When a tenth grade boy recently told university student and KidWorks volunteer Brianna Carter that his career goal in life was to become a fast food worker, she instantly knew God was asking her to intervene.
Our January 2019 Volunteer of the Month deeply values education and has clear career goals herself. She’ll will graduate in May from Biola University with a degree in biological sciences, enroll in dental school and plans to serve in the U.S. Navy or Air Force as a dentist.
Brianna has been volunteering at KidWorks’ after school program since Fall 2017, serving at our Cedar Evergreen satellite center.
“When this young man told me that his biggest hope—his dream job--was limited to a fast food position, it broke my heart,” she says. “Since then I’ve been trying to encourage him to talk about things that really make him passionate. I’ve helped him realize that his interest in video games could lead to a future job in game design, software development or computer science. I’ve been strongly encouraging him to earn his high school degree and then pursue his goals through higher education.”
“I greatly appreciate that Brianna strives along with the KidWorks staff to expose our students to new things and show them that there is so much more for them in this world than their neighborhood,” says Dianna Valdez,” Site Director/Cedar Evergreen. “When we held a spirit day, she surprised our youth with Krispy Kreme donuts. Some had never tasted these treats before and it incentivized them. They still talk about it months later. She has really earned the respect and love of the students.”
Adds Dianna, “Brianna really listens to the students; she is not there only to help with their academics but also deeply cares about all aspects of their lives. She is very patient and gives each student her undivided attention. Brianna always encourages the students and inspires them to dream for more.”
Our students are the first to agree. Here’s what they say about Brianna in their own words:
Sebastian, third grade: “I like Ms. Brianna because she is kind, respectful, helpful and always likes to help with my homework.”
Samantha, fourth grade: “Ms. Brianna is very kind and beautiful. She has helped me concentrate on my homework.”
Sonia, eighth grade: “Ms. Brianna has helped me a lot with my math. I liked going to visit her at Biola. She told me a lot of stories about her experience and her professors. I feel she helped me learn a lot about university life and how cool it can be. It makes me look forward to going to college one day. We like to call her Taylor Swift because she’s pretty like Taylor and has curly hair.”
Like many high school and college students, Brianna first connected with KidWorks as part of her school’s service hour requirements. Once our January honoree experienced KidWorks, she knew she wanted to stay long after her mandatory 20 hours of service was satisfied.
“I soon realized the kids at Cedar Evergreen had found a way into my heart,” Brianna says. “It seemed like an automatic response that I would continue volunteering. The students are truly what I look forward to every week because it’s an opportunity to be involved in making a difference. Even when it’s just getting a homework assignment done, I always try to let them know that if it’s important to them, then it’s important to me. The biggest thing kids want is just someone to care about the things they care about.”
Brianna is a person of deep faith in Jesus and summarizes her calling to serve at KidWorks with these words: “I am an extension of God’s hand to these kids and my purpose there is to show them His love and grace.”
During her months of volunteering, Brianna says she’s learned to “customize” her approach to each student, depending on their learning style and academic needs. She tells the story of one elementary school student who would always sit silently, staring at her homework.
“The first time I saw this behavior, I was trying to determine how to approach the situation,” Brianna says. “The next time, I interceded and sat with her to work on her homework. This started a pattern. I would sit with her and work through her homework with her. We really started to connect and she would share a little bit about her life. I learned about her difficult family situation and that there was really no one at home to help her with schoolwork. It broke my heart broke to learn this. Now, with every interaction I have with her, I make sure to be so intentional and encouraging, just the way my parents were with me. When I pray for her, I always ask the Lord to bring someone into her life that will be there for her when her family isn’t.”
This past year, Brianna helped host our students at a special cultural and musical event held at Biola. She took this opportunity to show them around the campus as a way to get them inspired to pursue higher education after high school.
When not busy with her studies at Biola or volunteering at KidWorks, Brianna pursues several favorites interests. “I enjoy getting lost in a good book, and I love sewing and doing crafts,” she says.
Brianna is an inspiration to high school and college/university students to continue volunteering at KidWorks after completion of service hours. We’re very grateful for her “tailor-made” approach to each student she encounters at our Cedar Evergreen Center.
By Glenn Leibowitz, volunteer writer