KidWorks Teacher Spotlight: Karina Flores

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

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.  

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The Women of KidWorks: Corina Mora

Editor’s note:  This is the latest installment of our blog series, “The Women of KidWorks.”  This week, we highlight another very special mom!

“Siempre con una sonrisa.”

It means “always with a smile,” and it’s the motto that guides Corina Mora, receptionist and administrative assistant at our Dan Donahue Center, on how she lives her life.

“To me, those words say that it’s important to treat everyone the same, and always warmly,” Corina says.

Corina and her husband, Hector Sr., are very proud—and very involved--parents of four boys:  Adrian, 18-years-old, who will be a senior at Saddleback College; Hector, Jr., 14, an incoming freshman at Mater Dei High School; Isaac, eight-years-old, who is entering third grade and Nathan, five, who will be starting kindergarten.

All her boys have been part of KidWorks programs.  Finding out about KidWorks was easy since Corina’s parents owned a home right across the street from what eventually became our Dan Donahue Center.  She and her family now live in the same house along with her mother, Nelly, 76-years-old.

“My boys are everything to Hector and me,” Corina says.

As a working mom, she has learned the art of balancing parenting, a job, volunteering with Hector Sr. at our preschool and a full schedule of youth sports.

“We are a sports family,” Corina says.  “My boys all play baseball, and we are huge Los Angeles Angels and Dallas Cowboys fans,” she says.  “We even named our one-and-a-half year old French bulldog ‘Dallas’ and he has his own team jersey.”

Corina has become a valuable resource to the parents who come to our center, especially the moms.

“Sometimes the moms will tell me about a problem they are having, often with their children or financially,” Corina says.  “I’ll direct them to resources, but often a person just needs someone to quietly listen.”

From raising her own boys, Corina has learned that it’s important for parents to be proactive with those in charge if they feel their children are at risk in any way.

“Once, one of my little ones was bullied in school,” she says.  “I spoke up, and at first the principal dismissed my concerns.  I persisted, and eventually the situation was resolved when the mother of the bully was made aware of the situation.  This taught me to speak up when necessary.”

As one of the first moms to ever enroll a child at our Dan Donahue Center, Corina is filled with joy at each child see sees enter our doors.

“I am so excited about our upcoming expansion of the Dan Donahue Center,” she says.  “It will mean even more kids playing sports, doing homework and being in a safe place.”  And with a smile, she adds:  “When the kids are not here, it is too quiet.  I miss the chaos!”


The Women of KidWorks: Eleazar Díaz

Eleazar Díaz sees the bigger picture when she waters, weeds and prunes the plants and vegetables in the KidWorks community garden and compost at our Dan Donahue Center.

As a long time volunteer, she is keenly aware not only of the thriving plants, but also the positive growth in the community where KidWorks serves.

Eleazar is gladly willing to get her hands dirty in the garden soil, and she’s also learned to be a leader on our Dan Donahue Group of Moms and Parent Advisory Council.

It all began over 10 years ago when a neighborhood mom invited her to volunteer at the KidWorks preschool.  Her daughter, Yosely, then three-years-old, was too young to enroll—but Eleazar said “yes” to the volunteer request anyway.

“Since then, Eleazar has been one of our most dedicated and committed volunteer moms,” says Sonia Rios-Guzman, our Parent Engagement Coordinator.

Eleazar, quiet and humble, gives much of the credit to her daughter, Yosely, now 13-years-old, and a student in our after school programs.

“Before I enrolled Yosely in the KidWorks preschool, we’d walk by the center and she’d say, ‘Mom, I want to see the kids!’”

Eleazar brought her little daughter with her when she volunteered at our preschool.

“Yosely would pick up a white cloth and help me clean the counters,” she recalls.  “The very next year, she was old enough for preschool and we enrolled her.  Since then, KidWorks has become part of us.”

In her 10-plus years as a KidWorks volunteer, this mom has grown out of her natural shyness and learned to speak up with ideas and suggestions that are welcomed by the KidWorks’ Parents Advisory Council and Group of Moms.

“Eleazar is a real motivator for our parents, and she’s a role model, too, because she’s willing to take on any task,” Sonia says.  “When the parents or moms councils have an upcoming meeting, she goes down the list making phone calls reminding them to attend.  She’s a good planner too, and helped us with the countless details required to make our annual Townsend Street Resource Fair a yearly success.”

To Eleazar, the garden she helps tends is not the only metaphor for the potential within the central Santa Ana community where she and her family live. 

“When the doors first opened at the Dan Donahue Center, I saw this as a place that would be my support system,” she says.  “Today, when I come to volunteer, I love seeing that those doors are still wide open.  It means they are open for me and other moms to volunteer, get involved and make a difference.”

You continue to make a tremendous positive difference, Eleazar.  We appreciate all you do!


By Glenn, Leibowitz, Volunteer Content Writer