Niños de Veracruz, a club on campus, recently celebrated 20 years of working to provide scholarships and zero-interest loans to poverty-stricken families and students in Veracruz, Mexico. The proceeds of the volunteer and nonprofit organization helps with the costs of school uniforms, books, school supplies and tuition.
Club member and junior fashion merchandising and management major Madalyn Scully highlights the impact of the work. “Funding in these areas will go incredibly far as the average full-time worker earns less than $6.00 a day for laborious jobs” Scully said.
Professor of Cultural Studies and Director of the Honors Program Stephanie Athey has been the club’s advisor since its inception. “I have been involved as long as anyone, for 20 years now. So I was there with the six Lasell student founders at the time who have long since graduated but are still part of the larger community,” Athey said.
Despite only six students being involved with the organization 20 years ago, the impact of their work was greater than the number of members. “Six students after returning from our very first course and immersion program in Mexico decided that they needed to do more than just learn from the people that they had met there,” Athey said. “They said the best way to repay the education we’ve received is to educate in return…So that’s what those first founders of Niños de Veracruz wanted; wanted to change and have an impact, and they have.”
The pandemic affected the organization, especially because they are international. “2019 was the last time we ran a Mexico shoulder to shoulder course and that was the last time we had students in Mexico and because students weren’t continuously returning to Mexico, they weren’t continuously reintroduced to the work of Niños de Veracruz,” Athey said.
The organization raised funds virtually during COVID-19 and alumni helped keep the club alive. Niños de Veracruz has made a full recovery and now, for the first time since May 2019, students will travel to Mexico in May of 2024 to complete another shoulder to shoulder course.
On Nov. 17 the club held a gala in de Witt Hall, to celebrate their 20th anniversary. It was an evening with drinks, food, remarks from President Eric Turner and Provost Chrystal Porter, tarot card readings, as well as music by WLAS and a dance team performance. “We had a very successful gathering of alums representing the Class of 2003 to the Class of 2020 and a number of current students, as well as remarks by the president, provost, and our lead partners in Coatepec, Mexico” Athey said.
Along with Athey, class of 2020 alumni Allie Wheeler (‘20) helped organize the gala. “She’s been the mastermind, she’s been dreaming of it for two years. Even though [she’s] living in Arizona, she has been putting together with a team of honors program students here at Lasell, they’ve been working together to create this gala” Athey said.
The morning after the gala, the club had another annual fundraiser in which the members of Niños de Veracruz along with the women’s volleyball team, men’s lacrosse team and honors students went around Newton picking up leaves.
President of Niños de Veracruz, junior radio and television production major Sasia Neermann-Hinds said this club is important. “I think it’s a really rewarding experience. Not only did I get to build my skills with hosting events, but it’s just being able to do this kind of fundraising and volunteering,” Neermann-Hinds said. “Having that experience really helps build character.”
Scully added, “Niños de Veracruz allows me to contribute to a cause that I am passionate about and has motivated me to make a positive impact on the world. Working so closely with the group as well as its members in Veracruz, I have been able to experience the impact that we make on third world communities firsthand.”