Education

Volunteer Of The Month: Davion Williamson

(Editor’s note:  Each month, the KidWorks’ volunteer team clears their calendars for an hour or two for one of their favorite duties:  Selecting the Volunteer of the Month.  With each monthly eNews going forward we’ll now announce that valued contributor and let you know a little about him or her.  For October, our wonderful Volunteer of the Month is Davion Williamson.)

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Oftentimes our students may decide on a future career goal because of all the broadening experiences they encounter at KidWorks.  In the case of university baccalaureate student Davion Williamson, KidWorks actually helped him decide on a career he’s sure to excel at:  Teaching.

Our October Volunteer of the Month says, “Being at KidWorks is actually what made me decide to get into teaching.”  Davion is on his way toward that goal, taking classes to earn a teaching credential in math after graduating this June from the University of California, Irvine, with a degree in “Criminology, Law and Society” as well as “Psychology and Social Behavior.”

Davion has been volunteering as part of our University Starts Now (USN) after school program since January and has already logged 200 hours helping our students.  USN focuses on our younger students, ranging from kindergarten through twelfth grade, and is focused on four foundational pillars: Academics & Arts, Health & Fitness, College & Career Readiness, and Leadership & Spiritual Development.

“You will always see Davion with a smile on his face,” says Tiffany San, Volunteer Coordinator & Development Assistant.  “He is very intentional and enthusiastic while working with our students.  He is such a pleasure to work with, and we appreciate everything he does here at KidWorks!”

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Davion fully enjoys each hour he spends with our students.  “I make sure to have a positive style and always remain patient.  I'll ask them questions about their homework and try to put it into a context they can relate to.  I also always keep my energy up so theirs stays up as well.”

Just as he is doing within his own life, Davion supports the dreams of our students:  “I really hope that everyone reaches his or her full potential and is able to follow their hearts.”

Between his own studies and helping our kids with theirs, Davion finds time to write music, a particular passion of his. 

We are grateful to Davion for being such an exemplary role model for our students, and for encouraging them to always do their very best.  Congratulations, Davion!  

Engage With KidWorks: The Joy of Serving

Editor’s note:  Our latest blog series is called “Engage With KidWorks.”  We’re excited to share the variety of meaningful—and fun—ways you can become part of the KidWorks experience.  In our fourth installment, we invite you to volunteer with one of our exciting programs and/or help with an event or development.

Our valued KidWorks volunteers know first-hand the joy they feel when they step into one of our four centers and are greeted with enthusiasm by our students in grades preschool through high school.

Our students can’t wait to tell our volunteers all about their day and to say “thank you” for the “A” they earned on yesterday’s math assignment because of the tutoring help they received.

There are so many ways to serve at KidWorks.  We invite you to consider any of these opportunities:

UNIVERSITY STARTS NOW

Help K-12th grade students with their homework, academics, computer-based learning, and character development at one of our four learning centers

 

TUTORING

Spend individualized time with one or two students helping them in specific areas such as math, reading, and language development at one of our four learning centers.  

 

WORKSHOPS

Share a special talent and passion with our students by leading them in a fun, energetic, hands-on workshop. Workshops can focus on art, science, music, dance, creative writing, etc. 

 

PRESCHOOL

Assist the little ones in our licensed preschool facility helping our teachers with the preschool daily activities and lessons. 

 

SUPPORT

Share your important skill set with us through administrative, graphic design, party planning, marketing, IT, and other types of support.

 

FUND DEVELOPMENT & SPECIAL EVENTS COMMITTEES

Help us raise financial resources and in-kind donations critical to support the life-transforming work that we do. In-kind donations may include professional services such as advertising, design, printing and more.

 

Interested in learning more?  Please call 714.834.9400 or email volunteer@kidworksonline.org for more information and to sign up to volunteer!

 

By Glenn Leibowitz, Volunteer Content Writer

Engage With KidWorks: The Joy of Giving

Editor’s note:  Our latest blog series is called “Engage With KidWorks.”  We’re excited to share the variety of meaningful—and fun—ways you can become part of the KidWorks experience.  In our first installment, we share research that shows how monetary donations to non-profits like KidWorks not only make a sustained meaningful impact—they also make us feel better as people!

A widely acclaimed Harvard Business School research paper published in 2009 (“Feeling Good About Giving”) concluded that those who give a monetary donation to those in need “reported higher levels of happiness.”

In the words of those researcher:  "Happier people give more and giving makes people happier, such that happiness and giving may operate in a positive feedback loop."

And there’s the Gallup World Poll conducted between 2006 and 2008 that found people who donated to charity “reported a greater satisfaction with life.”

Finally, consider these statistics from the Do Good Live Well survey of 4,500 U.S. adults who supported a charity:  68 percent reported that it made them feel physically healthier, 89 percent that it “has improved my sense of well-bring” (e.g., happiness) and 73 percent that it “lowered my stress levels.”

Our KidWorks supporters are among the most generous people we know.  So, if giving equates to happiness, maybe that’s why our volunteers and contributors have such positive outlooks on life.

Need a lift today?  Consider making a donation to your friends at KidWorks!

 

By Glenn Leibowitz, Volunteer Content Writer

KidWorks Teacher Spotlight: Brizzy Cruz

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      Photo :  Brizzy (center) with third-graders, Rosisela (left) and Monserat

Photo:  Brizzy (center) with third-graders, Rosisela (left) and Monserat

Sometimes, a fresh apple and half a ham sandwich are exactly the enticements a first grader needs to warm up to our after school programs.

Not too long ago, that simple act of hospitality was how Brizzy Cruz, Site Director at our Bishop Manor Center, convinced little Amariis and her mom, Jenny Heng, to give KidWorks after school programs a try.

“They were a little hesitant at first, but now Amariis is one of our most enthusiastic students and her mom and I have developed a wonderful bond,” Brizzy says.  “She and her daughter know this is always a safe place, even if the neighborhood isn’t.”

Like all of our centers, Bishop Manor is intentionally located in an underserved central Santa Ana neighborhood.  This schoolroom opened five years ago, and Brizzy has been the center’s leader for two years.

“What makes Bishop Manor so unique is that all of the students literally walk over from the apartments where the center is located,” Brizzy says.  “In addition of the Hispanic students who are enrolled in our programs, we also welcome Cambodian students who live in the complex.  That’s unique to this KidWorks location.”

As soon as she arrives at the center, the warmth between she and her students is evident.  “Ms. Brizzy!  Ms. Brizzy!” they call out enthusiastically, as the schoolroom fills with students plopping down backpacks and pulling out their homework.

Brizzy takes a vibrant, creative approach to teaching.

“I never want the lessons or conversations to be one-way,” she says.  “I always involve the students, letting them be expressive and hands-on.”

For example, instead of just reciting the four seasons of the year, Brizzy encourages them draw pictures of the seasons, describe them and spell them correctly.

“I use the ‘I do, you do’ approach where the kids watch me do something and then they get to try it out,” she says.  “It’s experiential learning, with defined boundaries.”

Brizzy joined KidWorks as a volunteer in 2006 and joined the staff one year later.

For Brizzy, the classroom is just one way to form a strong relationship with her students and their families.

“Since they live in apartments just steps away from our center, I regularly drop by to visit, send notes home and telephone,” she says.  “It’s all about gaining trust, making the kids want to be at the center and for the parents to feel the same.”

Outside of her KidWorks’ duties, Brizzy loves all forms of dance, plays volleyball and is an avid reader.  In October 2015 she married Victor, an electrical technician with the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Brizzy, thank you for the many years you have made every one of your students feel special as you help each live up to his or her full potential!

KidWorks Teacher Spotlight: Dianna Valdez

Editor’s note:  In the fourth story in our “The Teachers” blog series, we celebrate Dianna Valdez, Site Director of our Cedar Evergreen Center.

Dianna Valdez stands in front of her small classroom filled with about a dozen first and second graders.  She has a question for them as they work through snacks consisting of half a sandwich, an apple, baby carrots, yoghurt and milk.

“What is the opposite of ‘first’?” she asks.

“Second?” one student tentatively volunteers.

“Not exactly,” Dianna gently answers.

“Last!” first grader Adrian says confidently.

“That’s correct,” Dianna says, handing him a sticker that he proudly affixes next to the others on his yellow homework folder.

If Dianna seems like a natural-born teacher, it’s probably because she’s been at it awhile—since she was seven years old, in fact!

“I had a four-year-old cousin, and instead of playing house or dress-up, I was the teacher and she was my student,” Dianna says.  “I taught her to read, and to this day my uncle thanks me for doing that.”

Dianna has been a valued member of the KidWorks team for three years, and has led our Cedar Evergreen Center since it opened.  From its humble beginnings where only a handful of students attended after school programs, Cedar Evergreen now serves 55 students in grades kindergarten through 12.

She thanks Art Quiroz, Program Leader at Cedar Evergreen, for helping her make the center such a vital part of the surrounding community.

Dianna grew up in Santa Ana and she has a heart for the underserved.  She knows firsthand what it’s like for a family to struggle.  Dianna, along with her four brothers, was raised by a single mother who worked three jobs to support them.

Dianna also says her personal teaching style evolved from her own experiences as a youngster in elementary school.

“I was a pretty quiet child and probably an average student,” she says.  “I saw how the ones who got the most attention were those who were either always in trouble or those who were superstars.  Students like me kind of faded into the background.”

Her own approach is the opposite; it’s to involve each and every student.

“We’re all multi-layered, and so I try to see all parts of the student, including the spiritual, intellectual, psychological, emotional and physical,” she says. “I see those layers in every student I serve; they are a soul as well.”

A recent example of Dianna’s caring heart was when she noticed a kindergarten boy had not shown up to class for over a week.

“We value each child in our programs, and I eventually found out that this boy had been in the hospital to have his appendix out,” Dianna says.  “I had all his classmates write little ‘get well’ notes, and I brought them to him at his home, along with crayons and a coloring book.”

The little boy fully recovered and happily returned to the Cedar Evergreen Center as soon as he was able.

Outside of her teaching duties, Dianna enjoys hiking and is and perhaps the biggest Disneyland fan you’ll ever meet.

“I go to the park about a dozen times a year,” she confesses.  Thunder Mountain is her favorite attraction.

Dianna is also a person of deep Christian faith, and very active in her church, Templo Calvario in Santa Ana, where she serves as Assistant Director of Youth.

Dianna, thanks for sharing your deep passion for teaching with every student under your care, and for seeing him or her as individuals with limitless potential.

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 

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

Our students learn about democracy on Election Day

Our second graders received a timely lesson about democracy and good citizenship when they were able to practice voting this week.

They marked pretend ballots and slipped them into the ballot box as fellow second graders played the role of poll volunteers.

It was a wonderful lesson on how the democratic process works.  One young second grader wondered if he had to put his name at the top of the ballot, just as he does with his homework.  Learning about the difference, he quickly completed his ballot, glad to know that his voice was heard and his choice registered.

When these second graders turn 18, they’re likely to remember the lesson they learned this week about the importance of voting.

Summer 2016 fun at KidWorks: Our youngsters artworks tells the story

Hundreds of children and youth had a tremendous summer at KidWorks.  From July 5 through Aug. 12, students in grades kindergarten through 12 participated in “The Island”-themed activities that filled those long summer days while also keeping their minds stimulated so they were “ready to go” when school started again.

Our elementary and middle school students engaged in challenging games, faith-building bible lessons, creative craft making, field trips and other fun activities.

The high school students participated in our Leadership Academy, which for years has helped prepare them for higher education after high school and successful careers.  These students experienced mentoring, company site visits to learn about the work world, character development and service opportunities.

We asked a few of your younger students to create crayon drawings so they can share their summer experience with you.  We hope you enjoy their original artwork!

"Summer is the best; summer is a lot of fun!"

"Summer is the best; summer is a lot of fun!"

"My favorite part of summer was the beach."

"My favorite part of summer was the beach."

"My favorite part of summer was the beach."

"My favorite part of summer was the beach."

"My favorite part of summer was going to the park."

"My favorite part of summer was going to the park."

"My favorite part of summer was eating food! YAY food!"

"My favorite part of summer was eating food! YAY food!"

"My favorite part of summer was playing at the beach."

"My favorite part of summer was playing at the beach."

Calvary Church creates a summer to treasure for KidWorks students

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

 

 

 

 

 

Women of KidWorks: Alma Magana

Editor’s note:  This is the latest installment of our blog series, “The Women of KidWorks.”  This week, we highlight another very special mom!

Alma Magana, a KidWorks preschool teacher, has a special message for parents who attend graduation ceremonies for their four-year-olds.

“Please remember to invite me to your child’s high school and college graduation,” she tells them.  “I’ll go.”

While high school and college seems many years off for these parents and their young students, Alma is a person of her word.

Just ask Isaias Cambron, who recently graduated high school.  He attended KidWorks programs from preschool through his sophomore year in high school.

“You came!” Isaias said as she congratulated the cap-and-gown clad graduate. 

“I told you I would,” she says, recalling her promise of so many years ago.

Alma has been part of the KidWorks’ team since 1999, when she started as an after school volunteer at what was then our Myrtle Street center in Central Santa Ana.  She eventually moved to our Dan Donahue Center when it opened in 2005.  She’s taught at our accredited preschool since then—and is in fact our longest-term employee.

What’s it like to spend 175 days a year helping four year olds to learn the alphabet, recognize the primary colors and explore their artistic skills?

“I confess that sometimes I forget to leave the preschool teacher at the door when I go home for the day,” she laughs.   “I sometimes say to my daughters, Betty, 23, and Debbie, 19, ‘Did you wash your hands,’ and ‘Don’t forget to say hello when you meet someone.’”

There are more dimensions to Alma than many people who meet this soft-spoken woman may not fully realize.

She, her husband, Joel, and Joel’s father, Adolfo (both ordained ministers) and sister, Mirvella, oversee 13 churches the three of them have founded throughout the U.S., Mexico and Nicaragua.

Alma has also run 16 half marathons, many with her daughters.  She also sews (pillow cases, handbags and quilts), giving some of her creations to her students and their families.

Alma says that her deep faith in Jesus means that service in His name goes beyond preaching the gospel.

“To me, it’s important that I also give of my time, visiting with students and their families at their homes after work,” she says.  “KidWorks is like a seed we plant in a child’s life.  That seed grows there forever.”

 

By Glenn Leibowitz, Volunteer Content Writer

High School Senior Justin Sung Helps Us "Build Dreams"

Justin Sung, a senior at Sage High School in Newport Coast, immediately knew whom he wanted his Eagle Scout project to benefit.

“With all the help that KidWorks provides to others, the least that I could do is give back to KidWorks by dedicating my project to such an amazing organization,” he says.

We think Justin is pretty amazing, too!

Eagle Scout is the final and highest rank a Boy Scout can achieve.  For his project—which was months in the planning—Justin designed and built a beautiful wooden bench and a brand new art cabinet, both of which as now installed at our Dan Donahue Center.

“We are also thankful that that Justin choose KidWorks for his Eagle Scout Project,” says Raquel Nava, Arts and Academics Coordinator at the Donahue Center.  “Our students are already sitting on the bench as they wait for programs to start, and we’ve filled the cabinet up with art supplies we use each day.”

Justin’s connection with KidWorks began when his older brother, Ryan, started a club at Sage High School called ReachOut, which organizes various projects that help our students.  When Ryan graduated, he passed the leadership baton on to Justin, who now serves as the club’s president. 

Justin says that ReachOut is already planning more projects to support KidWorks in the months to come.  We are very grateful to Justin and ReachOut for their dedication and love for our students.

By Glenn Leibowitz, Volunteer Content Writer 

KidWorks Preschool Class of 2016

On June 22, 2016 our KidWorks Preschool Class of 2016 graduated. We are proud to announce that 100% of our preschool class (that met state age requirements) were assessed as kindergarten-ready. This group of kids will go on to do great things and many of them will remain in our programs for the long haul. 

Congratulations to our preschool students, parents, teachers, volunteers, and all the helpers that made this day possible!  

Our preschool students getting ready for graduation and singing some songs! 
Our parents could barely contain their excitement as the KidWorks Preschool Class of 2016 entered the auditorium. 
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Noche De Las Estrellas

On Friday, June 10th, we celebrated our annual Noche De Las Estrellas (Night of the Stars). Noche De Las Estrellas is an evening to celebrate our graduating seniors and this year was one for the books! 

We are so proud to be sending our students into the world better equipped for college, the workforce, relationships, volunteerism, and community building! But our job doesn't end here, we are committed to doing life with these rock stars for the long haul. 

Help us congratulate the KidWorks Class of 2016!