is a Story . . .
The short version of the story: we are a faith-based non-profit operating four community centers in Central Mexico.
Yet NOE is more than a program—it’s a community of volunteers, teachers, staff, and alumni who help students to realize their potential and provide them with the resources and training to help them accomplish that potential. Click these buttons for the longer version of our story:
The First NOE Center, 1992-1993
NOE International has roots deeply planted in the vision of a young student in 1980 at LaSalle High School in Portland, Oregon. Laurie Connolly (now Henkle) became friends with Elsa Mazón, an exchange student from Mexico. When Laurie later visited Elsa in her hometown of Ciudad Obregón, Sonora, her heart was burdened for Mexican children living in poverty.
While attending Wheaton College in the early 1980's, Laurie had an idea for a shirt that she thought could make her a little spending money. Laurie teamed up with Margaret Lown (now Hespen) to design that first shirt: "LONDON PARIS ROME WHEATON." The design became so popular, they grew the idea into a sportswear company, Brindar Inc., which translates to "give" or "offer" in Spanish.
The company then funded the Brindar Foundation, which became NOE International. In 1989, Laurie began making regular trips to Mexico with Elsa Mazón to scout a location for the soon-to-be-realized ministry. Margaret married youth pastor Brett Hespen, they moved to Mexico City in 1990 for language study and then to Morelia in 1991, where they were joined by current Executive Director Brian Overcast and his wife Mireya, a native of Mazatlán.
After much prayer and a lot of walking, the team decided on a neighborhood in Morelia to start the center. In 1992, they launched the first center in a tiny apartment with 34 students in English classes, homework help, and art classes.
New Opportunities in Education had begun!
The Primero NOE Center, 1993 - current
NOE alum Gerardo coaching a girls basketball team
Today we continue the mission established at the beginning: to transform the lives of people by integrating Christ's love and teachings into educational and recreational programs through community centers located in low-income neighborhoods.
We now have four NOE Centers - three in Morelia and one in León, serving over 1,000 people. After-school educational and recreational programs include English classes, homework help tutoring, music classes, art classes, Bible studies, basketball teams, beautician classes, parenting classes, and more. NOE Centers are accreditated by the Michoacán State Education Department and students who complete our four-year upper English classes receive a certificate qualifying them for many jobs or continued education.
NOE responds to a critical gap in the educational system in Mexico, providing students with the extra training and encouragement they need to continue and finish their schooling. The NOE staff and teachers strive to model Christ’s love for students, offering hope in Jesus and a supportive boost to help students overcome incredibly daunting challenges at school and home. NOE students also often discover a passion and potential in one of the many other classes NOE offers—classes they would not have the opportunity to take in the Mexico school system. Each year at fall registration in September, students and parents line up overnight to have a chance at an open spot at NOE.
Homework Help class at NOE Primero
Advanced English students practice with visitors to NOE
There are currently over 1,000 students who participate in some program of the NOE Centers each week. NOE students live in the neighborhoods around NOE centers; most come from families who struggle to provide for their basic needs, and many come from single-parent households. More than three-quarters of NOE students’ families have household incomes of under $500 a month. Our students are dynamic, promising, and dedicated to improving their futures. Often, once one child begins to attend NOE, siblings follow and the family is readily interwoven into the NOE community fabric.