México Sur | Homestead, Florida | Cuba | Haití | República Dominicana | Puerto Rico Trades and Arts Center
De La Salle

In December of 1989, Miguel Manzanero, Javier Camps and Father Raul Pérez Ros, all De La Salle alumni, visited the Santa Ana Mission in Naranja, guided by Father José Espino, carrying clothes and food. At that time Father Espino was in charge of the migrant workers of South Dade, Redland and Everglades Camps.

In October of 1990, Oswaldo Rey and José Dorado became formally committed to work as volunteers in the South Dade Camp with Sister Soledad Mendoza (from the order of the Guadalupana of the Holy Spirit). In April of 1991; the Fraternity of Signum Fidei took the mission as an apostolate work.

In May of 1991, the youth of the town communicated to the volunteers and Sister Soledad their interest in improving their skills and in accepting this challenge of hard work the Center was created. Sister Soledad was the person who named the Center Saint John The Baptist De La Salle Vocational School, because she was educated in the SJB De La Salle school in México. Later on, the Center was renamed Saint John The Baptist De La Salle Educational Center.

On Saturday, July 20, 1991, the Center began with an English class of 13 students led by a young teacher named Francisco Javier Camps III, who was the son of a Cuban De La Salle alumnus. A postcard was sent to Sister Soledad, who was studying in Boston at that time. It read, "Hello Sr. Soledad, today was the first day of English classes". It was signed by all the students. Imagine the joy in her heart!!!

In April 1992, Father José Espino invited the De La Salle brothers to participate in the school. Brother René Hernández came to teach the Seminary catechism class. Later on, Father Héctor González-Abreu became the pastor.

During August 1992, hurricane Andrew destroyed most of the city of Homestead and, tore down the little chapel, as well as the Center. This left us with no place to conduct classes. Later John Frederick, director of the Homestead Housing Authority, gave us a trailer, where we reestablished ourselves.

After some time, we were unable to accommodate the growing numbers of students in such a small area. Thus, we went to the Homestead Housing Authority, where Mr. Frederick introduced us to an engineer, Mario Morales, who was also an alumnus of a De La Salle school in Nicaragua and was in charge of the South Dade Camp. Mr. Morales offered us a house that had been recently vacated. This building was in very poor condition and the Center's youngsters together with a group of directors from the De La Salle association, made it livable. In this way, we again began our mission during February of 1993. This house was given to the Association of De La Salle Alumni and it is the same house we have occupied until 2013.

During August 1993, the Association of Alumni and the De La Salle brothers from the Baltimore District sent Brother Edward Hoffman, who came to us as a volunteer during his sabbatical year. Late in October of the same year, Brother Pablo (Enrique Pizarro), was sent from the Antilles District to be with us for some time, in order to stimulate our mission, for almost two years. Br. Pablo was instrumental in creating the guidelines for the work in the Center following the De La Salle charisma.

A short time later, Brother Miguel Dominguez arrived and established "the Lasallian Pastoral Plan".

In May of 1994, Brother Santiago Saiz de la Mora arrived; and later alumnus Alfredo Ledon came and stayed for two years.

In 1995, tutoring classes began with a youngster named José M. Medina. In 1996, Gustavo Erviti and teacher Jorge Ramírez, both alumni, began organizing computer classes.

During 1997, the Lasallian Foundation gave us new computer equipment. Teachers Hilda Bueno and Cecilia Guerrero began tutoring our children. Bro. John Johnston FSC the General Superior, visited our Center.

During 1999, architect Noé Amezcua arrived as a volunteer from the De La Salle University in Mexico City. He stayed with us until 2001. With his knowledge and expertise, he presented a housing project to the Homestead Housing Authority, paying for the whole project himself, we watched him change a house into a viable school.

During 2001, Hewlett Packard donated a complete computer system to us thanks to the help of engineer Salvador Romo.

During 2004, through the initiative of the "Union Mundial of De La Salle" or "UMAEl" which visited us in 2002, agreed to provide the funds for a marching band to increase the students' self-esteem. Such a project began with the simple donation of musical instruments from De La Salle alumni in Benicarlo, Spain. A very generous donation came from Central Catholic High School of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, too. Later on, more instruments arrived from alumni in Florida. The name "Banda Centenario" was given in honor of the arrival of the brothers in Cuba a century earlier. Their first march took place on April 9 during the Good Friday procession. At that time, we also had the visit of Brother Darío Medina, who stayed for a while and was very much loved by all the children.

In January 2005, Dr. Jorge Morales was named director of the Center for one year. Dr. Morales had lived in Perú, where he was a professor. Due to his educational influence and background, he reviewed our scholastic system and brought us to a higher level of professionalism.

In July 2005, Br. Álvaro Rodríguez FSC, the General Superior, visited our Center.

During June of 2006, we were visited by Ms. Maggie Sweeney, a Lasallian volunteer from the United States to help us for one year. At the same time, architect Noé Amezcua from Mexico, also volunteered. Both prepared the next calendar year but unfortunately, for economic reasons, we could not afford the two of them, and only Ms. Sweeney continued on. She loved sports and was able to promote great participation among our students.

During January 2007, Ms. Adriana García from De La Salle University in México City came to us for an agreed three-month period but remained with us until June of 2007. In December, Ms. Sweeney returned home.

In August of 2007, engineer Javier Valencia became our director. Later on, he brought his sister Estefania as well as a large group of volunteers, and we were able to rent two homes, and the Center's attendance was greatly increased. At this time we expanded the sports program, the library, the sewing classes, as well as the digital computer program and the creation of two mini-companies, one for digital printing and another one for a higher level of sewing products made by a group of our students.

In June 2009, educational classes via telecommunication from De La Salle University in Pachuca, México, began. This greatly improved the quality of our teachers' skills. Salvador Romo assumed the presidency of the Center.

In 2010, the Center expanded again, with two new classrooms, and with the creation of the Model Airplane Club with Juan Granados and Tony Fardiño as volunteer teachers. Milton Zamora was named director of the Center. Br. Adalberto Aranda, as visitor, helped Salvador Romo as new president with the formation of a vision for the Center as well as its strategic plan.

By 2011 with the support of Br Martín Rocha, we continued to settle on the metrics we must use to make sure the Homestead Center achieved the results expected in a De La Salle Institution. Br. Néstor Anaya helped to shape the specific metrics with our director, Milton Zamora.

In 2012 the De La Salle Atelier produced and delivered the bags for the Missions Conference held at Miami. The profits from these sales helped the students and the Center, following the strategic plan to continue to expand workshops providing short-term job opportunities.

In 2013, Mr. Milton Zamora left the direction of the Center and in the interim we had the services of Ms. Martha Guerrero. Ms. Susana Sánchez, who was the Havana Center administrator, became the new director, and under her direction, we held the summer of 2013, with support from Br. Moisés Matamoros and art teachers Natali and Carlos.

We end our history thus far by quoting from a letter sent to us in 1996 by Sister Soledad. She wrote:
"If this Mission is from God, it will succeed. Everything that is too easy to implement lacks merit and fails to last. The most difficult missions are those that show God's work through hard work. Only this kind of missions will survive, and with this in mind, we can recognize when a mission has the help of the Almighty".