We’re delighted to introduce you to our newest team members. Each one looks forward to meeting our wonderful partners and supporters. We encourage you to introduce yourself to our new staff members while you are at KidWorks!
It’s inspiring and uplifting to hear the words Karina Flores uses to describe the impact she hopes to have in her newly promoted role as Site Coordinator for our Townsend Street Center:
“I hope that the students as well as the families see me as a person they can trust,” she says. “I hope to have a positive impact in their lives, whether it’s by helping students with homework or just having a conversation. I would like to be a positive impact in the students’ lives, in the same way that KidWorks made such a lasting impact in mine.”
And when she refers to the positive impact KidWorks has had on her life that speaks volumes.
Karina joined our programs as a sixth grader and continued through her high school years. She was also a member of the first-ever group of students who comprised Community Leaders of Santa Ana (CLOSA), our youth-led organization that helps improve the surrounding neighborhood with cleanups, sponsored events and other activities.
She didn’t know it at the time, but her immersion in KidWorks was the perfect preparation for her to join our staff in 2012 as an assistant within the after-school program. Since then, she’s had roles that have included assisting with KidWorks University workshops and a program leader at the Dan Donahue Center. For the past four years, Karina has also been a member of the leadership team responsible for the kindergarten through fifth grade summer program.
Karina is the perfect person to take on the Site Coordinator role from Jessica Ellis, who was recently promoted to Site Director for the Dan Donahue Center. That’s because Karina had been assisting Jessica at the Townsend Center in 2014.
“Karina is so caring and encouraging with each of the students,” Jessica says. “She’s always motivating them and willing to share her personal story about the many obstacles she too faced while growing up in the community. Karina sees the potential in each student and really tries to pull out the best in each one.”
Having grown up in Santa Ana, Karina is well suited to understanding the challenges and opportunities within the neighborhoods we serve.
In addition to the academic achievement she works to develop in each student, Karina also hopes to impart even more of what she’s gained through her KidWorks years: “I was able to grow both personally and spiritually. I came to know God at a deeper level and grow in my faith.”
Outside of work, Karina has a full range of interests and hobbies.
“I absolutely love to dance!” she says. “In high school I was part of the school’s performing dance team. It has always been a passion of mine ever since I was a little girl. I also enjoy doing arts and crafts, scrapbooking and painting.”
Please join us in congratulating this delightful member of the KidWorks team on her new role and in wishing Karina every success.
By Glenn Leibowitz, Volunteer Content Writer
Editor’s note: This is the latest installment in our 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. Others are KidWorks employees. Their humility, perseverance and love touch our students, staff and volunteers each day. This week, we highlight another very special mom!
Melissa Peralta’s six-month-old daughter, Alanis, isn’t exactly sure where her mom goes each morning. All Alanis knows is that she definitely doesn’t want her to leave.
Melissa, who has been KidWorks’ Volunteer Resources Manager since 2014, knows that one day her young daughter will understand that the unlimited love she has for her also extends to the hundreds of children and youth that Melissa pairs with our dozens of volunteers.
Since her days as a student at the University of California, Irvine, Melissa has had a deep desire to help others. Her position at KidWorks represents that ongoing commitment. Prior to KidWorks, she’s served at Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and Olive Crest in roles that included case management and volunteer engagement.
As a child, Melissa spent summers and weekends with her grandmother, Chole, at Chole’s home just a few blocks from our Dan Donahue Center. The neighborhood today still faces the challenges of gangs, drugs and violence that it did back then.
“As children, we weren’t allowed to go outside the gate; we had to stay in the front yard,” Melissa recalls. “Whenever I heard the gunshots, my Mom would say, ‘Don’t worry. We’ll make sure you are safe.’ It wasn’t until years later that I knew what I was being protected from.”
Melissa sees KidWorks as an antidote to the negative aspects of the neighborhood.
“The kids are so happy to come to our centers,” she says. “They are eager to learn and to be safe from what is happening outside our doors.”
Melissa sees a clear link between the help our volunteers provide to our students and her own parenting responsibilities with Alanis.
“I do everything possible to invest in my daughter’s future,” she says. “Our volunteers are also doing everything in their power to make the same investment in our students.”
As KidWorks expands and accepts more students, Melissa knows that there is much hard work ahead to recruit even more volunteers.
Her parents, Benjamin and Carmen, who worked long hours to provide for their family, inspire her. “I am willing to put in as many hours as it takes so KidWorks continues making a positive impact in Santa Ana,” she says. “I tell every volunteer that even if they are only able to dedicate one hour a week, they are having a crucial impact on young lives.”
As six-month-old Alanis grows older, we know that she will be filled with pride in her mom and all she does to help others. Of course, KidWorks and our dedicated volunteers already feel that way, Melissa!