Every Child is Special

Casa Esperanza Stories

Melissa Salgado

Melissa Salgado is a long time Casa Esperanza participant and most recently a UCLA fall 2015 freshman. Melissa is one of three children and grew up on Blythe Street. She has been attending Casa Esperanza since she was a small child and participated in programs such as Tutoring, Leadership, and Fire Academy. Melissa attended the Los Angeles Valley Youth Fire Academy for 3 years and each year moved up in rank until she served in a leadership position. She earned multiple stars, receiving recognition for her efforts and achievements while in the program. She also played an important role in the Leadership program, helping to organize and execute the Casa Esperanza Thanksgiving Food Basket giveaway in 2013 and 2014.

Melissa has also had much academic success. She graduated high school with honors and a 4.2 G.P.A. She took a number of honors and AP classes, and also managed to be a member of multiple school sports teams. Even with a full load of courses and extracurricular activities she would still manage to help tutor younger youth during Casa Esperanza’s Homework Help program. She has worked incredibly hard for her achievements and we wish her luck in her first semester at UCLA where she will be studying psychobiology.



Blythe Family Night Summer Finale

On August 14, 2015 Casa Esperanza along with a number of collaborators celebrated the closing of the summer months with the Blythe Family Night Summer Finale. The warm summer evening brought out 250 neighborhood residents to the festivities, which included a live drum performance with the Casa Esperanza Zumba class. Their exciting performance attracted a huge crowd and has made our Zumba class one of our most popular programs. We also had a theater performance by the Michael’s Daughter Project, an appearance and skate demonstration by pro-skater Anthony Janow, and a performance by our ballet folklorico group. The Blythe Street youth were a huge factor in the evening’s success due to their enthusiasm and support for our guest skater and the youth participating in the performances. The community also enjoyed food, refreshments, and raffles throughout the event. Along with the support of our collaborators, we were also able to provide the community with information on resources from other local organizations, such as Read Con Migo and New Directions for Youth. There was never a quiet moment throughout the event and we look forward to continuing the same level of energy for the upcoming holiday months.



Stand By Me

This day also marked the collaboration of Casa Esperanza and the students of The Michael’s Daughter Project performing their final presentation. The students worked hard for six weeks writing and creating an original stage production, Stand By Me. This story reflects the importance of service in humanity and begs the question, how can you better help serve your community?





Mono Lake Youth Leadership Field Trip

Staff: 2           Volunteers: 4          Participants:16

The youth of Casa Esperanza had their annual Mono Lake/Yosemite camping trip this month. The Outdoor Experiences program in Mono Lake allowed the participants to camp for five days and learn first-hand about the history of the lake and community. The guides taught the youth about the formation of the lake and how it allowed tufas, a calcium carbonate structure, to form. They also spoke about the importance of water conservation and put it into practice by taking quick 3 minute showers during their stay. The group of youth learned about the creatures that live in the lake and got the opportunity to actually eat one called a pupae. Another activity involved them taking part in the conservation of the area by cleaning up the beach of nearby June Lake.


During daily hikes, the participants were able to take advantage of the beautiful sights and scenery. They were all given journals in order to write about their experiences and thoughts. The hikes and views inspired the youth to open up and appreciate the opportunities they receive. During the week they were also paired up with another person that they did not know and were asked to connect with them during the hikes by asking questions and potentially developing a new friendship.  A particular night hike gave the youth a chance to reflect on what their fears were and what they needed to do in order to conquer them.


The night skies in Mono Lake are unlike anything in the city and the youth were thrilled to be able to see such a star-filled sky. They slept outside in order to fully take advantage of the environment they were in. The youth were exposed to a number of new things they have never seen or experienced before. The 5 day trip to Mono Lake is an event that everyone at Casa Esperanza looks forward to every year. The experiences gained and memories that are made are things that last a lifetime.