Youth

KidWorks Resolves To Make 2019 An Amazing Year

KidWorks Resolves To Make 2019 An Amazing Year

Resolve.  One definition of the word is to “decide firmly on a course of action.

Our resolve is stronger than ever to make 2019 the most beneficial experience possible for the hundreds of students and families we serve at KidWorks.

Another variation of the word resolve is resolution.

With 2019 now fully underway, we’d like to share our very own KidWorks’ 2019 New Year’s Resolutions:

STEM Focus Preps Students For Careers That Create A Better Society

STEM Focus Preps Students For Careers That Create A Better Society

“I want to be an astrophysicist.”  “I want to be a biomedical engineer.”  “I want to be a gastroenterologist.”  “I want to be a computer systems software developer.”  “I want to be a mathematician.”

Those aren’t exactly the words you’re likely to hear from the young students enrolled in our state-licensed preschool, but we plant the seeds for meaningful careers at the earliest possible opportunity.  And that focus continues as they walk with us through high school graduation and on to college.

Celebrating our ‘star’ students: Maritza Urquiza is setting the table for healthy eating in Santa Ana

This April, our KidWorks blog series will highlight two extraordinary students.  All of our students are “stars” in our humble estimation, and the two we’ll introduce you to this month are examples of how your support develops them in ways that make them contributing members of society throughout their entire lives.  In this installment, we are proud to feature Maritza Urquiza.  

 

No one ever has to tell seventh grader Maritza Urquiza to eat all her vegetables.

 

In fact, she may be the one doing the telling!

 

That’s because this conscientious KidWorks student has made it her personal mission to help fight obesity and bring healthy eating to all residents of Santa Ana.

 

Just ask Emma O’Brien, our Youth & Community Engagement Coordinator for Health and Nutrition.

 

“Martiza is a youth representative for Santa Ana Health & Nutrition Advocates (SAHNA), a youth action team that is part of KidWorks Youth Empowerment Network,” Emma says.

 

In this role, Martiza plays an integral part in our partnership with the Santa Ana Unified School District to upgrade kitchens and cafeterias, while also providing students with nutritional choices that they will find appealing.  As part of that collaboration, our youth are developing a survey that SAUSD can use to help identify and provide healthier breakfast and lunch options.

 

For Martiza, healthy eating habits are just as important at home as they are at school.

 

“Martiza strives to live a healthier lifestyle in her own home, and encourages her family to do the same,” Emma says. “She and the other youth enrolled in our SAHNA program have also set their own personal health goals, including eating a healthier diet.”

 

Emma says that Martiza has really grown in her leadership abilities and self-confidence during the time she’s been part of SAHNA.

 

“I have personally seen Maritza develop as a leader,” Emma says. “She thoughtfully shares her ideas, keeps our team on track and leads by example.”

 

Emma also applauds all the SAHNA students who she says are “changing central Santa Ana from the inside out and in a very positive way.”

 

By Glenn Leibowitz, Volunteer Content Writer

 

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

 

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! 

A Closer Look: KidWorks’ Programs: KidWorks University Workshops

Editor’s note:  We are pleased to introduce our latest blog series, “A Closer Look: KidWorks’ Programs.”  We offer a full range of programs for children, youth and adults.  In this series, we focus on several of aspects, giving you a peek into what makes these programs tick—and sharing a few “little known secrets”!

You can always tell when KidWorks posts the list of workshops conducted by our volunteers:  Students crowd around the sheet, clamoring to sign-up for their favorites.

“Whether its music or woodworking, our KidWorks University workshops fill up fast,” says Noemi Juarez, KidWorks’ Director of After School Programs.

The workshops are individually tailored for students from kindergarten through 12th grade.

The idea behind KidWorks University is twofold:  First, it allows our students to learn to make the choices they’ll increasingly face as their educations progress, such as what major to select in college.  Secondly, it also gives the students a chance to develop their creative sides, which is part of our “whole student” approach to academics, character and spiritual development.

“In many ways, KidWorks University starts to give our students a taste of what a college or university environment will be like,” Noemi says.  “They develop skills and interests, and even have the chance to try something new, to have a variety of experiences.”

Variety definitely describes KidWorks University.  Classes have included music (classical, folklorico and more), ballet, acrylic painting, pop art, chess, soccer, physical fitness, computers, cooking, electronics (where they made their own flashlights) and poetry.

“Surprise—poetry was more popular than I thought it was going to be!” Noemi says.

She points out that the workshops are all volunteer-led.  Each workshop is four to five sessions and there are three to four workshop cycles each year.

“The volunteers are so passionate about their skills, talents and hobbies,” Noemi says.  “They are so delighted to share them with our students.  Some volunteers have been conducting workshops at KidWorks for years.”

Noemi says that workshop leaders have included anyone with a passion for something they want to share.  Volunteer workshop leaders have included high school and college students, Boy Scouts, professionals and retirees.

Interested in leading a workshop?  Just let us know.  Our students are sure to fill every seat!


By Glenn Leibowitz, Volunteer Content Writer

 

Townsend Street Fair was a Huge Success!

On Saturday, August 20, 2016 we hosted our largest community event of the year, The Townsend Street Fair. The theme for this year’s fair was Neighborhoods of Action and Hope. Our goal was to increase awareness and access to health related services to strengthen the local community, celebrate its positive attributes, and bring different resources from the community to Central Santa Ana.

Over 50 organizations and businesses attended, all of which brought fun activities for youth and children. Participating organizations included: PBS SoCal, Santa Ana College, Orange County Health Care Agency, Coalition of Orange County Community Health Centers and Community Health Initiative of Orange County, which offered free information and guidance on free and low-cost community services and educational and college opportunities.

Here are some photos from our event: 

Questions on getting involved for next year's Townsend Street Fair? Contact Frank Bejarano, Frank.Bejarano@kidworksoc.org for more information.  

A Closer Look: KidWorks’ Programs: Youth Empowerment Network

Editor’s note:  We are pleased to introduce our latest blog series, “A Closer Look: KidWorks’ Programs.”  We offer a full range of programs for children, youth and adults.  In this series, we focus on several of aspects, giving you a peek into what makes these programs tick—and sharing a few “little known secrets”!

We’ve all heard the adage, “If you want to get something done, ask a busy person.”  At KidWorks, we have our own take:  “If you want to make positive change in the community, ask our youth!”

For several years now, the teens involved in our program have put their creative energies to work making the neighborhoods of Central Santa Ana safer, more welcoming and aesthetically pleasing.

They are part of our Youth Empowerment Network, YEN for short.  Today, YEN has 25 members, with participants ranging from sixth grade to early college.

“This is really a youth-initiated and youth-led program,” says Frank Bejarano, our Director of Youth and Family Engagement.  “They develop, design and address issues that impact themselves, their families and their neighborhoods.”

Funded by a 10-year grant fro the California Endowment, KidWorks’ YEN program is focused on four key areas where the youth continue to make an impact:

  • Restorative Justice:  Based on the concept of rehabilitation rather than only punishment, YEN has worked hand-in-hand with the Santa Ana Unified School district to find alternative ways to create restoration and healing.
     
  • Urban Agriculture:  YEN has helped create a community garden and compost operation at our Dan Donahue Center.  The youth are involving the entire community—children, youth, adults and seniors.  Their harvest so far has included kale, tomatoes, chilies and more.
     
  • Health & Nutrition:  With obesity continuing to be a life threatening problem in Santa Ana and nationwide, our youth are behind efforts to promote healthy choices.  One recent success is convincing the Santa Ana School District to again offer fresh salad bars in school cafeterias.  They have also mapped the location of fruit trees in the surrounding neighborhood, hoping to eventually establish a local farmers’ market and food exchange.
     
  • Active Transportation:  Active transportation lives right alongside the health and nutrition focus.  Here, the students have successfully advocated for bike lanes, skateboard parks and other ways to keep arms and legs moving.

“In addition to taking steps to proactively improve their neighborhood, our YEN members are learning leadership and project management skills that will last a lifetime,” Frank says.  “They take ownership of opportunities to make neighborhoods better—and then they get it done!”


By Glenn Leibowitz, Volunteer Content Writer 

KidWorks youth visit Irivne Ranch Conservancy

 

This week our KidWorks youth visited the Irvine Ranch Conservancy where they learned about rock formation, native/invasive plants (botany) and animals. They also learned all about national parks. They loved it! Here are some photos from our special time with the staff at the Irvine Ranch Conservancy. 

Worship and Concert at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church Feature Our Gifted Musicians

As the pews filled up at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach this past weekend, over 1,200 worshipers were in for a delightful surprise.

They were about to enjoy a Sunday concert and Sunday worship service featuring students from KidWorks’ Avanti program, who joined with Brandon Muchow, St. Andrew’s Minister of Modern Worship & Production, and several other professional studio musicians.

It all came together thanks to the efforts of KidWorks’ volunteer Joe Cristina, who began a KidWorks music program in 2012 called Avanti Music.  In Joe, the students learn from a professional musician with 37 years of experience in composition, arranging, orchestration and production.  

“The ‘KidWorks/Avanti Music Concert’ was a bilingual presentation, and therefore was a true bridge-builder since residents from Newport Beach and Santa Ana worshipped together,” Joe says. 

There are 18 KidWorks students currently participating in the Avanti program.  Those who performed at the St. Andrews concert included Lilian Ramirez (vocals) Liliana Ledezma (vocals and flute), Melisa Luis (piano), Julie Cons (violin) and Luis Lopez (guitar). 

The second event was held in the church chapel, and was equally well received. Lilian Ramirez joined Brandon Muchow and Hector Rivera on vocals.  Emily Barrios, 12-years-old, recently joined Avanti, and she joined in on percussion and vocals.

David Benavides, Executive Director, KidWorks & Councilmember, City of Santa Ana, also spoke to the congregation, sharing KidWorks’ story.

Dan Wendell, Minister of Missions & Outreach at St. Andrews says he is delighted with the result:   “Having the students up front, leading through worship was a beautiful example of extending the family and valuing them as part of our community.  I was particularly encouraged to learn that as a result of Avanti’s work, Lilian Ramirez, one of the vocalists, will be leaving for San Francisco State University to study music in just a few weeks. The ministry is changing lives." 

Lilian and our Avanti students are equally grateful to Joe and the staff at St. Andrews for providing them with such a special opportunity to perform.

"I couldn't get this experience anywhere else than KidWorks and Avanti,” she says.

Knowing Joe’s commitment to Avanti and our students, we can’t help but say, “Encore!” to him and “Bravo!” to St. Andrews for providing such an extraordinary opportunity.

I just wanted to celebrate a great collaboration between Gather and Send in featuring the students of Avanti/Kidworks at the 5:30 and 11:11 services. Having the students up front, leading through worship was a beautiful example of extending the family and valuing them as part of our community. I was particularly encouraged to learn that as a result of Avanti’s work, one of the vocalists will be leaving for San Francisco State to study music in just a few weeks. The ministry is changing lives.
— Dan Wendell, Missions Pastor

By Glenn Leibowitz, Volunteer Content Writer 

BBVA Partners with KidWorks, Students are a Banker for a Day!

On July 27th we took 11 KidWorks youth to BBVA Compass for our 2nd year of “Banker for a Day”! Our kids had a blast and many of them were inspired to learn more about a future in finance and banking. Here are some great photos from our time with BBVA Compass.

A Tale of Two Santa Anas: Kaely Catalan

Editor’s note:  We are so proud of our graduating high school students, who later this year will begin attending colleges and universities. “A Tale of Two Santa Anas” is our latest blog series, where the seniors tell their personal story in their own words.

I’m an optimistic person.  Maybe I got that way because I’ve seen difficult situations and learned the importance of making wise decisions.

For about 10 of my 17 years, my family and I have lived in an apartment where the neighborhood confronts the bad that comes from gangs, drugs, violence and poverty.

When my family first moved into the neighborhood, my twin 17-year-old sister, Leslie, and me looked around and said to each other, “What is this all about? Are we going to be safe?”

But I came to realize that new surroundings are also new beginnings.  The gangs and drugs did not attract me.  Instead, I said to myself, “That’s a problem.  Avoid it.  Don’t get pulled in.”

In June, my sister and I are graduating from Godinez Fundamental High School and in September we’ll both begin attending California State University, Fullerton.  I’m majoring in communications.  I’ll focus on either public relations or speech.

I love to write, and I’m an active blogger about music on social media, with over 3,000 followers!

So much credit goes to my parents and to the staff and volunteers and KidWorks who helped me all these years. 

My parents always emphasized the importance of family.  “Family first,” is one of my Mom’s favorite sayings.  Another is, “Everything comes in its time.”

To me, these words of wisdom mean to put others above material objects and to not grow up too fast.

Some of my friends ask, “What’s the name of that center you go to?”  “It’s called Kidworks,” I say. 

We need more places like KidWorks and more people like the staff and volunteers there who help students like me!

By Kaely Catalan

A Tale of Two Santa Anas: Leslie Catalan

Editor’s note:  We are so proud of our graduating high school students, who later this year will begin attending colleges and universities.  “A Tale of Two Santa Anas” is our latest blog series, where the seniors tell their personal story in their own words.

Everything was pretty safe in the Santa Ana neighborhood where my family lived until I was seven-years-old.  As kids, my twin sister, Kaely, and I could play outside, even at dusk.  I don’t recall seeing a single crime.

Then we moved.

Money was a little tight for my parents, so we all packed up and went to another apartment, just a block or two from KidWorks’ Dan Donahue Center.

Wow, everything was sure different in our new neighborhood!  As a seven-year-old, I heard my first gunshots, saw my first gang members and witnessed drug deals occur right outside our door.

You might think that it would be easy for someone like me to fall into the trap of the streets.  I saw classmates who joined gangs, and in class even sat beside a 16-year-old girl who became pregnant.

But I just didn’t make those choices.  I’m now 17-years-old, and my family still live in the same apartment.  In June I’m graduating from Godinez Fundamental High School and in September I will begin attending California State University, Fullerton, majoring in liberal arts.

I give so much credit to my parents.  They taught us kids the importance of good values, picking our friends wisely and having goals.

My sister and I started going to KidWorks when we were in fourth grade.  My Mom heard about their programs from a neighbor.  “You’re going,” she said.  It wasn’t even a discussion.  We’ve been there ever since.

My KidWorks mentors and tutors mean so much to me.  I remember asking them about college and thinking, “I would like to go there, too.”

Thinking about college is a little scary.  But I’ve faced scarier situations!  Like always, I’m going to give it my very best.

 

 

By Leslie Catalan

A Tale of Two Santa Anas: Edgar Morales

Editor’s note:  We are so proud of our graduating high school students, who later this year will begin attending colleges and universities.  “A Tale of Two Santa Anas” is our latest blog series, where the seniors tell their personal story in their own words.
 

I guess not everyone grows up on a street where you have to avoid gun crossfire from feuding gangs from the time you start walking to school as a kindergarten student all the way through high school.

But that’s how it is on Townsend Street where I still live.  I constantly have to check my surroundings, looking behind me and side-to-side, whenever I leave our apartment.

I’m 17-years-old now, but gangs and violence are still an everyday fact of life on my street

As a kid, I learned that anything could happen, and it often did.

But I never joined a gang.  And neither did my 21-year-old brother, Javier.  It just wasn’t for us.

I recently graduated from Mater Dei High School, and in September I will begin attending California State University, East Bay, in Northern California.

My dream is to become an architect.

I’ve attended KidWorks programs since kindergarten.  Now, I volunteer there six days a week, tutoring second, fifth and eighth graders.  I also help out with the “Love & Music” program for aspiring musicians.

When I tutor at KidWorks, I remember all the volunteers who encouraged me when I was frustrated with my homework and wanted to give up.

I recall the words of my KidWorks tutors from years ago, and say them back to the young kids I’m now helping:  “You are really smart.  You can totally do this.  You made it this far.  Now, keep going.”

My tutors’ words of wisdom will never leave me.  They keep me motivated and focused as I take my next steps forward towards a university degree and successful career.

 

By Edgar Morales

Pass the Carrots: Our Students Are Learning All About Good Nutritional Choices

Did you know that every day at each of our centers, our students are served a nutritional snack before they get down to the business of completing their homework?

Now, that effort just got stronger, thanks to a team led by Emma O'Brien, our Youth & Community Engagement Coordinator for Health and Nutrition.

Emma and a group of our students have formed the Santa Ana Health and Nutrition Advocates (SAHNA).

“We have launched a social media campaign that highlights the effects of sugary beverage consumption on our bodies, as well as other health related facts and yummy recipe tutorials,” Emma says.

The campaign will include content posted on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

 

Stay tuned to our blog for more updates on this timely and vital initiative.

Our Youth Have a ‘Bucket List’ to Help the Environment

For four years, we, the Youth Empowerment Network Compost program, have recycled and processed more than 60,000 pounds of organic waste into nutrient-rich compost.  Our goal is not only to reduce waste in landfills but also to create our own soil for use in our garden and to share with the community. 

Our program creates opportunities for other youth to get involved with their community and learn about agriculture. 

We collect buckets of waste from families in our neighborhood and process it in our garden. However, the bucket lids are not very pleasing to families because they are difficult to open.

The money raised will be used to replace the lids to more manageable ones. The funds would be appreciated any time between April 12 and May 7th. Replacing the bucket lids is important because the families contribute significantly to our program, and this would be a way of showing our gratitude. 

On May 7th, we will be honoring the families' participation in our program by hosting a dinner at our community center. We would love to surprise them!

We,the youth, would be extremely grateful for any funds, even the smallest amount would be appreciated and be of help to us. 

Interested in helping?

Thank you,

Youth Empowerment Network's Compost Program

Empowering Young People To Change The World

WE Day is a celebration of youth making a difference in their local and global communities. WE Schools is the yearlong program that nurtures compassion in young people and gives them the tools to create transformational social change.

Together they offer young people the tools and the inspiration to take social action, empower others and transform lives—including their own.