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Engage With KidWorks: Take a Tour

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 fifth installment, we invite you to tour our Dan Donahue Center

Perhaps the best way to get introduced to KidWorks is to take a tour of our main hub, the Dan Donahue Center, in central Santa Ana.

You’ll be filled with joy as you see students from preschool through high school growing in the areas of academics and the arts, college and career readiness, health and wellness, and leadership and spiritual development.

And don’t be surprised if an excited youngster runs up to you to share his or her latest crayon drawing or to just ask, “What’s your name?”

You’ll also have a chance to meet our caring teachers and welcoming staff.  They’re all ready to answer any questions you may have about or mission, vision and values. 

And they would be delighted to share ways you can get involved.

Tours are available Monday through Friday, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

To arrange a tour, please contact our offices at 714.834.9400. 

By Glenn Leibowitz, Volunteer Content Writer

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: Attend an Event

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 second installment, we invite you to attend one of our exciting and uplifting KidWorks events.

KidWorks isn't only about homework.  We also like to have fun!

That’s why we’re delighted to invite you to one of the many events we hold each year to raise funds, engage with the central Santa Ana Community and enjoy our students’ many talents.


Check out some of the fun stuff we have planned for 2017:
 

Community Events
The community fairs are much-anticipated events where families from the surrounding neighborhoods come together to share friendship, play games, relax, enjoy snacks and just have fun.  These are the fairs planned for this year:

March 18:  Bishop Manor Intergenerational Health Fair

April 22:  Dia del Niño Myrtle St. Resource Fair

August 19: Townsend-Raitt St. Resource Fair

 

KidWorks Classic Golf Tournament
Whether you’re a scratch golfer or simply appreciate the chance to play a premier course, KidWorks invites you to make your reservation now for our fifth annual KidWorks Classic Golf Tournament, to be held Thursday, May 18 at the beautiful Pelican Hill Golf Course in Newport Beach.

For more information, please contact Lisa Gels, Manager of Partnerships & Donor Relations: phone: (714) 619-7560 or email: lisa.gels@kidworksoc.org

 

Foundation for Success Luncheon
We invite you to attend our annual luncheon, that for the past three years, the Orange County Business Journal has listed as one of the top five fundraising luncheons.

For each of its 10 years, the event has featured an extraordinary keynote speaker.  It’s also instrumental in helping us raise a substantial portion of the funds for our after-school programs.

This year’s event details are coming soon!

For more information, please contact Lisa Gels, Manager of Partnerships & Donor Relations: phone: (714) 619-7560 or email: lisa.gels@kidworksoc.org
 

Music Concerts Featuring KidWorks Students
Many of KidWorks students have exceptional musical talent.  To experience their gifts firsthand, please consider attending these upcoming events:

Wednesday, March 22, 7:00 p.m.: Concert event at Super Antojitos restaurant in Tustin. The event will feature a short five-song set with students in KidWorks Avanti musical program.  There will also be a set with Avanti founder and professional musician, Joe Cristina and guitarist/vocalist Tiago Costa.  There is no cover charge.

S
unday, April 30, 3 p.m. St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach: “Imago Dei” concert hosted by Jenny Park. This event will feature students from Jenny’s music academy, other local musical groups and selected Avanti students.  The concert is free.

 

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 student, Isaac Michaca, named to City of Santa Ana planning committee

Isaac Michaca is a young man with both vision and passion for Santa Ana, a city he clearly loves.

In fact, this KidWorks student and Santa Ana College freshman is so committed to Santa Ana and its residents that he hopes one day to serve as mayor.

Before that happens, Isaac realizes that it’s “first things-first.”  In that regard, he’s just accepted an appointment as the only youth named to serve a one-year term on the City of Santa Ana’s General Planning Committee.

It’s a significant role that Isaac takes seriously.

“I especially want to be a champion for health and nutrition, urban agriculture, cultural knowledge and restorative justice,” Isaac says.

Those are the same areas of focus he’s had since joining KidWorks’ Youth Empowerment Network (YEN) in 2012.  He now serves as a coordinator with the group.  YEN is a youth-initiated and youth-led program that develops, designs and address issues that impact youth, their families and their neighborhoods.

One of YEN’s focus areas is one that Isaac plans to be a champion for on the City of Santa Ana General Planning Committee.  “Community composting and community garden programs, like the ones we have at KidWorks, will help promote healthy eating, combat obesity and help prevent diabetes,” Isaac says.

Isaac expresses his thanks to those who have helped him along the way.  “I have been blessed by the KidWorks staff, my fellow students and volunteers who have helped me to grow into a leader,” he says. 

“Isaac’s leadership skills and clear vision will ensure that the voice of Santa Ana’s youth will be reflected in the city’s plans,” says Frank Bejarano, our Director of Youth and Family Engagement.  “He will be a major contributor to a plan for Santa Ana that will positively impact the community for generations to come.  KidWorks is very proud of Isaac and we are grateful that his heart is so strongly with the community.”

 

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

GIVE

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With just hours left before we welcome 2017, KidWorks has a wonderful idea about how to finish 2016 on the right note.

Please considering saying “goodbye 2016” and “hello 2017” by making a donation to KidWorks.

It’s easy to do.  You can do so securely online at this link:

www.kidworksoc.org/give


We are so grateful for every dollar that helps us serve hundreds of children, youth and parents in central Santa Ana.

 

Happy New Year everyone!

 

Giving Thanks: Karen Gallardo-Cano

Editor’s note:  We’re delighted to present the third installment in our latest blog series, Giving Thanks.  As everyone prepares to celebrate Thanksgiving, we feel this is the perfect time to invite KidWorks’ friends and families to share a little about what they are most thankful for.  Look for another installment next week!

Karen Gallardo-Cano knows exactly the blessings she’s thankful for this holiday season.  In fact, they number in the dozens.  No, they are not material goods.  This high school sophomore and KidWorks student is most thankful for the many KidWorks staff members, volunteers and fellow students who have positively impacted her life.

“I am so grateful to everyone who is in my life because of KidWorks,” she says.  “The staff and volunteers always push me to go the extra mile.  They sit by my side and let me know that I matter.”

Karen takes her appreciation for others and applies it to her leadership position as president of Community Leaders of Santa Ana (CLOSA), our youth-led organization that helps improve the surrounding neighborhood with cleanup, sponsored events and other activities.

Like a good leader, she is quick to say “thanks” to her team, including Maria Contreras, vice president, Nancy Cervantes, secretary and all the CLOSA membership.

“They are amazing,” Karen says. 

Karen is also thankful for each of the 24 hours in a day.  Without a doubt, she fits all she can into her waking hours.  Karen is a member of the green environmental club at Valley High School and serves as Associated Student Body Vice President for the class of 2019.

And did we mention that she also makes time to play on the school’s varsity and junior varsity water polo teams?

Speaking of giving thanks, we are so grateful to Karen for being a KidWorks student for 11 years, and for the time she spends as a volunteer helping other children and youth.

Now, if someone could just invent the 30-hour day, Karen would find a meaningful way to fill that time, too!
 

By Glenn Leibowitz, Volunteer Content Writer

 

Sails Are Up and Our Kids Are Off!

Summer is coming to a close and what a better way to finish it up than learning how to sail! Our KidWorks youth spent a week in Newport Beach learning to sail; they learned more than how to sail a boat. Sailing empowers youth by teaching them skills like teamwork, leadership, communication, and critical thinking in a fast-paced environment. 

Here are some photos of our week on the sea! Big thank you to our instructors for the week, Debbie and Grace. We learned so much from you! 

Our High School Seniors Are College-Bound!

KidWorks is very proud that the majority of the students in our programs earn their high school diplomas, and that many also continue their education at colleges and universities.

The class of 2016 is no exception. We are pleased to share this summary of where our graduating high school seniors will continue their studies this fall.

We also asked our scholars to let you read in the students’ own words how they feel about the next step in their journey of academic excellence. Here’s what several said: 

I intend to pursue a career in law and also get a certificate in architecture. I’m really excited to check out all the potential research opportunities for undergraduates at Duke University and study abroad to learn about cultures and customs. KidWorks has prepared me by expanding my horizon and making me feel empowered.
— Melisa Castillo
I intend to major in psychology and minor in health studies with a concentration in peace, justice and human rights. KidWorks has provided me support, comfort and tools in order to grow and thrive into a much more confident being and a passionate youth. It has been my safe haven and second family.
— Rosa Urquiza
I look forward to going to UCLA in the fall so that I can begin the first step in my career as a physician. I am also really excited to get involved on campus, especially in areas of leadership and social change, which I feel KidWorks has prepared me for through my involvement in the Youth Empowerment Network.
— Jessenya Reyes
After five years of being part of the Youth Empowerment Network at KidWorks, I have been given many tools and one is the ability to speak up. I cannot wait to see what I could do with that strength at UCSB.
— Sarahi Guerrero
My proposed major is mechanical engineering. I am really excited that I’m moving on and I get to meet new people who might help me become successful. KidWorks has helped with my social skills and to value team work.
— Ismael Fuerte
The KidWorks after school program has helped improve my attention span and taught me discipline when it comes to setting time aside for study.
— Melisa Castillo
The KidWorks after school program has given me a lot of opportunities to try new things and has supported me with my college decisions.
— Simon Garcia

A Tale of Two Santa Anas: Lilian Ramirez

Editor’s note:  This is the fourth and final installment of“A Tale of Two Santa Anas,” where our graduating high school seniors tell the story of their personal journey in their own words.  We are so proud of these students, who later this year will begin attending colleges and universities.

Growing up, I was probably the last person you’d expect to be standing on a stage in front of hundreds of people, singing solos or playing the guitar.

Back in elementary school I was very shy and reserved.  Except for walking to and from school each day, I pretty much stayed inside our family’s rented house doing my homework, reading books and listening to music.

Today, I’m an 18-year-old graduate of Valley High School in Santa Ana.  This fall, I will begin attending San Francisco State University, where I intend to earn a bachelor of music degree.

Our family--my Dad, Mom, and sisters, Emily, 14 and Ailani, seven, and me--live about one block from KidWorks’ Dan Donahue Center.  I’ve lived there since I was born.

For as long as I can remember, our neighborhood has had a lot of gang violence and poverty.  But that doesn’t mean every kid falls into that trap.

I credit my parents for giving me a strong sense of right and wrong.  “Listen to your inner voice,” my Mom always says.  “That voice will tell you what choice to make.” 

My love of music is probably something I get from my Dad.  From the earliest age, I remember how he introduced me to all his favorite kinds of music—rock, traditional Mexican music and classical.

For the past several years, I’ve been part of KidWorks’ Avanti program, where high school students like me learn from Joe Cristina a professional musician.  We get actual experience in composition, arranging, orchestration and production.

Thanks to Joe and KidWorks, I’ve now sung and played music before live audiences.  Also, each year in high school, I was part of our choir, and last year auditioned and was accepted by the Southern California Vocal Association Honor Choir.

I hope that my professional musical career will include touring the country, singing and playing music.  Yet, no matter where my love of music takes me, I’ll always remember Santa Ana, my city.  I’ll also always be forever grateful to KidWorks’ and the wonderful staff and volunteers who helped me all these years.

By Lilian Ramirez