In golf scores, it’s never good to be “over.” But for our sixth annual KidWorks Classic Golf Tournament held in May at the Pelican Hill Golf Course in Newport Beach, we were “over” all expectations in terms of fundraising for our proggrams, setting a new record of $270,000 net raised to support our College Success Initiative.
KidWorks May “Volunteer of the Month” Areli Pelaxtla clearly has boundless energy. Anyone who works with preschoolers—as Areli has been doing since last summer—knows that first hand. on top of keeping up with our ever-curious and perpetually in-motion youngest students as an intern and volunteer in our state-licensed preschool, Areli also holds down two part-time jobs (one at a bank and the other at a department store) while attending California State University, Dominguez Hills as a junior majoring in Human Services.
Hello, KidWorks supporter! It’s still a couple of months away, but KidWorks is busy planning a fabulous summer 2018 for the thousands of students you help us serve. Oscar Mateo’s story is one of many we are delighted to share over the coming weeks. At the end of this story, you can learn how YOU can make summer 2018 shine bright for students like Oscar.
Who would have thought a fun day at the beach would help me decide on a career!
But that’s exactly what happened last year when KidWorks treated me and a few dozen other youth to a day of learning and fun on the sand at the beach. We did all the things you’d expect—made sand castles, took surfing lessons and tossed around a Frisbee.
But while exploring the tide pools, we also got a lesson about the importance of protecting our oceans and the life within. That’s when I began thinking to myself, “I might want to become a marine biologist.” Now I am passionate about everything related to the ocean.
You probably don't realize the impact that KidWorks summer has on my life. As a high school student, KidWorks’ summer programs have really made those months when school is out more meaningful for me than ever before. Instead of sitting around the house watching TV, my summer is packed with three months of keeping on track academically, making new friends, career field trips, and fun. Trying new things has helped me build confidence with both my peers and adults.
But KidWorks can’t make summer programs possible without financial support from friends like you. I know it’s only April, but your gift now will let me and hundreds of other children and youth attend KidWorks summer programs and camp.
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