Our Story

Since we first opened our doors in 1997, Vecinos Unidos (Neighbors United—or “VU”) has been committed to helping children achieve success in all aspects of their lives. Although we have a strong focus on academics, we don’t refer to ourselves as a tutoring program, because our mission extends above and beyond academic achievement in the classroom.

VU was founded by the late Herndon Police Captain, Darryl Smith as a place where children could go after school and participate in safe activities. 

Our program began in an apartment rental office in Herndon, VA. On our first day on April 17, 1997, two students came to receive help with reading and participate in safe, educational activities after school. As word caught on, our program started growing quickly and we moved into a three-bedroom apartment above the same apartment rental office. By the following year, we grew to support 50 students.

The late Herndon Police Department Captain Darryl Smith with students.

VU supports children from any non-English speaking family, most of whom who struggle to make ends meet. As such, we like to give our children opportunities for fun and exciting activities that they otherwise might not have the opportunity to do. In the past, we took children to museums, soccer games, horseback riding, and had picnics, parties, and holiday festivals. On occasion, we also did arts and crafts and cooking activities.

In the early 2000s, we grew large enough to move into the Herndon Neighborhood Resource Center, where we are currently located today. Over the years, we developed a more structured program around academic assistance, with a particular emphasis on reading, writing, and math. Most of our students are behind grade level in these areas, and in order to be successful we feel it is vital that they develop these fundamental skills. Every semester we provide students with new books (their choice!) to take home and read during the summer, to encourage them to develop a love of reading.  We supplement academic work with hands-on activities and research projects tailored to their individual interests and learning styles.

“[Vecinos Unidos] got me from 2 grade level reading to 5 grade level it is so great. And it helped me with the vocabulary. It helped my mom and dad not to worry about me. I am more confident that I can do good in all my subjects.”

– 5th grade student

Today, we continue to uphold the mission that grounded us in our community more than 25 years ago. With the help of our amazing volunteers and donors, we operate a successful program that makes a difference in the lives of our children.

We are so happy that our work has made a positive impact on our children, and hope to continue for many years to come.