Restore Hope

Your January Hope Report is here!

Did you receive the KidWorks January Hope Report in your mailbox this week? If not, check it out HERE.

Want a hard copy? No problem! Copies are available at the KidWorks Dan Donahue Center. Pick up at the front desk Monday - Friday, 9am - 5pm, 1902 W. Chestnut Avenue, Santa Ana, CA. 92703.  

Don't miss out on all the latest and greatest from KidWorks! 

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

GIFT

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We all smile when we hear the traditional Christmas song telling us that Santa is “making a list and checking it twice.”

At KidWorks, we’d like to remind you to check your list, too!

That’s because the Annual KidWorks Christmas store for the families we serve in central Santa Ana is just days away. This year, the store will be open to serve families on December 13th and 14th. 

The store allows parents who might otherwise be unable to afford gifts for their children to buy them at a significant discount.  And all proceeds go into a benevolence fund to help those families in need during the holidays and the rest of the year.
 

There are three ways you can help this holiday:

1. GIFT a new, unwrapped item, a gift card, or wrapping supplies to KidWorks by December 9, 2016. 

2. DONATE financially to our end of year giving campaign at www.KidWorksOC.org/give.   

3. SERVE in one of our many weekly programs and bless a KidWorks students this holiday season. 

Interested in knowing more?  Please visit www.KidWorksOC.org

Your help will help continue our 14-year tradition of creating holiday smiles!

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

 

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."

St. Andrew's Comes to KidWorks for a Serve Day!

Thank you St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church for coming to KidWorks for your Serve Day 2016. KidWorks has been a long time ministry partner of St. Andrew's and on Saturday, September 17th,  many members of their congregation came to our Dan Donahue Center for a Serve Day. 

Volunteers hosted a carnival for our families and participated in reading buddies with our K-5th grade students. Another team of volunteers revamped our storage space to accommodate more instruments for our music program, Avanti. 

Avanti leader, Joe Cristina, led a group of volunteers in working directly with our music students and we ever had a parenting workshop.

Here are some photos from our event! 

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! 

The Women of KidWorks: Maria Velazquez

Editor’s note: We are proud to continue 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!

Raising five daughters quickly teaches a mom or dad how to overcome obstacles and get the job done.  Just ask Maria Velazquez, a 10-year KidWorks volunteer, who puts those parenting skills to excellent use making her community safer.

She’s teamed up with other members of the KidWorks’ Community Parent Council, which consists of parents and community members, who work hard to do good in their Central Santa Ana community.

Two examples show Maria and her team’s positive impact:

Jerome Park is just blocks from our Townsend and Dan Donahue centers.  Several years ago, most of the park lights were either broken or burned out.  Gangs congregated at night, and families like Maria’s didn’t dare go there after dark.  So, she and our Community Parent Council worked with the City Council and Parks and Recreation Department to have new lights installed and maintained.  Now, families feel safer to relax at the park at a later time.

Then there is the dangerous intersection of McFadden Avenue and Raitt Street.  The absence of a left turn light results in collisions between cars and pedestrians.  In fact, a member of our Community Parent Council was hit, but thankfully fully recovered from her injuries.  So Maria and her fellow parent council members worked with city officials to get a left turn light approved.  It took three years but the light is set for installation in September 2016.

Maria has two daughters currently enrolled in our after-school programs, Joselyn, sixth grade, and Crystal, seventh grade (shown in photo).  Maria and her family have lived on Townsend Street for 23 years, and are right across the street from our center there.

When Maria became aware of our programs, she enrolled her then 14-year-old daughter, Andrea (now 28-years-old).

“At the time, the neighborhood was very violent because of the gangs and drugs, and it still suffers in that way,” Maria says.  “Before I enrolled Andrea, I really checked out KidWorks to make sure I felt it was a safe place.”

KidWorks quickly earned Maria’s trust and it wasn’t long before she was volunteering at the Townsend Street Center, cleaning the small apartment where classes were then held.

Since then, Maria has expanded the scope of her volunteer work at KidWorks, serving at both our Townsend and Dan Donahue Centers.

She is instrumental in the pre-planning of both our Myrtle and Townsend Street Resource Fairs, and also helps out on the day of the event by getting the word out into the neighborhood.  She also prepares and sells food at the events, with proceeds going to support KidWorks programs.

“Maria has grown so much from those early days cleaning our center on Townsend,” says Sonia Rios-Guzman, our Parent Engagement Coordinator.  “As part of her efforts to champion for the park lights and safer street intersection, she has spoken before the Santa Ana City Council, Santa Ana Unified School District Board and the Latino Heath Access organization.”

Sonia sums it up this way:  “Maria is a parent for whom giving has no limit!”

By Glenn Leibowitz, Volunteer Content Writer

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