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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 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

 

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!

 

SHARE

Sharing.

It’s really what the holidays are all about.

We share fellowship, meals and gifts to express love and appreciation for those who mean so much to us.

We’d be so grateful if you could share your support for KidWorks with other family and friends.  It’s a great opportunity to encourage them to consider making a contribution to KidWorks this holiday season.

Adding KidWorks to their giving list is so easy.  They can do so online at this secure link:
www.kidworksoc.org/give


Happy holidays from all of us at KidWorks and on behalf of the hundreds of families we serve throughout the year!