Parenting

A Closer Look: KidWorks’ Programs: Community Parent Council

Editor’s note:  We are pleased to introduce our latest blog series, “A Closer Look: KidWorks’ Programs.”  We offer a full range of programs for children, youth and adults.  In this series, we focus on several of aspects, giving you a peek into what makes these programs tick—and sharing a few “little known secrets”!

“They’re definitely fired up.”

That’s how Frank Bejarano, our Director of Youth and Family Engagement, describes the KidWorks Community Parent Council.

The Community Parent Council is a group of eight women from the neighborhood that’s nearby KidWorks’ Dan Donahue Center.  Over the past eight-plus years, they have turned fear and concern about the problems on the streets where they and their families live into action that has significantly improved the quality of life.

“When they started out, these women had never spoken before a city council or navigated through the processes required by a local governmental agency,” Frank says.  “Now, they can confidently sit at a table across from staff representatives from the City of Santa Ana or get all the permitting and approvals needed for a large street resource fair.  They are impressive to watch in action.”

While KidWorks provides meeting facilities and advice, the Community Parent Council is largely autonomous.  They identify the issues of safety, neighborhood improvement and community collaboration that matter most to them.  Then they get results.

Several examples of their success include having the city replace burnt out lights at Jerome Park, getting approval for a crossing signal to be installed at an intersection where pedestrians have been struck by cars and pushing landlords to spruce up rundown buildings. 

“One of their most effective outreaches was a community walk attended by the Director of Public Works, Code Enforcement Manager Alvaro Nuñez, Santa Ana City Manager David Cavazos and Santa Ana Police Chief Carlos Rojas,” Frank says.  “The women showed them first-hand the impact of gangs, illegal drug dealing and infrastructure neglect.  The community parent councilmembers are tenacious.  They don't quit.  Results soon followed.”

The KidWorks Community Parent Council focuses on external issues in the surrounding neighborhood, while the KidWorks’ Parent Advisory Council works with our staff to offer suggestions and ideas about how we can continuously improve our programs.

“Both are examples of how those we serve take a personal ownership in their community and the overall well-being of others,” Frank said.  “Their enthusiasm is a fire that never goes out.”


By Glenn Leibowitz, Volunteer Content Writer

 

 

 

 

The Women of KidWorks: Leticia Rivera


As her four young sons fidget beside her, Leticia Rivera reflects on what it’s like to be a parent while also being an active volunteer in several KidWorks’ programs.

“It’s a process—sometimes difficult and overwhelming—to be a mom,” she says.  “It can also be very difficult on a street like Townsend, where we live.  You avoid the gunshots and gangs.  You know that your sons can be vulnerable, so you keep them very involved in positive ways.”

For Leticia, KidWorks has been one of those positive influences.  And it goes both ways, says Sonia Rios-Guzman, our Parent Engagement Coordinator. 

“Leticia is humble, kind and hard-working,” Sonia says.  “She comes to every meeting of our Parent Advisory Council and Group of Moms, and she’s never missed a single KidWorks parents workshop.  She always wants to better herself.”

All of Leticia’s sons are involved in our programs, including Jose, fifth grade; Angel, second grade; Carlos, first grade and Francisco, kindergarten.

“I’ve always like giving,” Leticia says.  “It’s easy to want to help when I see a need.  How can I expect KidWorks to give to me and my family and then not give back?”

And give back she does!

“For our Myrtle and Townsend Street Resource Fairs, Leticia went door-to-door helping to gather neighborhood signatures giving the city permission to close the streets for the event,” Sonia says.  “No one gathered more signatures than her!”

Leticia is also quite skilled in arts and crafts.  She’s helped make accessories for our graduating students to wear along with their caps and gowns, and even taught mothers how to sew or knit dresses, scarves and hats to add to their personal wardrobe, using the sewing machines available at KidWorks.

Her son Jose is clearly proud of his mom.  “When I see her volunteer at KidWorks, it makes me want to help others,” he says.  Jose is a role model in his own right for his younger brothers as he volunteers assisting our teachers for the after school programs attended by kindergarten, first, and second grade students.

Leticia has also gotten her husband, Francisco, to join our Parent Advisory Council.  Of the 18 members, only two are men, and we hope he will inspire other fathers to join.

“Leticia always goes far beyond what is asked of her,” Sonia says.  “It’s no wonder her four boys—and all of us at KidWorks—look up to her!”

By Glenn Leibowitz, Volunteer Content Writer

The Women of KidWorks: Karina Torres

With three of her six children currently learning how to play a musical instrument, Karina Torres knows the importance of perseverance and determination.

She puts that philosophy to work at KidWorks, where this mom has volunteered for over seven years.

“Like with a musical piece, a plan is only successful if it is well thought out and you work really hard to make it the best it can be,” Karina says.  Then she smiles and adds, “I don’t like to just sit around, and if something needs to get done, I don’t need to be asked; I jump in!”

Sonia Rios-Guzman, our Parent Engagement Coordinator, says Karina is definitely a woman of action.

“Even though it might seem like Karina’s plate is full with six children, she still manages to volunteer and support KidWorks in so many ways,” Sonia says.  “And she does all of this while fully supporting her children in their educations.”

One of the ways Karina helps KidWorks is with our “Love & Music” program for aspiring musicians.  Karina is proud that three of her children are in the program:  Evelyn, 13, and Ashley, eight, who are both learning the violin and Jesse, 10, who is mastering the flute.

Karina volunteers in many other ways at KidWorks.  She is part of our Parent Advisory Council, has helped with neighborhood clean up days and both our Myrtle and Townsend Street Resource fairs.  For the most recent Myrtle Street Fair, she helped make over 150 ham and cheese sandwiches that were given out for free to those from the surrounding neighborhoods who attended.

Karina enrolled her daughter, Evelyn, in our after school programs six years ago when Evelyn was still in elementary school.

“KidWorks is not like other after-school programs, I see it as the best of all,” Karina says.  Then she adds with a grin, “On the very first day Evelyn started at KidWorks, I told her, ‘Get used to it. You are going to be there until you graduate from high school."

Recently, her 10-year-old Jesse gratefully told her, “Mom, you are always around for us.”

“Kids don’t always say it out loud, but it was his way of saying ‘thank you’,” Karina says.

Karina, we also can’t say “thank you” enough for all you do for our students and the community!

By Glenn Leibowtiz, Volunteer Content Writer 

The Women of KidWorks: Monica Contreras

Editor’s note: We are proud to introduce our latest blog series, “The Women of KidWorks.” We celebrate the tireless women who generously serve at our centers each week. Some of these women also happen to be the mothers of our students! Their humility, perseverance and love touch our students, staff and volunteers each day. This week, we highlight one very special mom!

Over a decade ago, Monica Contreras looked out the living room window of her Santa Ana house and asked herself, “I wonder what they are building across the street where the old tortilla and taco shell factory used to be?”

Soon, she learned that all the hammering and painting would lead up to the opening of KidWorks' main hub, the Dan Donahue Center.

When KidWorks held an open house, Monica stopped by to see what services were being offered.

She soon enrolled her then four-year-old son, Miguel, into the KidWorks preschool program.

Since that first introduction to KidWorks, Monica has been one of our most dedicated and steadfast volunteers. She didn't just enroll her children, she became part of the family, and has worked hard to make her community better from the inside out. 

She began her volunteer duties at our preschool, washing dirty dishes, picking up stray toys, helping the teachers put together learning packets and raising her hand to volunteer for anything else that was asked of her.

Eventually, all of her children enrolled in our preschool program and now continue with our after school program.  That includes, Maria, now in ninth grade, Miguel, sixth grade, and Jimena, first grade.

“At the KidWorks preschool, I really enjoy reading to the kids and helping out with field trips,” Monica says.  “Me, my husband and our kids have received so much from KidWorks, that volunteering for me is a way for me to give back at least as much as we’ve received.”

Monica also serves on our Parent Advisory Council, which is a way the KidWorks’ team receives valuable feedback and ideas about how to continuously improve our programs and services.

She’s also become a resource to other parents seeking advice about raising their children and helping to direct them to available community resources.

“I often say to them, ‘Now that your kids are involved with KidWorks, why not get involved yourselves as volunteers?’” Monica says.

You’d think that all this volunteering would tire a person out.  Not Monica.  She’s also been a longtime member of the KidWorks running club, and now has 16 half marathons to her credit.

Sonia Rios-Guzman, our Parent Engagement Coordinator, says Monica has the perfect temperament to work with the kids and provide leadership on the parent council.

“She’s so good at making others feel comfortable,” Sonia says.  “We love her sense of humor.  During Monica’s more than 10 years as a KidWorks volunteer, she has been able to win many hearts.  She’s definitely a top mom!”

By Glenn Leibowitz, Volunteer Content Writer