Karen G. recalls telling her mom, “I want to go to KidWorks!” as a three-year-old when she saw her big sister, Gilda, head off each weekday to our after-school programs. The persistence and tenacity that defines Karen’s personality to this very day meant she never let up until she convinced her mom to enroll her. Never mind that at three, Karen was still a year short of qualifying for KidWorks preschool programs.
“I managed to get in to what I now call pre-preschool,” Karen laughs. “I’m one lucky kid who got a special opportunity to be part of KidWorks from such a young age, up to and including today,” she says.
Now a junior at Valley High School in Santa Ana, Karen not only remains active at KidWorks but also plays on her school water polo team, is active in student body leadership and plays saxophone in the school jazz band. She is also President of Community Leaders of Santa Ana (CLOSA), our youth-led initiative that helps improve the surrounding neighborhood with cleanup, sponsored events and other activities. As part of this organization, she has spoken before the Santa Ana City Council and the Santa Ana Unified School District Board. The first time she did this, she was only in seventh grade. "KidWorks has given so many great opportunities, I learned what it means to be a leader.” says Karen.
Karen recently overcame a potentially life-threatening event. She underwent testing and treatment because of a cancer diagnosis. Despite the physical pain of her treatment, Karen stayed active at KidWorks, and kept volunteering on her school’s water polo and swim teams, despite being unable to compete due to her treatment. We thank God that she is now cancer-free. Each Friday, Karen leads a health a fitness workshop for our third, fourth and fifth grade girls to encourage students to stay physically active.
Like all KidWorks high school students, college and career preparation are a major part of her focus. As she plans her career, Karen knows that her next stop after graduating high school is to attend a university with a focus in sociology and social service. Karen is always one to set her sights high. “One day, I hope to be executive director of KidWorks,” she says.
Support students like Karen on the road to college this #givingtuesday! With the expanded KidWorks Dan Donahue Center 300 new students are joining our programs.