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