Health and Fitness

KidWorks health assessments keep students learning and thriving

KidWorks health assessments keep students learning and thriving

If you happen to be a preschooler at KidWorks, the last thing you need is a toothache when you’re trying to learn your ABCs, the colors of the rainbow and how to properly draw a rectangle. 

In central Santa Ana, 9.5% of children are without health insurance, which is significantly higher compared to other cities in Orange County.  Not only can undetected health issues lead to greater health challenges but also higher absenteeism from school. 

KidWorks Youth Advocate For Safe, Sanctioned Skate Parks

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


KidWorks students expand their faith and life experiences during a week at Forest Home

KidWorks students expand their faith and life experiences during a week at Forest Home

KidWorks students expanded their faith and life experiences while attending Forest Home. Our students had plenty of time to enjoy the blessings of God’s creation.  At the lake, they hiked, kayaked, tried out the water slides and swam.  Soccer, basketball, tree climbing, obstacle course, pool, archery and slingshot swing were also on the menu.

Celebrating our ‘star’ students: Maritza Urquiza is setting the table for healthy eating in Santa Ana

This April, our KidWorks blog series will highlight two extraordinary students.  All of our students are “stars” in our humble estimation, and the two we’ll introduce you to this month are examples of how your support develops them in ways that make them contributing members of society throughout their entire lives.  In this installment, we are proud to feature Maritza Urquiza.  


No one ever has to tell seventh grader Maritza Urquiza to eat all her vegetables.


In fact, she may be the one doing the telling!


That’s because this conscientious KidWorks student has made it her personal mission to help fight obesity and bring healthy eating to all residents of Santa Ana.


Just ask Emma O’Brien, our Youth & Community Engagement Coordinator for Health and Nutrition.


“Martiza is a youth representative for Santa Ana Health & Nutrition Advocates (SAHNA), a youth action team that is part of KidWorks Youth Empowerment Network,” Emma says.


In this role, Martiza plays an integral part in our partnership with the Santa Ana Unified School District to upgrade kitchens and cafeterias, while also providing students with nutritional choices that they will find appealing.  As part of that collaboration, our youth are developing a survey that SAUSD can use to help identify and provide healthier breakfast and lunch options.


For Martiza, healthy eating habits are just as important at home as they are at school.


“Martiza strives to live a healthier lifestyle in her own home, and encourages her family to do the same,” Emma says. “She and the other youth enrolled in our SAHNA program have also set their own personal health goals, including eating a healthier diet.”


Emma says that Martiza has really grown in her leadership abilities and self-confidence during the time she’s been part of SAHNA.


“I have personally seen Maritza develop as a leader,” Emma says. “She thoughtfully shares her ideas, keeps our team on track and leads by example.”


Emma also applauds all the SAHNA students who she says are “changing central Santa Ana from the inside out and in a very positive way.”


By Glenn Leibowitz, Volunteer Content Writer


Pass the Carrots: Our Students Are Learning All About Good Nutritional Choices

Did you know that every day at each of our centers, our students are served a nutritional snack before they get down to the business of completing their homework?

Now, that effort just got stronger, thanks to a team led by Emma O'Brien, our Youth & Community Engagement Coordinator for Health and Nutrition.

Emma and a group of our students have formed the Santa Ana Health and Nutrition Advocates (SAHNA).

“We have launched a social media campaign that highlights the effects of sugary beverage consumption on our bodies, as well as other health related facts and yummy recipe tutorials,” Emma says.

The campaign will include content posted on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.


Stay tuned to our blog for more updates on this timely and vital initiative.