What if you had the chance to make homemade Play-Doh from scratch? And after you were done, you then had the opportunity to do a science project, watch part of a funny movie and try to swish a basketball shot from 10 feet out.
Were you one of KidWorks first students when we first began our mission in a small, one-room central Santa Ana apartment on Townsend Street in 1993? Or did you graduate from high school this past June?
In either case—and for all the years in between—we’d like to reconnect with all our wonderful KidWorks alumni.
As a KidWorks volunteer tutor, you know you’re making a big impact when a sixth grade student can’t wait to rush up to you to show off her report card.
A few weeks ago, that’s exactly what brought a big smile to the face of Camille Strader, our April “Volunteer of the Month.” Camille has a volunteer at KidWorks since 2016 and has impacted the lives of countless students!
Michael Harrah, President & Chief Executive Officer of Caribou Industries, is the official “Title Sponsor” for our 2018 KidWorks Classic Golf Tournament. We have a few other “titles” for Mike, too: Generous supporter. Champion of children and youth. Inspiration.
This is the second year in a row that Mike and his company have been the Title Sponsor, which is the highest level of support for the tournament. Caribou “operates 45 world class companies known for premier real estate, executive aviation, five-star restaurants, hotel resorts and entertainment venues in Arizona, California, Hawaii and Nevada.”
"Summer at KidWorks has changed my life. If it weren't for KidWorks, I wouldn't have anything to do all summer" KidWorks summer programs have had a tremendous impact on Samantha A., high school junior. "The fun stuff that happens during the summer at KidWorks helped me to come out of my shell and make new friends, and I’m still in touch with a lot of them years later. I can definitely say that by opening up more to others I’ve learned that many of us have had the same experiences and challenges."
Students in KidWorks’ state-licensed preschool had an important decision to make earlier this month. Would they rather spend time chatting with the Cat in the Hat, or meet with police officers, fire fighters, bankers, actors and others in professions they might one day like to enter?
The good news is that they didn’t have to pick at all. They enjoyed all of these choices and more during a national reading week event that celebrated the wonderful books written by Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel).
“Each year, the KidWorks preschool team puts together a special program to celebrate National Reading Month,” says teacher Minda Barrera-Vargas. “While we concentrate on reading throughout the year, that week we focus on Dr. Seuss. He is special because of the uniqueness and creativity of his beloved books.”
“I was born and raised in Orange County, yet until I became involved with KidWorks, I had no idea that there was so much need just a 15-minute drive away from where I grew up in Irvine.”
With those poignant words, Melissa Ley—KidWorks March “Volunteer of the Month”—describes how her heart was touched to “jump right in to see where I could help improve the lives of children and young adults.”
Summer at KidWorks is vital for so many reasons. Our goal is to create a safe, wholesome place for our students to spend their time. Just as importantly, we want to offset what educators call the “summer slide.” That’s where students of any age level can slip academically when they are away from the classroom.
Yosely Ocampo's earliest memories of KidWorks date back to when she was three years old. “My mom and I passed out snacks to the kids and cleaned the counters with wet paper towels,” Yosely recalls. Both mother and daughter soon fell in love with KidWorks—where they both help out to this day.
“Even then, I knew KidWorks was where I wanted to be,” Yosely says. Soon, she was enrolled in our preschool.
If you happen to be a preschooler at KidWorks, the last thing you need is a toothache when you’re trying to learn your ABCs, the colors of the rainbow and how to properly draw a rectangle.
In central Santa Ana, 9.5% of children are without health insurance, which is significantly higher compared to other cities in Orange County. Not only can undetected health issues lead to greater health challenges but also higher absenteeism from school.
The Bible often refers to the importance of humble service, and that’s a good description of Nancy Mai, the KidWorks’ February “Volunteer of the Month.”
For the past four years, Nancy has provided administration services to our Volunteer Department, assisting with data entry and other needs.
“By working in the background, I may not always interact directly with the students, however it makes me happy to know that my administrative work is vital to helping KidWorks run smoothly so we create wonderful moments for the kids,” Nancy says.
It’s not that Nancy never gets to spend time with our students, however. In the past, she’s volunteered in support of our summer and after school programs.
“Nancy is extremely dependable and one of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet,” says Melissa Peralta, our Volunteer Resource Manager. “We look forward to seeing her every Friday like clockwork. The work she does is so instrumental to providing the very best volunteer experience possible.”
Nancy says she first learned about KidWorks when she attended a panel at the University of California, Irvine.
“From the start, I believed in what KidWorks was doing and that made me decide to get involved,” she says. “Since then, I’ve made new friends by interacting with other volunteers. And when a student happens to drop by, that’s always fun because you never know what he or she will do or say next!”
Nancy values education just like we do. At UCI, she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and prior she earned an Associate Degree in chemistry from Santa Ana College. Her career goal is to become a physician’s assistant. In pursuit of that objective, she’s doing volunteer work at a local hospital, serving in the emergency and nursing units.
For fun, Nancy says she enjoys reading and movies, plus arts and crafts (she’s made keychains, earrings and greeting cards).
Nancy is also best friends with her cat, Bear.
“I sometimes dress him up,” she confesses. Bear declined to comment about how he feels about that activity!
By Glenn Leibowitz, volunteer writer
Vianey Quiroz and Maria Peña never set out to be role models when they joined the KidWorks’ Parent Advisory Council. Yet, their hearts for their families, central Santa Ana and KidWorks has led them and 18 other parents to grow in ways they never imagined.
Vianey and Maria are members of our Parent Council, a group formed four years ago to strengthen the bond between KidWorks and the families we serve.
Now, the council is setting even higher goals for itself for 2018 and beyond.
“The council is expanding its focus to include not only KidWorks, but the community as a whole,” says Sonia Rios-Guzman, Parent Engagement Coordinator.
That has included everything from advocating for better street lighting, pushing sometimes reluctant landlords to make necessary apartment repairs and even addressing ways to improve traffic flow at our Dan Donahue Center during especially busy times.
“We really benefit from the leadership workshops where KidWorks has brought in outside speakers,” Vianey says. “We have learned that to make meaningful change you have to understand how government works, make contacts with decision-makers and rally neighbors together because two, three and four is better than one when it comes to issues we all care about.”
Adds Maria, “I went from being an observer to now knowing that I want to be a part of making improvements at KidWorks and the community. I want to give my time, effort and support.”
Like all members of the KidWorks Parent Council, Vianey and Maria have students enrolled in our programs. For Vianey, that includes her son, Jared, a fifth grader; and Jair, a kindergartener. For Maria it is her daughter, Stephanie, a ninth grader. The 20 parents run their monthly council meetings like a well-managed business.
“It’s so good to watch these parents work together as a strong team,” Sonia says. “For each 90-minute monthly meeting, they come prepared with an agenda, prioritize goals and are now in the process to assigning responsibilities and deadlines. They are a really hands-on group, lending invaluable support to events such as our annual resource fairs in the neighborhood.”
Maria says that one of the key lessons she has learned as part of the Parent Council is that meaningful changes rarely happen overnight.
“When a positive change happens, it’s worth all the time, effort and even occasional frustration that it takes,” Maria says. “Because it means we’ve made life a little better for a child, a family and a community.”
Dedicated parents like Vianey and Maria, along with the other members of the KidWorks Parent Council, guarantee that Maria’s dreams for an even better Santa Ana are coming true.
For more information about the KidWorks Parents Council including a calendar of events, click the button below.
By Glenn Leibowitz, volunteer writer
How many volunteer hours would it take to fully sample every single one of KidWorks’ life-affirming programs? For Stephen Ruvalcaba—our January “Volunteer of the Month”—the answer would be 750 hours.
That’s because Stephen completely dedicates himself to whomever and to whatever he has made a commitment. The remarkable tally of 750 hours was logged between when he first began volunteering in June 2016 until the end of 2017.
“Stephen has been such a great volunteer, being a part of programs that include preschool, after school tutoring and even special events,” says Tiffany San, Volunteer Coordinator & Development Assistant. “He’s always so willing to help with whatever task needs to be done. Stephen is deeply appreciated by all of the staff, volunteers and students.”
Stephen has also been a hands-on volunteer with our summer program, student campus visits and field trips, golf classic and Foundation for Success luncheon.
He recalls a particularly poignant moment with one of our high school students, in whom he recognized God-given artistic talent.
“She said her drawings represent how she feels,” Stephen says. “I urged her to make a comic book out of her drawings and to tell a story through her artwork. I mentioned that there are wonderful careers that her talent could one day make possible, such as an illustrator, author or movie producer. She began work on the comic book project and it made me so happy to see her start to pursue her passion.”
Stephen has seen first-hand how the partnership between our staff, volunteers and donors makes a lasting positive impact on our students.
“I have seen kids struggling to read, who pick up a book and read to me,” he says. “I’ve witnessed students having trouble with math who eventually gain the confidence to help teach other kids how to work out a problem. I have seen so many talented students thrive when they receive encouragement to overcome their fears of social norms and to stand out.”
Even as he dedicated all those hours to our students, Stephen kept a focused eye on his own education. He graduated this month from West Coast University with a bachelor of science degree in nursing.
“My goal is to become an intensive care unit or emergency room nurse,” Stephen says.
When not helping to encourage young minds at KidWorks or pursuing his career goals, Stephen enjoys Malaya, his family’s Siberian Huskie. He’s also coached and played football.
We are very grateful for each of Stephen’s hundreds of volunteer hours—and we are even more grateful for him! Congratulations on being named January “Volunteer of the Month,” Stephen.
By Glenn Leibowitz, volunteer writer
At KidWorks, 100% of our high school seniors graduate on time and 100% go on to college or university. And until now, we thought of them as our alumni. With the launch of our new KidWorks College Success Initiative™ we now serve students from Pre-K to B.A., making an 18 year commitment to each student at KidWorks.
The students we serve live near or below the poverty line. Often their families are caught in a poverty cycle and are just surviving. The best way to break the cycle is preventing it in the next generation. Currently 89% of low-income students leave college without a degree and 25% leave after their first year. Our KidWorks College Success Initiative™ is aimed at ending the poverty cycle by providing our students the tools they need to graduate from college and begin careers that break the cycle. At KidWorks, we know eventually the cycle of poverty breaks. One family at a time.
Philanthropist, business leader, educator and long-time supporter of KidWorks, David A. Pyle, has provided us with a one million dollar matching grant opportunity. This grant provides KidWorks with the funding needed to implement our new KidWorks College Success Initiative™. Donate to the KidWorks College Success Initiative™ and double your impact. You will be helping us improve our community by ending the poverty cycle. Every dollar you give becomes two and every dollar you give changes a life!
Why is KidWorks still celebrating Christmas in January? Because we are so awed by the generosity of the many generous supporters who brought the joy of the season to hundreds of parents and children we serve. We hosted several events during the holiday season that brought tremendous joy to the students and families we serve.
Operation Gobble Serves 1,000 Turkeys:
Most of the families KidWorks serves struggle financially—yet like everyone else they strive to make the holidays a very special time of year. Our generous supporters stood beside those families once again this year to make sure Thanksgiving had “all the trimmings” of joy, fellowship and relationships.
More than 1,000 turkeys were distributed to families in central Santa Ana—more than twice the number provided in 2016. It was all part of KidWorks’ Operation Gobble event.
“You could see the wide smiles and hear words of gratitude with each turkey handed out,” says Melissa Peralta, our Volunteer Resources Manager. “The turkeys represented not only the main dish of the meal but also the warm wishes of those donating and distributing them.”
KidWorks especially thanks Assemblymember Tom Daly of District 69 (representing Santa Ana, Anaheim, Garden Grove and Orange), who donated the turkeys and arranged for the distribution event. We also thank the many volunteers from Astronics, Laborers International Union #652, UPS and Astronics Test Systems for greeting the families and handing out turkeys. Other event supporters include the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Orange County Employees Association, Santa Ana Police Officers Association, State Farm and Teamsters Local 952.
Mater Dei Women's Soccer Scores Big With Winter Fest:
Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana has been a tremendous partner with KidWorks for so many years—and they made sure to be there to wish our students a joyous Christmas 2017.
In early December, the school hosted a Winter Fest event enjoyed by 100 of our kindergarten through fifth graders. Soccer Coach Matthew West and 67 of his girl soccer team members treated our students to arts and crafts, a photo booth and a friendly game of soccer—all with Christmas music playing to set the holiday mood. Mater Dei also generously arranged for Italian ice deserts and holiday gift bags for all the children.
A number of our students have been blessed to attend Mater Dei over the years, and we appreciate their generosity and love for our students in so many countless ways—not only during the holidays but all year round.
KidWorks Christmas Store is a gift to KidWorks Families:
What makes the store so special to these parents is that it offers them a sense of being able to provide for their families,” says Sonia Rios-Guzman, KidWorks’ Parent Engagement Coordinator. “They are able to buy donated gifts at a deep discount for their children to make the holidays brighter. With the expansion of the Dan Donahue Center, we are enrolling even more students into our programs, and the Christmas store blessed even more families in 2017.”
Adds Melissa Peralta, our Volunteer Resources Manager: “This was definitely a record-breaking year in terms of the number of gifts donated. We received 500 more gifts than average, and that let us reach even more families with an even wider selection of gifts.”
Those gifts ranged from dolls, LEGOs, skateboards, bikes, gift cards, stuffed animals, headphones, speakers, makeup, purses, backpacks, coloring sets, book sets and more.
That meant that 200 sets of parents were able to shop at our Christmas store, and nearly 700 children received gifts. On top of that our Youth Engagement Network distributed gifts in the neighborhood surrounding KidWorks’ centers, and additional gifts were presented to children enrolled in our licensed preschool.
A total of 54 volunteers helped sort gifts, set up the store, wrap presents and assist parents carrying packages to their vehicles. The volunteer teams from DPR Construction and PIMCO helped make everything run so smoothly.
A special KidWorks “thank you!” goes out to Mariners Church. They donated 1,000 gifts. We are also grateful for the generous donations from Hispanic 100, St. Andrew's Church and the Marconi Automotive Museum.
“The real gift of Christmas has always been to be able to give rather than to receive,” Melissa says. “Not only did all of our Christmas store supporters give, they also provided the means for parents to give as well, no matter what their economic circumstances might be. For that we are so very grateful!
Happy New Year! 2017 was a banner year for KidWorks -- we recently completed construction on the KidWorks Dan Donahue Center, eliminated our student waiting list, and our Foundation for Success Luncheon was a record-breaking year for both revenue and visibility.
The future continues to shine bright for KidWorks. Over the next year, we are expanding our commitment to KidWorks students through our College Success Program, engaging new volunteers and corporate partners, and are busy planning our 2018 Golf Classic and Foundation for Success luncheon events.
2018 also marks the 25th anniversary of KidWorks. We have a lot to celebrate over the next year and there simply isn't space in this short message to update you with all of the latest and greatest happenings. We will provide updates on our blog, e-news, social media and website.
Thank you for partnering with KidWorks; we are truly blessed to serve alongside so many amazing individuals in our community