Even as a fourth grader, Yosely Ocampo had a grateful heart and the desire to give back.
Now a 16-year-old junior, our September “Volunteer of the Month” recalls how at nine years old she expressed thanks to her KidWorks teachers, who have worked with her since she joined us as a preschool student.
“I brought the female teachers brightly colored, plastic $1 earrings, which I was so sure they’d love since they were my favorite at that age,” Yosely recalls. “The very next day, my teachers were wearing their earrings, which was their way of letting me know that it wasn’t the price of the gift, it was the gratitude behind it.”
Yosely is the first student at KidWorks who is being recognized as our volunteer of the month. We’re honored to help guide Yosely from preschool to high school and assisting with her plans to attend college and eventually achieve her dream of earning a PhD.
“During the six years I’ve known Yosely, I’ve seen her confidence grow,” says Frank Bejarano, our Youth & Family Engagement Director. “Time after time, Yosely has proven to be a leader amongst her peers. Her enthusiasm and willingness to go the extra mile has positively impacted the way she and her friends engage in our programs.”
Adds Frank, “Yosely inspires others because she’s an example of someone who has persevered within a turbulent neighborhood. I’m absolutely confident that Yosely will leave a lasting legacy as she continues grow within her faith and leadership at KidWorks and beyond.”
Other KidWorks team members are equally proud of Yosely.
“The best way to describe Yosely’s positive impact is when I hear the students she helps say, ‘Ms. Yosely is myteacher and she is the best!’,” says Erika Sanchez, our College & Career Coordinator.
“Yosely has provided amazing support to so many departments within KidWorks,” says Vanessa Sedano, our Volunteer Coordinator. She consistently came in every day during this year’s summer programs, with her ever-present smile and sweet spirit.”
“Yosely touched the hearts of so many of our preschoolers during the summer programs,” says Rosa Rojas, teacher’s assistant in our state-licensed preschool. “She worked really closely with one young boy who was struggling with following directions. Yosely never became frustrated. She patiently built trust with him and that led to this youngster having a terrific summer rather than a frustrating one.”
Yosely has given just as much back to KidWorks as she has received. To date, she has volunteered over 145 hours. Here’s how Yosely has recently been helping out:
She is an active member of Community Leaders of Santa Ana (CLOSA), our youth-led group that helps improve the surrounding neighborhood with cleanup, sponsored events and other activities. In August, she joined with other youth to help restore a beautiful mural created over a decade ago by our students in the courtyard of an apartment complex where our Townsend satellite center had been located. The mural had been defaced by graffiti.
During our recent summer programs, Yosely spent an entire month helping our preschool teachers as they led our youngest students in a wide range of activities, including coloring, making bracelets and learning manners. She also helped with the preschool graduation ceremony and then lent a hand thoroughly clean and organize the preschool classroom after the most recent school session ended, helping prepare it for the new term now underway. (“Some of the places where books and crayons are kept were the same as when I attended over 10 years ago, so I knew exactly where to store everything,” she recalls with a laugh.)
In advance of the start of our new school term, Yosely joined with other volunteers to tidy up, decorate the entire Dan Donahue Center, shelve books and make sure new and returning students feel fully welcomed and inspired.
During the school year, Yosely also drops by KidWorks whenever her schedule allows, helping with office tasks such as phoning parents to remind them of meetings, handling paperwork and maintaining volunteer lists.
She is also active in KidWorks’ Avanti Music program, founded in 2012 by volunteer Joe Cristina, a professional musician with 38 years of experience in composition, arranging, orchestration and production. Yosely works with Joe to tackle more and more difficult pieces for the cello, a musical instrument she has grown to love. She specializes in classical and pop music. Yosely has been part of Avanti concerts that bring music and the KidWorks story to the community.
Yosely says her deep faith in Jesus first took root at KidWorks when she began attending our Yosemite summer camp as an elementary school student.
“KidWorks helped model my spirituality and faith in Jesus,” Yosely recalls. “I found out who God is through KidWorks and the Bible stories and faith-based songs I enjoyed. That's where I met Jesus.”
Yosely says she intends to pursue a career in criminal justice or become a veterinarian after earning a PhD.
“KidWorks has inspired me in so many ways,” she says. “I now work with students who are my age when I first walked through KidWorks’ doors as a preschooler. I want to be someone that KidWorks can say, ‘We helped this student throughout her entire academic life, and we are proud of her.’ I want to inspire others to know that KidWorks’ provides the opportunity to graduate college and succeed in life.”
Yosely adds, “I plan to stay involved with KidWorks, sharing my story with a new generation.”
We are so proud to honor Yosely Ocampo as our Volunteer of the Month, and to know that she will walk alongside others just as we continue to walk alongside her on her remarkable journey from preschool and towards a bright and fulfilling future.
By Glenn Leibowitz, volunteer writer