Our May 2019 “Volunteer of the Month” is all about showing care and compassion towards others. In fact, while not interning and volunteering at KidWorks, Angelique is pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing from West Coast University and anticipates graduating in October.
When a tenth grade boy recently told university student and KidWorks volunteer Brianna Carter that his career goal in life was to become a fast food worker, she instantly knew God was asking her to intervene.
Our January 2019 Volunteer of the Month, Brianna Carter deeply values education and has clear career goals herself.
Cheri Chan, our valued September 2018 “Volunteer of the Month” smiles each time she hears our teachers gently but firmly call our students to attention. Cheri—like many of our volunteers—just can’t get enough of KidWorks.
In fact, she doubles her fun by volunteering at not just one of our centers, but two: The Cedar Evergreen and Townsend satellite locations, which are embedded in locations where most of our students live just steps away from homework help.
Our dedicated volunteers come from near and far—but June “Volunteer of the Month” Nicolei Gupit may outdistance everyone. Over the several years she’s been a volunteer, Nicolei has lived in the Philippines, South Korea and Taiwan (where she’s now resides, teaching elementary, middle and high school students) while she still volunteers for KidWorks.
KidWorks May “Volunteer of the Month” Areli Pelaxtla clearly has boundless energy. Anyone who works with preschoolers—as Areli has been doing since last summer—knows that first hand. on top of keeping up with our ever-curious and perpetually in-motion youngest students as an intern and volunteer in our state-licensed preschool, Areli also holds down two part-time jobs (one at a bank and the other at a department store) while attending California State University, Dominguez Hills as a junior majoring in Human Services.
How many volunteer hours would it take to fully sample every single one of KidWorks’ life-affirming programs? For Stephen Ruvalcaba—our January “Volunteer of the Month”—the answer would be 750 hours.
That’s because Stephen completely dedicates himself to whomever and to whatever he has made a commitment. The remarkable tally of 750 hours was logged between when he first began volunteering in June 2016 until the end of 2017.
“Stephen has been such a great volunteer, being a part of programs that include preschool, after school tutoring and even special events,” says Tiffany San, Volunteer Coordinator & Development Assistant. “He’s always so willing to help with whatever task needs to be done. Stephen is deeply appreciated by all of the staff, volunteers and students.”
Stephen has also been a hands-on volunteer with our summer program, student campus visits and field trips, golf classic and Foundation for Success luncheon.
He recalls a particularly poignant moment with one of our high school students, in whom he recognized God-given artistic talent.
“She said her drawings represent how she feels,” Stephen says. “I urged her to make a comic book out of her drawings and to tell a story through her artwork. I mentioned that there are wonderful careers that her talent could one day make possible, such as an illustrator, author or movie producer. She began work on the comic book project and it made me so happy to see her start to pursue her passion.”
Stephen has seen first-hand how the partnership between our staff, volunteers and donors makes a lasting positive impact on our students.
“I have seen kids struggling to read, who pick up a book and read to me,” he says. “I’ve witnessed students having trouble with math who eventually gain the confidence to help teach other kids how to work out a problem. I have seen so many talented students thrive when they receive encouragement to overcome their fears of social norms and to stand out.”
Even as he dedicated all those hours to our students, Stephen kept a focused eye on his own education. He graduated this month from West Coast University with a bachelor of science degree in nursing.
“My goal is to become an intensive care unit or emergency room nurse,” Stephen says.
When not helping to encourage young minds at KidWorks or pursuing his career goals, Stephen enjoys Malaya, his family’s Siberian Huskie. He’s also coached and played football.
We are very grateful for each of Stephen’s hundreds of volunteer hours—and we are even more grateful for him! Congratulations on being named January “Volunteer of the Month,” Stephen.
By Glenn Leibowitz, volunteer writer
“Ms. Kyle, can you stay a little longer?”
“Ms. Kyle, can you come back again tomorrow?”
Kyle Team, our December “Volunteer of the Month,” gets those questions all the time from the dozens of KidWorks elementary school students who have come to rely on her for homework help and spiritual development since she first began volunteering nearly four years ago.
“Two core principles guide me to do my best with the kids,” Kyle says. “First, I do everything I can to recall all their names and call them by name. That makes such a difference; they know you personally remember them. Second, I’m consistent. Students really appreciate it when you are there on a regular basis. Oftentimes, their lives have many challenges, and they truly appreciate reliability and dependability.”
Kyle is also a member of the KidWorks’ board of directors, where she is highly valued for her strategic thinking skills and long-term vision for our growth and financial sustainability.
Says Lisa Gels, Manager of Partnerships & Donor Relations: “Kyle can always be counted upon to follow-through on her commitments, and she has been very instrumental in bringing new partners and volunteers to KidWorks, and in deepening the involvement of others who are already engaged with us.”
Kyle enjoys her dual role as a board member and tutoring volunteer.
“The contrast is that as a board member you prepare in advance, review agenda items and make certain to be very organized,” she says. “For a tutoring session, I just bring myself, remaining flexible to whatever a particular student may need during the 90 minutes we are together.”
Kyle has been especially effective in developing and strengthening the partnership between KidWorks and St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church of Newport Beach, where she is a church leadership elder.
KidWorks is honored to be one of about a dozen ministry partners selected by the church. She works closely on that partnership with Lisa Gels, along with church member Joe Cristina, also a KidWorks volunteer and leader of our Avanti Music program.
Kyle is married to David, a real estate developer. Their children are Jordan, 25, who works in corporate public relations and Brian, 22, who is employed in the computer technology field.
“We love to ski and have probably been on every mountain range in California, Colorado, Utah and Idaho,” Kyle says. As part of her very active church life, Kyle also conducts Bible studies for new or expectant mothers, and invites friends over to her home for Bible lessons and discussions.
We are very grateful for Kyle’s leadership as a member of our board and for her enduring positive impact on every KidWorks student she helps each week. Congratulations on being named December “Volunteer of the Month,” Kyle
By Glenn Leibowitz, volunteer writer
Each December, a hustle and bustle of activities happen at KidWorks to help make Christmas merry and bright for the students and families of KidWorks.
The festivities kicked-off with a Christmas decorating party held by the employees of BBVA Compass, US Bank and Wells Fargo at all four KidWorks centers. This tradition started several years ago when our friends and corporate partner, US Bank started decorating the KidWorks centers and this year BBVA Compass and Wells Fargo lent their help to the festivities. When our students returned to KidWorks after Thanksgiving Break they were greeted with Christmas cheer.
The celebrating doesn't stop there, now that December is in full swing there are a myriad of activities taking place at KidWorks this month. We welcome members of the community to participate in all that's happening this season.
KidWorks Love in Music Concert (12/09 @ 1pm. Free)
The KidWorks beginning and intermediate students enrolled in our Love in Music program perform holiday favorites in their annual recital. All events take place at KidWorks.
Posadas Christmas Celebration (12/15 @ 5:30pm)
Celebrate the Christmas Season at our Las Posadas Christmas Celebration. Greet KidWorks students and families as they arrive from the Townsend Street processional, enjoy Christmas treats, sing carols, play games, meet KidWorks students and celebrate the start of Christmas with your KidWorks family.
KidWorks Christmas Store/Toy Drive (12/13 & 12/19 - times vary):
Volunteers and toys are needed at our KidWorks Christmas Store this December. Each year we collect hundreds of gifts for our Annual Christmas Store. To provide our parents the joy of purchasing Christmas gifts for their children, the toys are made available at 10% of their retail value and the proceeds from the store then go to a benevolence fund to assist the neediest of KidWorks families throughout the year. Visit www.kidworksoc.org/christmas-store for more details
(Editor’s note: Each month, the KidWorks’ volunteer team clears their calendars for an hour or two for one of their favorite duties: Selecting the Volunteer of the Month. With each monthly eNews going forward we’ll now announce that valued contributor and let you know a little about him or her. For October, our wonderful Volunteer of the Month is Davion Williamson.)
Oftentimes our students may decide on a future career goal because of all the broadening experiences they encounter at KidWorks. In the case of university baccalaureate student Davion Williamson, KidWorks actually helped him decide on a career he’s sure to excel at: Teaching.
Our October Volunteer of the Month says, “Being at KidWorks is actually what made me decide to get into teaching.” Davion is on his way toward that goal, taking classes to earn a teaching credential in math after graduating this June from the University of California, Irvine, with a degree in “Criminology, Law and Society” as well as “Psychology and Social Behavior.”
Davion has been volunteering as part of our University Starts Now (USN) after school program since January and has already logged 200 hours helping our students. USN focuses on our younger students, ranging from kindergarten through twelfth grade, and is focused on four foundational pillars: Academics & Arts, Health & Fitness, College & Career Readiness, and Leadership & Spiritual Development.
“You will always see Davion with a smile on his face,” says Tiffany San, Volunteer Coordinator & Development Assistant. “He is very intentional and enthusiastic while working with our students. He is such a pleasure to work with, and we appreciate everything he does here at KidWorks!”
Davion fully enjoys each hour he spends with our students. “I make sure to have a positive style and always remain patient. I'll ask them questions about their homework and try to put it into a context they can relate to. I also always keep my energy up so theirs stays up as well.”
Just as he is doing within his own life, Davion supports the dreams of our students: “I really hope that everyone reaches his or her full potential and is able to follow their hearts.”
Between his own studies and helping our kids with theirs, Davion finds time to write music, a particular passion of his.
We are grateful to Davion for being such an exemplary role model for our students, and for encouraging them to always do their very best. Congratulations, Davion!
On a chilly, mid-January afternoon, Karina Flores leads a group of about two dozen elementary school students on a short walk to Jerome Park in central Santa Ana. They’ve earned a 20-minute break from their after-school homework lessons at our Townsend Street Center.
“Stay in a straight line,” Karina gently admonishes. “Don’t cross the alley until you make sure no cars are coming.”
“OK, Ms. Karina,” they chime in unison.
Karina has a special bond with her students. She grew up on Townsend Street where this KidWorks satellite center is located and knows first-hand the struggles and challenges of an underserved neighborhood.
In fact before she joined our staff, Karina was a KidWorks student herself, attending our programs from sixth grade all the way through high school. She was 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.
“I want each student to know that whatever hardships they and their families are going through, that the KidWorks center is a place that for 90 minutes each day they have a safe, encouraging place to go,” she says.
As she leads her class, Karina’s gentle, quiet personality shines through—and so does her strength. Recently, a second grader approached her in class and asked if he could color with crayons.
“Yes, but only after you read for 10 minutes,” Karina said.
“How about after five minutes?” the boy said, smiling playfully.
“Ten minutes of reading and then you can color,” she countered. Turning to a visitor, she laughed and said, “They learn to negotiate at a very young age!”
Jocelyn is one of Karina’s seventh grade students who is so inspired by her teacher that she also volunteers several hours, four days a week at the Townsend Center.
“I trust Ms. Karina so much,” Jocelyn says. “She’s talks with me when there are problems at my school where I faced bullying or conflicts. She’s helped me deal with those challenges in the right way.”
Outside of work, Karina and Jose Ayala, the Health & Fitness Program Coordinator at our main Dan Donahue Center, are busy planning a June wedding.
They enjoy hiking and camping together, and have visited the Grand Canyon, Sequoia National Forest and Yosemite. She also enjoys action and romance movies.
Karina, everyone at KidWorks is so proud of the way you have grown from a diligent student in our programs into a site coordinator and role model for other children and youth as you mold them into equally contributing members of the community. Thank you!
By Glenn Leibowitz, Volunteer Content Writer