Our dedicated volunteers come from near and far—but June “Volunteer of the Month” Nicolei Gupit may outdistance everyone. Over the several years she’s been a volunteer, Nicolei has lived in the Philippines, South Korea and Taiwan (where she’s now resides, teaching elementary, middle and high school students) while she still volunteers for KidWorks.
Summer at KidWorks is vital for so many reasons. Our goal is to create a safe, wholesome place for our students to spend their time. Just as importantly, we want to offset what educators call the “summer slide.” That’s where students of any age level can slip academically when they are away from the classroom.
How many volunteer hours would it take to fully sample every single one of KidWorks’ life-affirming programs? For Stephen Ruvalcaba—our January “Volunteer of the Month”—the answer would be 750 hours.
That’s because Stephen completely dedicates himself to whomever and to whatever he has made a commitment. The remarkable tally of 750 hours was logged between when he first began volunteering in June 2016 until the end of 2017.
“Stephen has been such a great volunteer, being a part of programs that include preschool, after school tutoring and even special events,” says Tiffany San, Volunteer Coordinator & Development Assistant. “He’s always so willing to help with whatever task needs to be done. Stephen is deeply appreciated by all of the staff, volunteers and students.”
Stephen has also been a hands-on volunteer with our summer program, student campus visits and field trips, golf classic and Foundation for Success luncheon.
He recalls a particularly poignant moment with one of our high school students, in whom he recognized God-given artistic talent.
“She said her drawings represent how she feels,” Stephen says. “I urged her to make a comic book out of her drawings and to tell a story through her artwork. I mentioned that there are wonderful careers that her talent could one day make possible, such as an illustrator, author or movie producer. She began work on the comic book project and it made me so happy to see her start to pursue her passion.”
Stephen has seen first-hand how the partnership between our staff, volunteers and donors makes a lasting positive impact on our students.
“I have seen kids struggling to read, who pick up a book and read to me,” he says. “I’ve witnessed students having trouble with math who eventually gain the confidence to help teach other kids how to work out a problem. I have seen so many talented students thrive when they receive encouragement to overcome their fears of social norms and to stand out.”
Even as he dedicated all those hours to our students, Stephen kept a focused eye on his own education. He graduated this month from West Coast University with a bachelor of science degree in nursing.
“My goal is to become an intensive care unit or emergency room nurse,” Stephen says.
When not helping to encourage young minds at KidWorks or pursuing his career goals, Stephen enjoys Malaya, his family’s Siberian Huskie. He’s also coached and played football.
We are very grateful for each of Stephen’s hundreds of volunteer hours—and we are even more grateful for him! Congratulations on being named January “Volunteer of the Month,” Stephen.
By Glenn Leibowitz, volunteer writer
“Ms. Kyle, can you stay a little longer?”
“Ms. Kyle, can you come back again tomorrow?”
Kyle Team, our December “Volunteer of the Month,” gets those questions all the time from the dozens of KidWorks elementary school students who have come to rely on her for homework help and spiritual development since she first began volunteering nearly four years ago.
“Two core principles guide me to do my best with the kids,” Kyle says. “First, I do everything I can to recall all their names and call them by name. That makes such a difference; they know you personally remember them. Second, I’m consistent. Students really appreciate it when you are there on a regular basis. Oftentimes, their lives have many challenges, and they truly appreciate reliability and dependability.”
Kyle is also a member of the KidWorks’ board of directors, where she is highly valued for her strategic thinking skills and long-term vision for our growth and financial sustainability.
Says Lisa Gels, Manager of Partnerships & Donor Relations: “Kyle can always be counted upon to follow-through on her commitments, and she has been very instrumental in bringing new partners and volunteers to KidWorks, and in deepening the involvement of others who are already engaged with us.”
Kyle enjoys her dual role as a board member and tutoring volunteer.
“The contrast is that as a board member you prepare in advance, review agenda items and make certain to be very organized,” she says. “For a tutoring session, I just bring myself, remaining flexible to whatever a particular student may need during the 90 minutes we are together.”
Kyle has been especially effective in developing and strengthening the partnership between KidWorks and St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church of Newport Beach, where she is a church leadership elder.
KidWorks is honored to be one of about a dozen ministry partners selected by the church. She works closely on that partnership with Lisa Gels, along with church member Joe Cristina, also a KidWorks volunteer and leader of our Avanti Music program.
Kyle is married to David, a real estate developer. Their children are Jordan, 25, who works in corporate public relations and Brian, 22, who is employed in the computer technology field.
“We love to ski and have probably been on every mountain range in California, Colorado, Utah and Idaho,” Kyle says. As part of her very active church life, Kyle also conducts Bible studies for new or expectant mothers, and invites friends over to her home for Bible lessons and discussions.
We are very grateful for Kyle’s leadership as a member of our board and for her enduring positive impact on every KidWorks student she helps each week. Congratulations on being named December “Volunteer of the Month,” Kyle
By Glenn Leibowitz, volunteer writer
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
Did you know that the International Olympic Committee has for the first time included skateboarding as part of the Summer Games at Tokyo, Japan, in 2020? A group of five KidWorks’ youth are especially excited about this addition.
They comprise the Youth for Active & Safe Communities (YASC) committee within our Youth Empowerment Network (YEN), a group of dedicated teens who develop, design and address issues that impact themselves, their families and their neighborhoods.
The five students are: Jose Arguello, Melissa Guerrero, Irma Mateo, Edwin Ruiz and Evelyn Torres.
Skateboarding has been a key area of their focus for over a year now, says Maria Ruvalcaba, our Youth & Community Engagement Coordinator—Active Transportation.
“Active transportation—such as biking, walking and skateboarding—is how many of our youth get to school, appointments and other destinations,” Maria says. “Being physically active is part of our advocacy for healthy diets and exercise.”
The five youth in YASC do much more than spend time on their skateboards. They have become proactive spokespeople for sanctioned skate parks in Santa Ana.
“Santa Ana has just one skate park within the entire city,” Maria says. “Our goal is a skate park in each of the six wards within Santa Ana before the Summer Olympics kick off in 2020.”
To that end, YASC has spoken before the Santa Ana City Council, Parks and Recreation Department and met with other elected officials. They have also partnered with such skateboard advocacy groups as the Tony Hawk Foundation, Action Sports Kids Foundation and OC Ramps.
In October, Edwin Ruiz spoke at a walk/bike conference in Sacramento, where he shared his perspective that the streets are often dangerous for skateboarders, whereas skate parks are safe and sanctioned environments.
“My passion for skateboarding has grown ever since I noticed that it brings youth together as a family as we encourage each other,” Edwin says. “This has motivated me to work on improving our streets and adding more skate parks to keep other youth like myself active and safe.”
“Funding for five more skate parks is far from finalized, yet our youth are committed to working through each detail and taking every step,” Maria says. “Their latest effort is a detailed data gathering project within neighborhoods to assess attitudes and preferences by the community relative to skate parks.”
Maria says that in addition to skate park advocacy, the experience is providing our youth with valuable training in leadership and team work.
“Skate boarding can suffer from a less than positive image,” Maria says. “I think our YASC youth are doing a wonderful job changing that undeserved image.”
By Glenn Leibowitz, volunteer writer
You’ll meet some of the most interesting people serving on the KidWorks’ Board of Directors. In addition to their dedicated commitment to the students and families we reach, they are also all highly accomplished and generous individuals in their own right.
Thank you St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church for coming to KidWorks for your Serve Day 2016. KidWorks has been a long time ministry partner of St. Andrew's and on Saturday, September 17th, many members of their congregation came to our Dan Donahue Center for a Serve Day.
Volunteers hosted a carnival for our families and participated in reading buddies with our K-5th grade students. Another team of volunteers revamped our storage space to accommodate more instruments for our music program, Avanti.
Avanti leader, Joe Cristina, led a group of volunteers in working directly with our music students and we ever had a parenting workshop.
Here are some photos from our event!
One of the most well-known and beloved verses in the bible is Matthew 6:21: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
This powerful message was brought to life this summer for our kindergarten through fifth grade students by Calvary Chapel’s Iglesia La Puerta Church.
Pastor Armando Reyes and 15 Iglesia La Puerta church members—including youth and adults—led the vacation bible study that took place the final week of our summer program. The church also hosted a fun day for neighborhood families on the Sunday following the conclusion of our summer program.
“Our youngsters absolutely loved the volunteers and the way they creatively made this bible verse relevant to their lives,” says Noemi Juarez, KidWorks’ Director of After School Programs. “The church volunteers told stories to the kids, helped then make crafts and even shared fun snacks that related to our ‘The Island’ summer theme.”
Noemi said that the students learned that treasurers are not just material items, but more importantly the people, faith and values that they hold dear in their hearts.
Noemi also thanked Teen Challenge for leading a similar bible study activity at our Bishop Manor satellite center and the Christ Before You Ministry organization for a fun beach day they hosted for students attending summer programs at our Cedar Evergreen Center.
By Glenn Leibowitz, Volunteer Content Writer
On Saturday, August 20, 2016 we hosted our largest community event of the year, The Townsend Street Fair. The theme for this year’s fair was Neighborhoods of Action and Hope. Our goal was to increase awareness and access to health related services to strengthen the local community, celebrate its positive attributes, and bring different resources from the community to Central Santa Ana.
Over 50 organizations and businesses attended, all of which brought fun activities for youth and children. Participating organizations included: PBS SoCal, Santa Ana College, Orange County Health Care Agency, Coalition of Orange County Community Health Centers and Community Health Initiative of Orange County, which offered free information and guidance on free and low-cost community services and educational and college opportunities.
Here are some photos from our event:
Questions on getting involved for next year's Townsend Street Fair? Contact Frank Bejarano, Frank.Bejarano@kidworksoc.org for more information.
18 corporate groups, nearly 700 volunteers, over 3000 pairs of shoes, and 1 amazing goal. Saturday, May 21, 2016 was an amazing day of partnership in Santa Ana. KidWorks joined forces with Love Santa Ana Initiative and OneOC for a day of beautification projects at Madison Elementary School and beyond!
Employees from Disneyland, Pacific Life, and Taco Bell, and other corporations teamed up with local community groups to benefit KidWorks and the community here in central Santa Ana.