two of the programs’ founders.
I told her that she had made my day, but in reality she made my month if not more. It was so gratifying to see a young successful professional “paying it forward,” especially in education. After the conference I called the Smiths to tell them the story and thank them once again for their service and for paving the way for those of us who have followed after them.
It was a powerful moment. That little glimmer of what might be possible for our students one day will keep me going for a long time to come.
Barbara Sorenson, President, Vecinos Unidos