Summer at KidWorks was ‘wildly’ successful

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Ducks (the ones that skate on ice), snakes, furry friends along with nearly 150 volunteers provided a wild summer for the students at KidWorks!

Our center was decorated in jungle theme, thanks to our amazing interns from West Coast University, and science and creation were integrated throughout the theme of summer. 

A record-breaking 322 students in preschool through fifth grade and 40 youth in sixth through 12th grade enjoyed programs available at all four KidWorks centers.

Take it from fifth grader, Brandon who said “This was the best summer ever!” 

Here’s what a few other students say about summer at KidWorks:

  •  “I liked singing silly songs with my teachers!”—Camila, first grade

  • “My favorite part of the summer was getting to be around horses during one of our field trips”--Celine, sixth grade

  •  “I loved being at the beach with all of my friends!”—Ashley, seventh grade

“We are deeply grateful to the 102 individual and corporate volunteers (ages teens through retirees) and 45 church members who joined with our staff to make this summer one for the record books,” says Vanessa Sedano, Volunteer Coordinator.  “It takes a tremendous amount of time, talent and resources to create such a memorable experience for our students.  We also thank the many supporters who made financial contributions and donated in-kind gifts.”

Adds SueLynn Kim, Partnership and Donor Relations Coordinator, “Our corporate volunteers were extremely intentional with all our students, calling them by their first names, while offering special care and attention to those who needed it.  They actively participated in activities with them. The energy that they brought, along with their compassion and generosity, made our students feel safe, motivated and engaged.”

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Corporate volunteers include:

  • Anaheim Ducks 

  • Cummins Pacific

  • Deloitte

  • DPR Construction

  • Essentra Components

  • Pacific Dental

  • PIMCO

  • Snooze Eatery

  • UnitedHealth Group

There were several “firsts” this summer:

·     Preschoolers from the surrounding community were invited to attend.  They joined the older students for opening and closing sessions each day, and also enjoyed activities tailored for their age level.  This included singing, crafts, story time, and weekly visits with therapy dogs.   We are also encouraging their parents to enroll their students in our after-school programs.  

·     For preschool through fifth graders, there was an intentional focus on sensory activities and hands on learning.  “This included water play, kinetic sand play--which promotes hand-eye coordination and creativity--and making fun snacks,” says Noemi Juarez, Director of After School Programs.  “Once again this year, the kids also enjoyed a fun day at the Orange County Fair.”   Our friends from the Anaheim Ducks came out and hosted a hockey clinic for our students, many of whom had never played hockey before. 

·     For youth, the program focused on asset-based leadership.  “Summer was about creating experiences for youth to immerse themselves in identifying their gifts and talents by giving back to the community, coupled with time for self and group reflection” says Frank Bejarano, Youth & Family Engagement Director. 

Thanks to a grant from Providence St. Joseph Health, we were able to provide our students with additional hands-on learning opportunities.  The youth traveled to the Museum of Tolerance where they learned about the power of language and the importance of personal responsibility. We also had a naturalist come from the Environmental Nature Center come and teach our K-5 students about eco systems. They got to learn about animals including snakes, tortoises and frogs. 

Summer also embraced our traditional focus on Bible study.  We were blessed by teams from Orange County Teen Challenge and Iglesia La Puerta Church.  Their “Bible Adventurers”-themed programs included learning Bible stories, competing in Bible quizzes with winners awarded prizes, memorizing key verses and Bible-oriented projects such as building a desert tent.   

Faith-based and church volunteers were also essential to this summer’s success and they included:

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  • Iglesia La Puerta Church 

  • Good Shepherd Community Church

  • Orange County Teen Challenge

  • Mariners Church

Our youth had fun during Manic Mondays where students from all four centers gathered for a night of fun and inspiration.  The KidWorks staff led worship and students were inspired by a message from Pastor Jesus from.   Afterwards the students played games and had fun hanging out with the staff and youth volunteers.  

Importantly, our summer programs are designed to positivelyoffset what educators call the “summer slide,” when students of any age level can slip academically when they are away from the classroom.  That was a strong focus again this year, meaning that our students are fully prepared to begin school this August.

As summer comes to a close at KidWorks, we are filled with appreciation for every person, organization and church who joined with us to make each moment special for the hundreds of students who attended the 2019 “Into the Wild” summer camp program. You had a lasting impact.

By Glenn Leibowitz, volunteer writer