Youth Leadership

PTS Marketing Group is helping KidWorks develop the talented workforce of tomorrow

PTS Marketing Group is helping KidWorks develop the talented workforce of tomorrow

When you support KidWorks, you help develop the next generation of chief executive officers, doctors, engineers, teachers, scientists, bankers and entrepreneurs, just to name a few.

That’s because KidWorks programs are designed not only to promote sustained academic success, but also to develop the employees and leaders of tomorrow.    We partner with businesses who help us understand the skills and training they are looking for once our students are ready to enter the work world.

A future CEO in Training

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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.

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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.

 

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

 

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

 

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.

Noche De Las Estrellas

On Friday, June 10th, we celebrated our annual Noche De Las Estrellas (Night of the Stars). Noche De Las Estrellas is an evening to celebrate our graduating seniors and this year was one for the books! 

We are so proud to be sending our students into the world better equipped for college, the workforce, relationships, volunteerism, and community building! But our job doesn't end here, we are committed to doing life with these rock stars for the long haul. 

Help us congratulate the KidWorks Class of 2016!

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

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