Three-year-old Stephany Torres can’t yet tell you a whole lot about why she wants to join her brothers and sisters at KidWorks—she just knows it sure looks like tons of fun.
Next year, she’ll be eligible to enroll in our state-licensed preschool, where she’ll learn colors, shapes, counting to 20 and maybe even how to write her name. For now, she says that the KidWorks preschool holds out an irresistible allure: “Toys!” she shouts, when asked what she most looks forward to.
Stephany’s parents—Jesus and Karina—head a family that embodies our hopes and dreams for the central Santa Ana community. They are an especially close family and share KidWorks’ passion for instilling in children a love of learning, the arts, leadership and spiritual development.
All of their other children are active participants in KidWorks various programs: Evelyn, 15; Jesse, 11; Ashley, 10; Andrew, eight and Alex, five.
Music and baseball are at the top of the list of the Torres’ favorite activities, and they find ample opportunity to enjoy both through KidWorks’ programs.
Evelyn is an accomplished musician and singer who is part of our Avanti Music and Love in Music programs. She is also an active member of our Youth Empowerment Network (YEN), a group of dedicated teens who develop, design and address issues that impact themselves, their families and their neighborhoods. Also involved in Love in Music are Ashley, who is learning the violin; Jesse, who says playing the flute is the best way to relax after taking a grueling math test at school (he’s also a YEN member) and Andrew, who says the piano lets him express himself creatively.
Jesus is a dedicated father who coaches baseball and watches over his children when Karina is at the Dan Donahue Center attending Parent Advisory Council meetings or otherwise helping out. Karina is also very active in making central Santa Ana a safer place.
Recently, she helped form a Neighborhood Watch group for the apartment complex where she and her family live. The City of Santa Ana required that she secure a minimum of 10 signatures from her fellow tenants—so Karina rallied all the residents and got 30 to sign up.
“When we walk in the neighborhood, we still have to pass by gangs and observe illegal drug use,” Karina says. “The presence of these situations can start to seem normal, but it never should. KidWorks is a place that reminds us of the limitless potential for good in our community.”
The Torres family has come to rely on KidWorks at all times. For several years, Jesus could not find work due to a slowdown in the commercial and residential construction industry and was forced to take a job in Texas for eight months working on oil rigs. At the time, Karina was pregnant with Alex.
“While I was away, KidWorks became a second home for my family,” Jesus recalls. Adds Karina, “It takes time for me to build up trust, and I soon came to see that KidWorks would be there for us no matter how big or small a need my family might have.”
Says Sonia Rios-Guzman, our Parent Engagement Coordinator: “Both Jesus and Karina constantly demonstrate to their children what it means to have a servant heart. Our staff and volunteers are so delighted every time we see them walk through our doors.”
“It seems as though our family is always coming from or going to KidWorks,” Karina laughs. We are grateful for the amazing ways KidWorks is making so many positive changes in the lives of our children, our family and our community. We are excited to see even more students and families served at KidWorks in 2018.
KidWorks wouldn’t have it any other way!
By Glenn Leibowitz, volunteer writer