By Pablo Jaime Sainz
After reading an article in La Prensa San Diego early last year about the obstacles a local Latino student had to overcome to succeed in school, Mary decided she wanted to help her and others in her situation.
It was the story of Bernice Ramirez, a graduating senior at The Preuss School at UCSD and a member of the Barrio Logan College Institute (BLCI) who had faced many financial and family issues throughout her life, what inspired Mary (she preferred not to give out her last name) to begin Warm Dorm.
It is an annual fundraiser to donate college supplies for BLCI students that, due to economic hardships, must choose between buying textbooks or the basic supplies they need to live on campus once they get to college.
“After reading that article, I felt that I wanted to help Bernice,” Mary said. “I couldn´t sleep that night. I wanted to do something good for her.”
Several days later, at a scholarship ceremony at UCSD, Mary met Jennie Lange, high school program coordinator for BLCI, which prepares first-generation college-bound students by providing free after-school enrichment programs and support beginning in 3rd grade. .
There, Lange told her that there were five other girls in similar situations than Bernice.
Although Mary didn´t have a clear idea of what she wanted to do, she began to realize that having a comfortable dorm room was something that many students couldn’t get. That’s how she came up with the Warm Dorm concept.
After that night, Mary began asking her group of friends to donate college supplies, such as comforters, laundry hampers, and alarm clocks, for the students.
She and her friends raised $1,400 with which they bought six packages of supplies for the students.
But there was a condition: The group of women wanted to remain anonymous.
“We wanted to do something good for people without being recognized, without the students feeling that they had to give us something in return,” Mary said.
That’s the reason her last name isn’t used in this article.
Last month, the Warm Dorm women once again donated 10 packages of college supplies for 10 graduating seniors at the BLCI.
In a package bursting with supplies, the favorite this year was the Blizzard Jr. Fan. “This is the best thing in here!” said Alva Monsalvo, who looks forward to staying cool at UCSD this fall.
Another student, Maria Garduño, said: “This is like a dream come true for me. My parents and I have been so worried about how I was going to buy books and supplies next year, and now I don’t have to worry about that. Thank you!”
Although the students will probably meet Mary in person, Mary said she feels joy in seeing her good will has benefited these students and their families.
“This is an act of love,” she said.
Lange said that for many Barrio Logan families, buying basic college supplies for their children is a financial impossibility and a slight cause for concern for students about to leave their close-knit families for the first time.
Thanks to the overwhelming generosity of the Warm Dorm ladies, however, BLCI families can rest easy and students can look forward to an exciting year as the first in their families to go to college!
“I spoke with the coordinator of Warm Dorm, and we both ended up crying. The generosity and thoughtfulness of these women is amazing. It is so much fun to our kids get to open the gifts with their parents, and celebrate how hard they’ve worked. The Warm Dorm ladies look at this as a reward, not a donation,” Lange said.
Some people have suggested to Mary that she should establish a non-profit to make Warm Dorm bigger, but she said she prefers to keep it small.
The reason: She wants to keep it close to her heart.
“The joy is in doing it, in raising the money, in buying the stuff at the stores. I want the students to know that there’s people in the world who care about them.”
If you would like more information about the Barrio Logan College Institute, call (619) 232-4686, or visit www.blci.org.