Homestead, FL – On February 4, 2020, the La Salle Educational Center, founded by alumni of Lasallian schools in Cuba, ceremonially transferred its covenant relationship from the Christian Brothers’ Antillas-México Sur District to our District of Eastern North America.
La Salle Educational Center serves low-income families who work in the agricultural fields of southern Miami-Dade County. It cares for children after school as well as on school holidays and during the summer, helping them with homework and providing extracurricular classes in art, science, computers and even sewing. It also provides young people with opportunities to play sports, receive vocational training, and religious instruction. The center goes beyond serving young people by offering their parents classes in English instruction, computers, parenting, health and nutrition. La Salle Eduacational Center serves roughly 75 families, a total of 400 individuals.
“This center is a dream,” said Father José Joaquín Espino, who spearheaded the center’s founding more than 25 years ago. At the time, he was pastor of St. Ann Mission in Homestead, looking for a way to reach out and provide catechesis to the families in the area, most of them agricultural workers from Mexico.
Looking for help, Espino’s calls were answered by exiled alumni of the Lasallian schools in Cuba. As a child, Father Espino had briefly studied at a Lasallian school on the island before fleeing Cuba with his family.
“It’s a dream that flowered from the Lasallian spirit,” said the priest, who is now pastor of San Lazaro Church in Hialeah, and president of the La Salle Center’s board. The goal of the Lasallian charism, is “the formation, the education of young people that they might have a bright future, and a future full of hope,” he added.
The La Salle Educational Center technically joined DENA January 1st of this year. This formal commitment to continue educating the students in the Lasallian tradition and spirit is driven by DENA’s Strategic Plan, most especially to grow avenues in its service of the poor. The geographic and administrative realities that provide challenge for the Brothers of the District of Antillas-México Sur also made the Center’s transition to DENA more ideal. La Salle Educational Center is DENA’s first association with an after-school program, and adds a diversity to our High Schools, Middle and San Miguel Schools, Higher Education, and Youth and Family Service programs.
“You are helping us break new ground together,” said Brother Dennis Lee, Visitor for the District, during the Covenant signing ceremony.
La Salle Educational Center will also benefit from a closer connection to its fellow DENA ministry, St. John Paul II Academy in Boca Raton. The high school’s students already have and will continue to have opportunities to visit the center. While volunteering in the Center’s programs, St. John students have learned first hand about the families served, the everyday realities of their agricultural work and what it means for their children to receive a human, Christian, Lasallian education. With this bolstered DENA connection we also look forward to sharing news of our other ministries volunteering to serve their Lasallian brothers and sisters in the Archdiocese of Miami.
Special thanks to Ms. Ana Rodriguez Soto of the Florida Catholic for her coverage of the event, photos, and captions. Additional photos provided by Shea Ciarletta and Michael Scaramuzzo, Campus Ministers from St. John Paul II Academy.