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

Volunteer Shout Out: Jay Cramer, KidWorks Volunteer Shepherd

At times, it seems as though there must be three or four Jay Cramers.

That’s because the actual Jay Cramer is such a dedicated KidWorks volunteer that he appears to be in many places at the same time: tutoring first graders, passing out snacks and welcoming new volunteers.

In fact, welcoming new volunteers is now “officially” part of Jay’s day; he recently became KidWorks’ very first Volunteer Shepherd.

In that role, Jay welcomes new volunteers and provides support to continuing volunteers.  Thanks to his professional career as a teacher, Jay has exactly the right skill set for this vital volunteer position:  shepherding, training and leadership.

“KidWorks is my favorite place,” Jay says.  “There are so many rewarding aspects about helping out at KidWorks.  I love the smiles on the faces of the children when they see you.  Letting them know you really care about them and wanting to help adds up to making a meaningful difference that they will remember throughout their lives.”

As Volunteer Shepherd, Jay welcomes new volunteers on their first day, introduces them to staff and students, supports continuing volunteers and helps facilitate our monthly volunteer huddles.

 

Our goal is to also add a Volunteer Shepherd at each of our three satellite centers.  If you are interested in finding out more, please email: volunteer@kidworksonline.org

 

Jay has volunteered at KidWorks for over a year.  He’s at our Dan Donahue center almost every weekday to support our various programs throughout the year. 

“Jay’s dedication to KidWorks and our students is nothing short of remarkable,” says Melissa Peralta, our Volunteer Resource Manager.  “From the first day he joined our volunteer team, he’s demonstrated a servant’s heart that keeps growing stronger.”

Before retiring from the Anaheim Union High School District, Jay taught science class for at risk students and algebra to special education students.

Teaching wasn’t Jay’s first career.  He earned a Master of Science degree in civil engineering and did consulting work for a number of years.  Before starting college, he skied on the pro circuit for several seasons.

Jay and his wife, Nancy, a physician, have been married for 33 years.  They have two sons, Marty, 27 and Eric, 23.

When he’s not volunteering at KidWorks, Jay loves to fish (“I will fish for anything!” he confesses), garden, dance, sing and attend live shows with Nancy.

Jay, we are so grateful for your extraordinary dedication to KidWorks and for the enthusiasm you bring to your new role as our Volunteer Shepherd.  Our entire staff and the families we serve say “thank you!”

 

By Glenn Leibowitz, Volunteer Content Writer

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 

Your January Hope Report is here!

Did you receive the KidWorks January Hope Report in your mailbox this week? If not, check it out HERE.

Want a hard copy? No problem! Copies are available at the KidWorks Dan Donahue Center. Pick up at the front desk Monday - Friday, 9am - 5pm, 1902 W. Chestnut Avenue, Santa Ana, CA. 92703.  

Don't miss out on all the latest and greatest from KidWorks! 

With a little help, a struggling student becomes a star

Our KidWorks teachers mean the world to us. They work so hard to provide our students with support, encouragement, and the tools they need to succeed. Our teachers are developing community leaders and agents of change in central Santa Ana. Teacher,  Rachel Cervantes, is no exception. Her commitment to her students goes unmatched. 

It’s a fact:  In any school, some students struggle a little bit more than others.

That’s where the compassion of KidWorks teachers and volunteers really kicks into high gear. 

Our mission is for every student to perform at his or her full potential.

Recently, Rachel Cervantes, a Program Leader at our Dan Donahue Center, helped a fourth grade boy overcome some behavioral issues and gain confidence.

“When Eduardo (not his real name) first joined the program this summer, we could see that he was going to be a handful!” Rachel said.  “He was easily distracted and that impacted all the other students.”

Yet, by working with Eduardo and his mom, a corner was soon turned.

Today, the words Rachel uses to describe Eduardo are “lively,” “sensitive” and “helpful.”

She also thanks Jessica Ellis, Site Director, Dan Donahue Center, for her guidance.  Jessica suggested ways to involve Eduardo and his mom in monitoring his behavior both at home and at our center.  It’s helped point Eduardo in the right direction.

“I am thankful for Jessica’s guidance, instruction and for her heart for the kids,” Rachel says.

We are proud of students like Eduardo, and forever grateful to teachers like Rachel and all our volunteers who make a permanent positive difference in the lives of those we serve.

 

By Glenn Leibowitz, Volunteer Content Writer

GIVE

giving.jpeg

With just hours left before we welcome 2017, KidWorks has a wonderful idea about how to finish 2016 on the right note.

Please considering saying “goodbye 2016” and “hello 2017” by making a donation to KidWorks.

It’s easy to do.  You can do so securely online at this link:

www.kidworksoc.org/give


We are so grateful for every dollar that helps us serve hundreds of children, youth and parents in central Santa Ana.

 

Happy New Year everyone!

 

SERVE

In just 10 short days, we’ll turn the calendar page and welcome 2017.  That means most of us are probably already jotting down our New Year’s resolutions.

At KidWorks, we believe that volunteering should be on everyone’s list.  As a KidWorks supporter, we appreciate all the ways you’ve lent a hand, and we look forward to our continued partnership in 2017.

Perhaps you know of a family member or friend looking for a way to add even more meaning to his or her life by volunteering and serving others. 

If you know someone like that, we’d be grateful if you could point them our way. They can find out more by visiting the volunteer page on our website: 

Click Here for information on volunteering! 

Thank you for helping us get the word out to potential volunteers!

SHARE

Sharing.

It’s really what the holidays are all about.

We share fellowship, meals and gifts to express love and appreciation for those who mean so much to us.

We’d be so grateful if you could share your support for KidWorks with other family and friends.  It’s a great opportunity to encourage them to consider making a contribution to KidWorks this holiday season.

Adding KidWorks to their giving list is so easy.  They can do so online at this secure link:
www.kidworksoc.org/give


Happy holidays from all of us at KidWorks and on behalf of the hundreds of families we serve throughout the year!

GIFT

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We all smile when we hear the traditional Christmas song telling us that Santa is “making a list and checking it twice.”

At KidWorks, we’d like to remind you to check your list, too!

That’s because the Annual KidWorks Christmas store for the families we serve in central Santa Ana is just days away. This year, the store will be open to serve families on December 13th and 14th. 

The store allows parents who might otherwise be unable to afford gifts for their children to buy them at a significant discount.  And all proceeds go into a benevolence fund to help those families in need during the holidays and the rest of the year.
 

There are three ways you can help this holiday:

1. GIFT a new, unwrapped item, a gift card, or wrapping supplies to KidWorks by December 9, 2016. 

2. DONATE financially to our end of year giving campaign at www.KidWorksOC.org/give.   

3. SERVE in one of our many weekly programs and bless a KidWorks students this holiday season. 

Interested in knowing more?  Please visit www.KidWorksOC.org

Your help will help continue our 14-year tradition of creating holiday smiles!

US Bank brings the Christmas cheer to KidWorks!

Each year US Bank visits our Dan Donahue Center to decorate for the coming holiday season. This simple act of kindness blesses our staff and families in ways words cannot express. The students are thrilled to see the center in full Christmas decor when they return from Thanksgiving break. 

We are so grateful for our friends at US Bank and we appreciate their generosity each holiday season. 

KidWorks Students Give Thanks

We asked our students "What are you thankful for?" and they had some great answers!

“What I’m the most thankful for is the KidWorks Center.”
-Cynthia Ramirez
 
“What I’m the most thankful for is you guys being here to help us with the homework.”
-Joselyn Torres
 
“What I’m the most thankful for is the opportunity for new experiences at KidWorks Programs.”
-Isabel Rivas
 
“What I’m the most thankful for is the center. It has helped me improve my homework and grades.”
-Sophia Sanchez
 
“What I’m the most thankful for is the neighborhood cleanup event.”
-Cynthia Espinoza
 
“What I’m the most thankful for is my baby brother and food.”
-Natalie Beltran


“What I’m the most thankful for is the support of my family and friends. The opportunity to get an education.”
-Gabriel Beltran
 

Celebrating 10 Years of Success!

On November 17, 2016, we celebrating our 10th Anniversary of the Foundation for Success Luncheon at the Doubletree Hotel in Santa Ana, California. Celebrating 10 years of success looked like all of our friends joining us for an afternoon of good food, good laughs, and a speech by the incredible NFL legend Jackie Slater. 

If you joined us, we are so grateful for your support! If you were unable to join, we are still so deeply appreciative of your partnership and hope to see you next year! 

Special Edition 10th Anniversary Uncle Dan Bear

Giving Thanks: Karen Gallardo-Cano

Editor’s note:  We’re delighted to present the third installment in our latest blog series, Giving Thanks.  As everyone prepares to celebrate Thanksgiving, we feel this is the perfect time to invite KidWorks’ friends and families to share a little about what they are most thankful for.  Look for another installment next week!

Karen Gallardo-Cano knows exactly the blessings she’s thankful for this holiday season.  In fact, they number in the dozens.  No, they are not material goods.  This high school sophomore and KidWorks student is most thankful for the many KidWorks staff members, volunteers and fellow students who have positively impacted her life.

“I am so grateful to everyone who is in my life because of KidWorks,” she says.  “The staff and volunteers always push me to go the extra mile.  They sit by my side and let me know that I matter.”

Karen takes her appreciation for others and applies it to her leadership position as president of Community Leaders of Santa Ana (CLOSA), our youth-led organization that helps improve the surrounding neighborhood with cleanup, sponsored events and other activities.

Like a good leader, she is quick to say “thanks” to her team, including Maria Contreras, vice president, Nancy Cervantes, secretary and all the CLOSA membership.

“They are amazing,” Karen says. 

Karen is also thankful for each of the 24 hours in a day.  Without a doubt, she fits all she can into her waking hours.  Karen is a member of the green environmental club at Valley High School and serves as Associated Student Body Vice President for the class of 2019.

And did we mention that she also makes time to play on the school’s varsity and junior varsity water polo teams?

Speaking of giving thanks, we are so grateful to Karen for being a KidWorks student for 11 years, and for the time she spends as a volunteer helping other children and youth.

Now, if someone could just invent the 30-hour day, Karen would find a meaningful way to fill that time, too!
 

By Glenn Leibowitz, Volunteer Content Writer