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Our Story

Since we first opened our doors in 1997, Vecinos Unidos (Neighbors United—or “VU”) has been committed to helping children achieve success. 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 achievement in the classroom.

Modest Beginnings

The late Herndon Police Department Captain Darryl Smith with students.

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. 

We began with two students on April 17, 1997 in an apartment rental office in Herndon, VA. We grew quickly as word got around, and we quickly moved into a three-bedroom apartment above the same apartment rental office. By the following year, we had 50 students. And in the early 2000s , we moved into the Herndon Neighborhood Resource Center, where we are still located today.

“[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

How We Serve

We work with children from non-English speaking families, most of whom struggle to make ends meet. These children often fall behind in school because they are learning difficult subjects in a second language. We help these children catch up to their peers through the following initiatives:

  • We offer a structured academic program, with a particular emphasis on reading, writing, and math. Developing these fundamental skills opens a child’s world up to opportunities for further education after high school and better career options.
  • We supplement academic work with hands-on activities and research projects tailored to students’ interests and learning styles.
  • We provide our students opportunities for fun and exciting activities that they otherwise might not have the opportunity to do. These opportunities include things like museums, soccer games, horseback riding, picnics, holiday festivals, arts and crafts, and cooking activities.
  • Every year we give students new books (of their choice!) to take home and read during the summer, to encourage them to develop a love of reading.

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 children in our community.