KidWorks students expand their faith and life experiences during a week at Forest Home

KidWorks students expand their faith and life experiences during a week at Forest Home

KidWorks students expanded their faith and life experiences while attending Forest Home. Our students had plenty of time to enjoy the blessings of God’s creation.  At the lake, they hiked, kayaked, tried out the water slides and swam.  Soccer, basketball, tree climbing, obstacle course, pool, archery and slingshot swing were also on the menu.

KidWorks to Honor David A. Pyle on November 2nd at our 11th Annual Foundation For Success Luncheon

KidWorks is delighted to announce that we will present our prestigious 2017 Dan Donahue Leadership Award to David A. Pyle, philanthropist, Founder/Chief Executive Officer of American Career College and shareholder of West Coast University at our 11th annual Foundation for Success luncheon, taking place on Thursday, Nov. 2 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Santa Ana. 

Pardon Our Dust: The expansion of KidWorks Will Allow 200 New Students To Join Programs

KidWorks Grand Re-Opening and Dedication

Dreams really do come true.  The “Building Dreams” initiative launched in mid-2015 to fully renovate and expand our Dan Donahue Center becomes a reality next month when we celebrate the Grand Re-opening and Dedication on September 13th.  An additional 10,000 square footage will be added to our site and allow 200 new students to join the KidWorks family over the coming year.   This expansion wouldn't happen without the generosity of our partners who have walked alongside us to develop our capacity to serve more children and youth in Santa Ana. 

“By doubling the size of the Donahue Center, we will be able to welcome hundreds more children, youth and families into our programs,” says David Benavides, Executive Director.

He adds, “This major milestone in KidWorks service to central Santa Ana is possible because of the remarkable generosity on the part of supporters who believe in our mission to transform the lives of individuals and the community they love.”

Our fall programs launch on September 5th.  KidWorks has also already begun accepting applications for additional students to join our academic, leadership and spiritual development programs, and they will fold into the KidWorks Donahue Center activities over the next few months to facilitate a seamless transition.

Farm Fresh Fun at the OC Fair

KidWorks at the OC Fair

If you happen to be a fourth grader, you’re probably very astute when it comes to evaluating field trips.  So it’s definitely a ringing endorsement when our young students give such high marks to their recent complimentary visit to the Orange County Fair.

“This was the best field trip I’ve ever been on!” says Zuleima.

Added first grader Ashley, “My pizza was so good!”

In late July, 200 of our students in kindergarten through fifth grade spent the day at the fair, joined by staff and 22 volunteers, including several of our older students.  Several of the older students served as a buddy to a younger students during the day.

For some of the kids, this was their first time going to a fair or amusement park so this outing was a special treat. The students also got to pet farm animals, dance to music, visit Centennial Farm, and learn through exhibits including a salute to the military at the Veterans.  These and other similar experiences are some of the special features provided by our summer programs with support from our community partners.

“We are so grateful to the Orange County Fair officials for providing the tickets at no cost to our students and for giving each of them a $30 credit for games and food,” says Rachel Cervantes, a Program Leader at our KidWorks Dan Donahue Center.  “Each child was also thrilled to receive a pass valid for three rides.”

Rachel says the kids’ day was packed with fun from start to finish.

“They rode a roller coaster and sky lift, won plush toys and cooled down in a water fountain--all while keeping their energy level up with pizza, and ice cream!” she says. 

KidWorks extends a big “thank you!” to the Orange County Fair for making the day so special for our students.

By Glenn Leibowitz, volunteer writer

St. Andrews Presbyterian Church blesses KidWorks—again!

For the past 50 years, the congregation of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach has held an annual rummage sale, with proceeds benefiting the church’s Missions Department.  KidWorks is one of three mission partners receiving a donation.

 

The church estimates the June 8-10 event sale raised $50,000.

 

We are very grateful for the many ways St. Andrews has supported KidWorks over the years.

 

The church put it best on their website: “This year’s Rummage Sale…created space for over 300 volunteers to belong and live out our mission of following Jesus Christ to lead lives that reveal God’s goodness.  A huge thank you to those who served! It could not have been the success it was without you.”

 

As part of this year’s event, three KidWorks staff members joined with the church’s Missions Department for group worship, including music led by Joe Cristina, a St. Andrews staff member who began a KidWorks music program in 2012 called Avanti Music

 

We are very thankful for our partnership with St. Andrews, and congratulate the entire church for over five decades of successful rummage sales.

Celebrating our ‘star’ students: Liliana Ledezma has a heart for music—and justice

This April, our KidWorks blog series will highlight two extraordinary students.  All of our students are “stars” in our humble estimation, and the two we’ll introduce you to this month are examples of how your support develops them in ways that make them contributing members of society throughout their entire lives.  In this installment, we are proud to feature Liliana Ledezma.

 

When you’ve been in the music industry as long as KidWorks volunteer Joe Cristina, recognizing exceptional talent almost becomes instinctual.

 

When he first met Liliana Ledezma, he knew there was something special about this 18-year-old Mater Dei High School student.

 

She was one of the very first KidWorks students to enroll in Avanti Music, founded by Joe in 2012 to help our students learn from a professional musician with 37 years of experience in composition, arranging, orchestration and production.

 

“Lili’s a gifted musician,” Joe says.  “She has what we in the music industry call ‘chops.’  Her proficiency includes the flute, piano, ukulele and vocals.  She’s also been a big part of live performance musical events hosted by KidWorks.”

 

Joe also sees a deeply considerate and caring person in Lili, who believes strongly in justice and searching for truth.

 

“Lili does not settle for the easy answer,” Joe says.  “She asks very direct questions in order to get to the underlying truth.”

 

Another strong trait Joe appreciates in Lili is her encouraging nature.

 

“Although Lili might be tired from a week of school and work, she is always quick to offer help to another Avanti Music student,” Joe says.  “She’s very accepting of new students.  Lili makes people feel welcome.”

 

Joe says there is also a lighter side to Lili that’s just as engaging as her musical talent and sense of fairness.

 

“She’s really funny.” Joe says.  “Her comedic timing is just as finely tuned as her musical talent!”

 

By Glenn Leibowitz, Volunteer Content Writer

 

Celebrating our ‘star’ students: Maritza Urquiza is setting the table for healthy eating in Santa Ana

This April, our KidWorks blog series will highlight two extraordinary students.  All of our students are “stars” in our humble estimation, and the two we’ll introduce you to this month are examples of how your support develops them in ways that make them contributing members of society throughout their entire lives.  In this installment, we are proud to feature Maritza Urquiza.  

 

No one ever has to tell seventh grader Maritza Urquiza to eat all her vegetables.

 

In fact, she may be the one doing the telling!

 

That’s because this conscientious KidWorks student has made it her personal mission to help fight obesity and bring healthy eating to all residents of Santa Ana.

 

Just ask Emma O’Brien, our Youth & Community Engagement Coordinator for Health and Nutrition.

 

“Martiza is a youth representative for Santa Ana Health & Nutrition Advocates (SAHNA), a youth action team that is part of KidWorks Youth Empowerment Network,” Emma says.

 

In this role, Martiza plays an integral part in our partnership with the Santa Ana Unified School District to upgrade kitchens and cafeterias, while also providing students with nutritional choices that they will find appealing.  As part of that collaboration, our youth are developing a survey that SAUSD can use to help identify and provide healthier breakfast and lunch options.

 

For Martiza, healthy eating habits are just as important at home as they are at school.

 

“Martiza strives to live a healthier lifestyle in her own home, and encourages her family to do the same,” Emma says. “She and the other youth enrolled in our SAHNA program have also set their own personal health goals, including eating a healthier diet.”

 

Emma says that Martiza has really grown in her leadership abilities and self-confidence during the time she’s been part of SAHNA.

 

“I have personally seen Maritza develop as a leader,” Emma says. “She thoughtfully shares her ideas, keeps our team on track and leads by example.”

 

Emma also applauds all the SAHNA students who she says are “changing central Santa Ana from the inside out and in a very positive way.”

 

By Glenn Leibowitz, Volunteer Content Writer

 

Engage With KidWorks: Take a Tour

Editor’s note:  Our latest blog series is called “Engage With KidWorks.”  We’re excited to share the variety of meaningful—and fun—ways you can become part of the KidWorks experience.  In our fifth installment, we invite you to tour our Dan Donahue Center

Perhaps the best way to get introduced to KidWorks is to take a tour of our main hub, the Dan Donahue Center, in central Santa Ana.

You’ll be filled with joy as you see students from preschool through high school growing in the areas of academics and the arts, college and career readiness, health and wellness, and leadership and spiritual development.

And don’t be surprised if an excited youngster runs up to you to share his or her latest crayon drawing or to just ask, “What’s your name?”

You’ll also have a chance to meet our caring teachers and welcoming staff.  They’re all ready to answer any questions you may have about or mission, vision and values. 

And they would be delighted to share ways you can get involved.

Tours are available Monday through Friday, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

To arrange a tour, please contact our offices at 714.834.9400. 

By Glenn Leibowitz, Volunteer Content Writer

Engage With KidWorks: The Joy of Serving

Editor’s note:  Our latest blog series is called “Engage With KidWorks.”  We’re excited to share the variety of meaningful—and fun—ways you can become part of the KidWorks experience.  In our fourth installment, we invite you to volunteer with one of our exciting programs and/or help with an event or development.

Our valued KidWorks volunteers know first-hand the joy they feel when they step into one of our four centers and are greeted with enthusiasm by our students in grades preschool through high school.

Our students can’t wait to tell our volunteers all about their day and to say “thank you” for the “A” they earned on yesterday’s math assignment because of the tutoring help they received.

There are so many ways to serve at KidWorks.  We invite you to consider any of these opportunities:

UNIVERSITY STARTS NOW

Help K-12th grade students with their homework, academics, computer-based learning, and character development at one of our four learning centers

 

TUTORING

Spend individualized time with one or two students helping them in specific areas such as math, reading, and language development at one of our four learning centers.  

 

WORKSHOPS

Share a special talent and passion with our students by leading them in a fun, energetic, hands-on workshop. Workshops can focus on art, science, music, dance, creative writing, etc. 

 

PRESCHOOL

Assist the little ones in our licensed preschool facility helping our teachers with the preschool daily activities and lessons. 

 

SUPPORT

Share your important skill set with us through administrative, graphic design, party planning, marketing, IT, and other types of support.

 

FUND DEVELOPMENT & SPECIAL EVENTS COMMITTEES

Help us raise financial resources and in-kind donations critical to support the life-transforming work that we do. In-kind donations may include professional services such as advertising, design, printing and more.

 

Interested in learning more?  Please call 714.834.9400 or email volunteer@kidworksonline.org for more information and to sign up to volunteer!

 

By Glenn Leibowitz, Volunteer Content Writer

KidWorks Teacher puts a stop to bullying

Jacquelynn Hernandez, a KidWorks Program Leader, knew something was deeply troubling Maria, a normally cheerful six grader enrolled in our after-school programs.

 

“One day, I sat with Maria (not her real name) and gently asked her to share about what might be on her mind,” Jacquelynn says.  “I learned that she was being bullied by several girls at her public school; in fact, it turned out to be one of the more severe cases of bullying I’ve seen.”

 

That is when the compassion that fills the heart of each KidWorks teacher moved Jacquelynn into action.  Having had her own struggles with unkind classmates growing up, this KidWorks teacher was going to make sure Maria’s pain would stop.

 

Working with Maria’s parents and school officials, Jacquelynn helped Maria transfer to a new school.  She also enrolled Maria in Global G.L.O.W., a KidWorks partner.  They describe themselves as helping to“transform the lives of strong girls, in grades 5-12, from vulnerable communities around the world, by empowering them to realize their full potential.”

 

 

KidWorks programs include educating all of our students about the devastating impact of bullying.

 

The transition from being bullied to a safe, nurturing environment has had its struggles, but Maria is making new friends and overcoming understandable trust issues.

 

“Maria loves to bake and so do I, so we plan some kitchen time together,” Jacquelynn says.  They also plan outings to Starbucks. 


“Even though this young lady has gone through so much, she is optimistic while learning to overcome her hurt,” Jacquelynn says.  “Maria shows much love and respect to others.”

 

We are so grateful for KidWorks team members like Jacquelynn who show endless love and compassion each day for students just like Maria.

 

By Glenn Leibowitz, Volunteer Content Writer

Engage With KidWorks: Attend an Event

Editor’s note:  Our latest blog series is called “Engage With KidWorks.”  We’re excited to share the variety of meaningful—and fun—ways you can become part of the KidWorks experience.  In our second installment, we invite you to attend one of our exciting and uplifting KidWorks events.

KidWorks isn't only about homework.  We also like to have fun!

That’s why we’re delighted to invite you to one of the many events we hold each year to raise funds, engage with the central Santa Ana Community and enjoy our students’ many talents.


Check out some of the fun stuff we have planned for 2017:
 

Community Events
The community fairs are much-anticipated events where families from the surrounding neighborhoods come together to share friendship, play games, relax, enjoy snacks and just have fun.  These are the fairs planned for this year:

March 18:  Bishop Manor Intergenerational Health Fair

April 22:  Dia del Niño Myrtle St. Resource Fair

August 19: Townsend-Raitt St. Resource Fair

 

KidWorks Classic Golf Tournament
Whether you’re a scratch golfer or simply appreciate the chance to play a premier course, KidWorks invites you to make your reservation now for our fifth annual KidWorks Classic Golf Tournament, to be held Thursday, May 18 at the beautiful Pelican Hill Golf Course in Newport Beach.

For more information, please contact Lisa Gels, Manager of Partnerships & Donor Relations: phone: (714) 619-7560 or email: lisa.gels@kidworksoc.org

 

Foundation for Success Luncheon
We invite you to attend our annual luncheon, that for the past three years, the Orange County Business Journal has listed as one of the top five fundraising luncheons.

For each of its 10 years, the event has featured an extraordinary keynote speaker.  It’s also instrumental in helping us raise a substantial portion of the funds for our after-school programs.

This year’s event details are coming soon!

For more information, please contact Lisa Gels, Manager of Partnerships & Donor Relations: phone: (714) 619-7560 or email: lisa.gels@kidworksoc.org
 

Music Concerts Featuring KidWorks Students
Many of KidWorks students have exceptional musical talent.  To experience their gifts firsthand, please consider attending these upcoming events:

Wednesday, March 22, 7:00 p.m.: Concert event at Super Antojitos restaurant in Tustin. The event will feature a short five-song set with students in KidWorks Avanti musical program.  There will also be a set with Avanti founder and professional musician, Joe Cristina and guitarist/vocalist Tiago Costa.  There is no cover charge.

S
unday, April 30, 3 p.m. St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach: “Imago Dei” concert hosted by Jenny Park. This event will feature students from Jenny’s music academy, other local musical groups and selected Avanti students.  The concert is free.

 

By Glenn Leibowitz, Volunteer Content Writer

Engage With KidWorks: The Joy of Giving

Editor’s note:  Our latest blog series is called “Engage With KidWorks.”  We’re excited to share the variety of meaningful—and fun—ways you can become part of the KidWorks experience.  In our first installment, we share research that shows how monetary donations to non-profits like KidWorks not only make a sustained meaningful impact—they also make us feel better as people!

A widely acclaimed Harvard Business School research paper published in 2009 (“Feeling Good About Giving”) concluded that those who give a monetary donation to those in need “reported higher levels of happiness.”

In the words of those researcher:  "Happier people give more and giving makes people happier, such that happiness and giving may operate in a positive feedback loop."

And there’s the Gallup World Poll conducted between 2006 and 2008 that found people who donated to charity “reported a greater satisfaction with life.”

Finally, consider these statistics from the Do Good Live Well survey of 4,500 U.S. adults who supported a charity:  68 percent reported that it made them feel physically healthier, 89 percent that it “has improved my sense of well-bring” (e.g., happiness) and 73 percent that it “lowered my stress levels.”

Our KidWorks supporters are among the most generous people we know.  So, if giving equates to happiness, maybe that’s why our volunteers and contributors have such positive outlooks on life.

Need a lift today?  Consider making a donation to your friends at KidWorks!

 

By Glenn Leibowitz, Volunteer Content Writer

KidWorks Preschool Students Visit La Habra Museum

Our KidWorks Preschool students had a very special President’s Day. Over 40 of our kids spent the day at the La Habra Children’s Museum.

 

We are so greatful to Kevin Watson, owner of JFK Transportation, for so generously donating the transportation for our fun day at the museum.  There were about 6 rooms to explore in the museum. 

 

The children had an amazing time exploring a room with a variety of animal fossils, “you could tell they were amazed to see the following a lion, a grizzly bear, and a hyena, which was perfect since we just learned about hibernation in class,” said Idalia Galdamez, KidWorks Preschool Director.

 

Following the animal fossils, students explored a room with a grand theater and saw different costumes from fireman gear to singers and ballerinas.

 

Next, students visited a room that had a market and an old OCTA bus.  Students were more than glad to pretend to be bus drivers.

 

Lastly, there was a room decorated like the Old Stone Age.  Students were able to pretend to live in that era.  Some of them got to climb on top of mammoths, wear pretend skin clothes, and many of our kids took pictures.

 

We had the best day! Thank you, La Habra Children’s Museum

KidWorks Teacher Spotlight: Brizzy Cruz

Photo:  Brizzy (center) with third-graders, Rosisela (left) and Monserat

Photo:  Brizzy (center) with third-graders, Rosisela (left) and Monserat

Sometimes, a fresh apple and half a ham sandwich are exactly the enticements a first grader needs to warm up to our after school programs.

Not too long ago, that simple act of hospitality was how Brizzy Cruz, Site Director at our Bishop Manor Center, convinced little Amariis and her mom, Jenny Heng, to give KidWorks after school programs a try.

“They were a little hesitant at first, but now Amariis is one of our most enthusiastic students and her mom and I have developed a wonderful bond,” Brizzy says.  “She and her daughter know this is always a safe place, even if the neighborhood isn’t.”

Like all of our centers, Bishop Manor is intentionally located in an underserved central Santa Ana neighborhood.  This schoolroom opened five years ago, and Brizzy has been the center’s leader for two years.

“What makes Bishop Manor so unique is that all of the students literally walk over from the apartments where the center is located,” Brizzy says.  “In addition of the Hispanic students who are enrolled in our programs, we also welcome Cambodian students who live in the complex.  That’s unique to this KidWorks location.”

As soon as she arrives at the center, the warmth between she and her students is evident.  “Ms. Brizzy!  Ms. Brizzy!” they call out enthusiastically, as the schoolroom fills with students plopping down backpacks and pulling out their homework.

Brizzy takes a vibrant, creative approach to teaching.

“I never want the lessons or conversations to be one-way,” she says.  “I always involve the students, letting them be expressive and hands-on.”

For example, instead of just reciting the four seasons of the year, Brizzy encourages them draw pictures of the seasons, describe them and spell them correctly.

“I use the ‘I do, you do’ approach where the kids watch me do something and then they get to try it out,” she says.  “It’s experiential learning, with defined boundaries.”

Brizzy joined KidWorks as a volunteer in 2006 and joined the staff one year later.

For Brizzy, the classroom is just one way to form a strong relationship with her students and their families.

“Since they live in apartments just steps away from our center, I regularly drop by to visit, send notes home and telephone,” she says.  “It’s all about gaining trust, making the kids want to be at the center and for the parents to feel the same.”

Outside of her KidWorks’ duties, Brizzy loves all forms of dance, plays volleyball and is an avid reader.  In October 2015 she married Victor, an electrical technician with the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Brizzy, thank you for the many years you have made every one of your students feel special as you help each live up to his or her full potential!

KidWorks Teacher Spotlight: Dianna Valdez

Editor’s note:  In the fourth story in our “The Teachers” blog series, we celebrate Dianna Valdez, Site Director of our Cedar Evergreen Center.

Dianna Valdez stands in front of her small classroom filled with about a dozen first and second graders.  She has a question for them as they work through snacks consisting of half a sandwich, an apple, baby carrots, yoghurt and milk.

“What is the opposite of ‘first’?” she asks.

“Second?” one student tentatively volunteers.

“Not exactly,” Dianna gently answers.

“Last!” first grader Adrian says confidently.

“That’s correct,” Dianna says, handing him a sticker that he proudly affixes next to the others on his yellow homework folder.

If Dianna seems like a natural-born teacher, it’s probably because she’s been at it awhile—since she was seven years old, in fact!

“I had a four-year-old cousin, and instead of playing house or dress-up, I was the teacher and she was my student,” Dianna says.  “I taught her to read, and to this day my uncle thanks me for doing that.”

Dianna has been a valued member of the KidWorks team for three years, and has led our Cedar Evergreen Center since it opened.  From its humble beginnings where only a handful of students attended after school programs, Cedar Evergreen now serves 55 students in grades kindergarten through 12.

She thanks Art Quiroz, Program Leader at Cedar Evergreen, for helping her make the center such a vital part of the surrounding community.

Dianna grew up in Santa Ana and she has a heart for the underserved.  She knows firsthand what it’s like for a family to struggle.  Dianna, along with her four brothers, was raised by a single mother who worked three jobs to support them.

Dianna also says her personal teaching style evolved from her own experiences as a youngster in elementary school.

“I was a pretty quiet child and probably an average student,” she says.  “I saw how the ones who got the most attention were those who were either always in trouble or those who were superstars.  Students like me kind of faded into the background.”

Her own approach is the opposite; it’s to involve each and every student.

“We’re all multi-layered, and so I try to see all parts of the student, including the spiritual, intellectual, psychological, emotional and physical,” she says. “I see those layers in every student I serve; they are a soul as well.”

A recent example of Dianna’s caring heart was when she noticed a kindergarten boy had not shown up to class for over a week.

“We value each child in our programs, and I eventually found out that this boy had been in the hospital to have his appendix out,” Dianna says.  “I had all his classmates write little ‘get well’ notes, and I brought them to him at his home, along with crayons and a coloring book.”

The little boy fully recovered and happily returned to the Cedar Evergreen Center as soon as he was able.

Outside of her teaching duties, Dianna enjoys hiking and is and perhaps the biggest Disneyland fan you’ll ever meet.

“I go to the park about a dozen times a year,” she confesses.  Thunder Mountain is her favorite attraction.

Dianna is also a person of deep Christian faith, and very active in her church, Templo Calvario in Santa Ana, where she serves as Assistant Director of Youth.

Dianna, thanks for sharing your deep passion for teaching with every student under your care, and for seeing him or her as individuals with limitless potential.

KidWorks Teacher Spotlight: Karina Flores

On a chilly, mid-January afternoon, Karina Flores leads a group of about two dozen elementary school students on a short walk to Jerome Park in central Santa Ana.  They’ve earned a 20-minute break from their after-school homework lessons at our Townsend Street Center.

“Stay in a straight line,” Karina gently admonishes.  “Don’t cross the alley until you make sure no cars are coming.”

“OK, Ms. Karina,” they chime in unison. 

Karina has a special bond with her students.  She grew up on Townsend Street where this KidWorks satellite center is located and knows first-hand the struggles and challenges of an underserved neighborhood.

In fact before she joined our staff, Karina was a KidWorks student herself, attending our programs from sixth grade all the way through high school.  She was a member of the first-ever group of students who comprised Community Leaders of Santa Ana (CLOSA), our youth-led organization that helps improve the surrounding neighborhood with cleanups, sponsored events and other activities.

“I want each student to know that whatever hardships they and their families are going through, that the KidWorks center is a place that for 90 minutes each day they have a safe, encouraging place to go,” she says.

As she leads her class, Karina’s gentle, quiet personality shines through—and so does her strength.  Recently, a second grader approached her in class and asked if he could color with crayons.

“Yes, but only after you read for 10 minutes,” Karina said.

“How about after five minutes?” the boy said, smiling playfully.

“Ten minutes of reading and then you can color,” she countered.  Turning to a visitor, she laughed and said, “They learn to negotiate at a very young age!”

Jocelyn is one of Karina’s seventh grade students who is so inspired by her teacher that she also volunteers several hours, four days a week at the Townsend Center.

“I trust Ms. Karina so much,” Jocelyn says.  “She’s talks with me when there are problems at my school where I faced bullying or conflicts.  She’s helped me deal with those challenges in the right way.”

Outside of work, Karina and Jose Ayala, the Health & Fitness Program Coordinator at our main Dan Donahue Center, are busy planning a June wedding.

They enjoy hiking and camping together, and have visited the Grand Canyon, Sequoia National Forest and Yosemite.  She also enjoys action and romance movies.

Karina, everyone at KidWorks is so proud of the way you have grown from a diligent student in our programs into a site coordinator and role model for other children and youth as you mold them into equally contributing members of the community.  Thank you!

By Glenn Leibowitz, Volunteer Content Writer

KidWorks student, Isaac Michaca, named to City of Santa Ana planning committee

Isaac Michaca is a young man with both vision and passion for Santa Ana, a city he clearly loves.

In fact, this KidWorks student and Santa Ana College freshman is so committed to Santa Ana and its residents that he hopes one day to serve as mayor.

Before that happens, Isaac realizes that it’s “first things-first.”  In that regard, he’s just accepted an appointment as the only youth named to serve a one-year term on the City of Santa Ana’s General Planning Committee.

It’s a significant role that Isaac takes seriously.

“I especially want to be a champion for health and nutrition, urban agriculture, cultural knowledge and restorative justice,” Isaac says.

Those are the same areas of focus he’s had since joining KidWorks’ Youth Empowerment Network (YEN) in 2012.  He now serves as a coordinator with the group.  YEN is a youth-initiated and youth-led program that develops, designs and address issues that impact youth, their families and their neighborhoods.

One of YEN’s focus areas is one that Isaac plans to be a champion for on the City of Santa Ana General Planning Committee.  “Community composting and community garden programs, like the ones we have at KidWorks, will help promote healthy eating, combat obesity and help prevent diabetes,” Isaac says.

Isaac expresses his thanks to those who have helped him along the way.  “I have been blessed by the KidWorks staff, my fellow students and volunteers who have helped me to grow into a leader,” he says. 

“Isaac’s leadership skills and clear vision will ensure that the voice of Santa Ana’s youth will be reflected in the city’s plans,” says Frank Bejarano, our Director of Youth and Family Engagement.  “He will be a major contributor to a plan for Santa Ana that will positively impact the community for generations to come.  KidWorks is very proud of Isaac and we are grateful that his heart is so strongly with the community.”

 

By Glenn Leibowitz, Volunteer Content Writer

 

KidWorks Teacher Spotlight: Raquel Nava

Raquel with third-grader, Adrely

Raquel Nava’s eyes brim with tears when she speaks about her own childhood—and how those difficult years fill her with empathy for the students she works with each day at KidWorks.

Raquel was sent to California from Mexico to live with an aunt when she was just six years old.  Her parents have never really been a part of her life.

In elementary school and high school, Raquel’s heart grew softer instead of harder when other students poked fun at her because she didn’t fully understand the culture, speak fluent English or wear newer clothes.

But Raquel learned perseverance and goal setting that led to her earning both a bachelor’s and master’s degree.  She paid for her education herself, working three jobs at once.

Raquel has been with KidWorks for nearly two years.  And she’s one of our students’ favorites.

“At one point, I was pursuing a career in film production, but eventually I realized that in my heart my real desire was to help the underserved, especially those in Santa Ana where I grew up,” Raquel says.

KidWorks has proved to be an ideal match with Raquel’s natural teaching gifts and her empathetic nature.

“If a student comes to class without a pencil, my own experience has taught me that it doesn't mean he or she is unprepared,” Raquel says.  “The student may be dealing with other difficulties at home or in school that we might not yet know about.”

Having been a resilient self-starter, Raquel now instills the same skills in the second, fifth and eighth graders she teaches.

“I assign them to be line leaders, teacher’s assistants and door monitors,” Raquel says.  “They learn to take responsibility, just like they’ll need to do in the work world.”

Raquel is a huge believer in positive reinforcement.

“If a student has a really good day, I’ll phone the parents and tell them, ‘Your child was amazing today,’” she says.  With a wink she also adds, “In other cases I might smile at a student and say, ‘Remember, I have your mom’s cell phone number and can text her!’”

Raquel and her husband, Everardo, a certified public accountant, lead busy lives.  Everardo regularly volunteers at our after school programs.  They both enjoy cooking (pozole, a traditional Mexican stew is one of Raquel’s specialties), yoga and bingo.

Raquel, thank you for being such a shining star and fully sharing your caring heart with all of KidWorks students.

By Glenn Leibowitz, Volunteer Content Writer