Community Development

KidWorks Teacher Spotlight: Karina Flores

On a chilly, mid-January afternoon, Karina Flores leads a group of about two dozen elementary school students on a short walk to Jerome Park in central Santa Ana.  They’ve earned a 20-minute break from their after-school homework lessons at our Townsend Street Center.

“Stay in a straight line,” Karina gently admonishes.  “Don’t cross the alley until you make sure no cars are coming.”

“OK, Ms. Karina,” they chime in unison. 

Karina has a special bond with her students.  She grew up on Townsend Street where this KidWorks satellite center is located and knows first-hand the struggles and challenges of an underserved neighborhood.

In fact before she joined our staff, Karina was a KidWorks student herself, attending our programs from sixth grade all the way through high school.  She was a member of the first-ever group of students who comprised Community Leaders of Santa Ana (CLOSA), our youth-led organization that helps improve the surrounding neighborhood with cleanups, sponsored events and other activities.

“I want each student to know that whatever hardships they and their families are going through, that the KidWorks center is a place that for 90 minutes each day they have a safe, encouraging place to go,” she says.

As she leads her class, Karina’s gentle, quiet personality shines through—and so does her strength.  Recently, a second grader approached her in class and asked if he could color with crayons.

“Yes, but only after you read for 10 minutes,” Karina said.

“How about after five minutes?” the boy said, smiling playfully.

“Ten minutes of reading and then you can color,” she countered.  Turning to a visitor, she laughed and said, “They learn to negotiate at a very young age!”

Jocelyn is one of Karina’s seventh grade students who is so inspired by her teacher that she also volunteers several hours, four days a week at the Townsend Center.

“I trust Ms. Karina so much,” Jocelyn says.  “She’s talks with me when there are problems at my school where I faced bullying or conflicts.  She’s helped me deal with those challenges in the right way.”

Outside of work, Karina and Jose Ayala, the Health & Fitness Program Coordinator at our main Dan Donahue Center, are busy planning a June wedding.

They enjoy hiking and camping together, and have visited the Grand Canyon, Sequoia National Forest and Yosemite.  She also enjoys action and romance movies.

Karina, everyone at KidWorks is so proud of the way you have grown from a diligent student in our programs into a site coordinator and role model for other children and youth as you mold them into equally contributing members of the community.  Thank you!

By Glenn Leibowitz, Volunteer Content Writer

KidWorks Teacher Spotlight: Raquel Nava

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     Raquel with third-grader, Adrely

Raquel Nava’s eyes brim with tears when she speaks about her own childhood—and how those difficult years fill her with empathy for the students she works with each day at KidWorks.

Raquel was sent to California from Mexico to live with an aunt when she was just six years old.  Her parents have never really been a part of her life.

In elementary school and high school, Raquel’s heart grew softer instead of harder when other students poked fun at her because she didn’t fully understand the culture, speak fluent English or wear newer clothes.

But Raquel learned perseverance and goal setting that led to her earning both a bachelor’s and master’s degree.  She paid for her education herself, working three jobs at once.

Raquel has been with KidWorks for nearly two years.  And she’s one of our students’ favorites.

“At one point, I was pursuing a career in film production, but eventually I realized that in my heart my real desire was to help the underserved, especially those in Santa Ana where I grew up,” Raquel says.

KidWorks has proved to be an ideal match with Raquel’s natural teaching gifts and her empathetic nature.

“If a student comes to class without a pencil, my own experience has taught me that it doesn't mean he or she is unprepared,” Raquel says.  “The student may be dealing with other difficulties at home or in school that we might not yet know about.”

Having been a resilient self-starter, Raquel now instills the same skills in the second, fifth and eighth graders she teaches.

“I assign them to be line leaders, teacher’s assistants and door monitors,” Raquel says.  “They learn to take responsibility, just like they’ll need to do in the work world.”

Raquel is a huge believer in positive reinforcement.

“If a student has a really good day, I’ll phone the parents and tell them, ‘Your child was amazing today,’” she says.  With a wink she also adds, “In other cases I might smile at a student and say, ‘Remember, I have your mom’s cell phone number and can text her!’”

Raquel and her husband, Everardo, a certified public accountant, lead busy lives.  Everardo regularly volunteers at our after school programs.  They both enjoy cooking (pozole, a traditional Mexican stew is one of Raquel’s specialties), yoga and bingo.

Raquel, thank you for being such a shining star and fully sharing your caring heart with all of KidWorks students.

By Glenn Leibowitz, Volunteer Content Writer 

Your January Hope Report is here!

Did you receive the KidWorks January Hope Report in your mailbox this week? If not, check it out HERE.

Want a hard copy? No problem! Copies are available at the KidWorks Dan Donahue Center. Pick up at the front desk Monday - Friday, 9am - 5pm, 1902 W. Chestnut Avenue, Santa Ana, CA. 92703.  

Don't miss out on all the latest and greatest from KidWorks! 

With a little help, a struggling student becomes a star

Our KidWorks teachers mean the world to us. They work so hard to provide our students with support, encouragement, and the tools they need to succeed. Our teachers are developing community leaders and agents of change in central Santa Ana. Teacher,  Rachel Cervantes, is no exception. Her commitment to her students goes unmatched. 

It’s a fact:  In any school, some students struggle a little bit more than others.

That’s where the compassion of KidWorks teachers and volunteers really kicks into high gear. 

Our mission is for every student to perform at his or her full potential.

Recently, Rachel Cervantes, a Program Leader at our Dan Donahue Center, helped a fourth grade boy overcome some behavioral issues and gain confidence.

“When Eduardo (not his real name) first joined the program this summer, we could see that he was going to be a handful!” Rachel said.  “He was easily distracted and that impacted all the other students.”

Yet, by working with Eduardo and his mom, a corner was soon turned.

Today, the words Rachel uses to describe Eduardo are “lively,” “sensitive” and “helpful.”

She also thanks Jessica Ellis, Site Director, Dan Donahue Center, for her guidance.  Jessica suggested ways to involve Eduardo and his mom in monitoring his behavior both at home and at our center.  It’s helped point Eduardo in the right direction.

“I am thankful for Jessica’s guidance, instruction and for her heart for the kids,” Rachel says.

We are proud of students like Eduardo, and forever grateful to teachers like Rachel and all our volunteers who make a permanent positive difference in the lives of those we serve.

 

By Glenn Leibowitz, Volunteer Content Writer