KidWorks Mom/Alum Turned College Graduate

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Sonia Quijano is proof positive that it’s never too late to chase your dreams.  This KidWorks mom was once a student at KidWorks almost twenty years ago and now her daughter is a student in our preschool.  Even though Sonia is now busy raising her family, she is also pursuing her dream of becoming a high school guidance counselor and she credits KidWorks as a part of her success. 

You might say a love for KidWorks runs deep for Sonia, her husband, Eloy; their one-and-a-half-year-old son, Eli and Marilyn.

“I attended KidWorks’ after school and summer programs from first through seventh grades, starting around 2001,” Sonia says.  “My parents worked double shifts at a factory, so my six older brothers and I found a safe place to learn and grow at what was then a one-room apartment in Los Puentes neighborhood in Santa Ana.”  

From September through December of 2017, Sonia served as an intern in our preschool, all part of her pursuit of a Bachelor of Arts degree in Human Services.  She graduated this May with a bachelor’s degree from California State University, Fullerton.  Her goal is to be a high school guidance counselor.

That’s an impressive achievement on her part since 89% of 1st generation, low-income college students drop out.  To combat that statistic, KidWorks has launched an exciting new programs, like our College Success Initiative™, a “Pre-K to B.A.” commitment to walk with each student from the start of their experience in preschool to their eventual college/university degree.

“Sonia has been such a wonderful part of our preschool,” says Idalia Galdamez, Preschool Director. “She assists teachers in homework help with the preschoolers during small groups, assembles homework packets and take-home literacy bags, makes phone calls to parents reminding them of meetings and prepares materials for our workshops.  No task is too small for her.  She prepares food, washes dishes and makes sure the youngsters are safe on our field trips.”

Right alongside her is husband Eloy, whose volunteer contributions include tidying up the preschool playground and stowing away the toys, bikes and wagons until the next school session. 

Once her internship ended, Sonia has continued to volunteer at our preschool.

Sonia says Marilyn is thriving in our preschool.  Marilyn will tell you so herself (although Sonia fills in the blanks to say that Marilyn can count to 20, recognizes simple spelling words, can use scissors to cut paper in a straight line and wants to be a police officer because she was so impressed when two law enforcement officers visited KidWorks recently.)

Her favorite shapes now that she’s learned them over the past school term?  “Triangles and hearts.”

A favorite KidWorks activity: “When Ms. Minda reads a book to me.” (That would be Minda Barrera-Vargas, a KidWorks preschool teacher.) 

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Sonia is committed to a career in human services.  In addition to raising a family and volunteering at KidWorks, she has also begun another internship at a non-profit with a similar focus as KidWorks to gain even more experience with students in an educational environment. 

“KidWorks has given me so many skills,” she says.  “I’ve learned what it means to be a leader, see a task all the way through to completion and to communicate both one-on-one and with large groups.  That foundation began in first grade at KidWorks, where I learned the value of education, staying focused and always doing my best.” 

Daughter, Marilyn, and son, Eli, see those attributes in parents Sonia and Eloy each day.

By Glenn Leibowitz, volunteer writer