by MICHELLE TREMBLAY | photos by Soul of Photography

Passionate Volunteer

John Vinson is a San Diego native. He grew up in Del Mar, where both his parents worked as teachers in the local schools, and he graduated from San Diego State University. After college, John became a Naval Aviator for the United States Navy. “My family and I were stationed around the world, from Guam to Spain to Germany, but never had orders back home until 1997,” recalled John. It was then that John and his family settled into their “dream home” in Solana Beach – a home in which they still live today. “We bought our Solana Beach home in 1999 and designed the home we wish to never leave,” shared John. “Having lived across the U.S. and literally around the world, Solana Beach is where we are happy.”

volunteer_vinson2Shortly after settling in San Diego, John made the decision to retire from the Navy and started working in the Defense Department and intel communities providing multilevel security communication – an area he has now worked in for the past 17 years.

Around this same time, John was introduced to the nonprofit group Casa de Amistad, Centro de Enseñanza, translated in English to mean: House of Friendship, Center for Learning. “The Hispanic pastor of Solana Beach Presbyterian Church asked some of us from the church community to help a few second and third graders with their homework,” shared John. “Their parents were not proficient in English, so 12 volunteers stepped in to help.”

Today, John and his fellow volunteers at Casa de Amistad dedicate themselves to fostering the education and character development of underserved children, teens, and their families in coastal North County San Diego. “The cornerstone of Casa de Amistad is its Study Companions Program,” explained John. “Study Companions is an educational mentoring program designed to improve the academic achievement of children in grades K-12.” The group also has preschool, summer enrichment, and STEM programs. Recently, an anonymous donor has provided funds for a college scholarship program as well. “2017 was our second year to grant scholarships and laptop computers,” noted John. “Twelve high school graduates are now well on their way to becoming young professionals.”

Group: Casa de Amistad, Centro de Enseñanza
Mission: Casa de Amistad, Centro de Enseñanza is a nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering the education and character development of underserved children, teens, and their families in coastal North County San Diego.

Name: John P. Vinson, CAPT USN, ret.
Community: Solana Beach, CA
Volunteer Affiliation: Casa de Amistad
Favorite Local Places to Visit: The beach, Tony’s Jacal, the San Diego Zoo

Since John started with Casa de Amistad, the number of volunteers has grown from 12 to over 100, currently tutoring over 240 students. But, despite the growth in volunteers, help is always needed. “Ask to help, and Casa can team you up with the right student,” said John. “We always need high school math, science, and English experts, but our elementary students need help as well.”

John noted that the group’s annual fundraiser will be in April, but donations can be given at any time. “As with every organization, funding is a top priority and with Casa, budget planning is a key to success,” stated John. “Relying on a steady source of income increases our ability to plan and to budget the yearly events – the larger the budget, the greater number of programs can be offered.”


A “wish” John has for the organization would be for the local community to commit to a sustained annual donation to help continue the growing programs for the students and their families. “Casa de Amistad has grown from serving just a handful of students to more than 240 with the help of 200 volunteers,” shared John. “To be able to have a positive impact on the lives of so many wonderful and loving people is a real blessing.”