In 2002, Dr. Gabriela de la Vega was inspired by individuals in the community, such as Nancy Chamberlain and Rusty Schuetz, who were giving free English classes to local residents. Gabriela envisioned that La Manzanilla could become the first truly bilingual town in Mexico. As a step towards making this vision a reality, in January of 2003 she initiated and sponsored free English classes for all of the children in the La Manzanilla public schools, as well as English classes for adults in the evenings.
Gabriela brought Julie Catton Amezcua on board as the Coordinator of the English program. As Julie got involved with La Manzanilla public schools, it became glaringly clear that the educational needs went far beyond English language training. The public schools lacked resources and the students’ literacy level in their native language of Spanish was astonishingly low. Additionally, 2/3 of the youth were dropping out after middle school.
Julie’s partner Victor Amezcua, a mathematician and educator born in Mexico City, responded to this educational gap frequently found in rural schools in Mexico. He was our fearless leader and trailblazer, guiding us through the difficult and painstaking process of setting us up a Mexican non-profit. Victor gathered a small group of educators and philanthropists, already involved with the existing English program. This founding board included himself, Gabriela de la Vega, Pablo Martinez del Campo Rendon, Julie Catton Amezcua, and Jose Valentin Chavez Castro. Victor, along with the support of the board, lobbied for a land donation from our local Ejido to construct our educational center. The land was granted in 2004, and now has a classroom, computer lab, bathrooms, storage facility, gardens, and a partially built office.
The non-profit was named “La Catalina Foundation” (LCF) in memory of Victor’s deceased wife, Kathleen Amezcua, who frequently traveled to Mexico and was called “Catalina” by the Mexican people.
Since the establishment of the non-profit in 2003, LCF has grown to offer not only language opportunities, but also scholarship assistance to youth, teacher trainings, summer camps, school supply drives, after-school programs, computer training, social programs, and much more. Click here to learn more about the programs we administer.