nonprofit

Engage With KidWorks: Take a Tour

Editor’s note:  Our latest blog series is called “Engage With KidWorks.”  We’re excited to share the variety of meaningful—and fun—ways you can become part of the KidWorks experience.  In our fifth installment, we invite you to tour our Dan Donahue Center

Perhaps the best way to get introduced to KidWorks is to take a tour of our main hub, the Dan Donahue Center, in central Santa Ana.

You’ll be filled with joy as you see students from preschool through high school growing in the areas of academics and the arts, college and career readiness, health and wellness, and leadership and spiritual development.

And don’t be surprised if an excited youngster runs up to you to share his or her latest crayon drawing or to just ask, “What’s your name?”

You’ll also have a chance to meet our caring teachers and welcoming staff.  They’re all ready to answer any questions you may have about or mission, vision and values. 

And they would be delighted to share ways you can get involved.

Tours are available Monday through Friday, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

To arrange a tour, please contact our offices at 714.834.9400. 

By Glenn Leibowitz, Volunteer Content Writer

Engage With KidWorks: The Joy of Giving

Editor’s note:  Our latest blog series is called “Engage With KidWorks.”  We’re excited to share the variety of meaningful—and fun—ways you can become part of the KidWorks experience.  In our first installment, we share research that shows how monetary donations to non-profits like KidWorks not only make a sustained meaningful impact—they also make us feel better as people!

A widely acclaimed Harvard Business School research paper published in 2009 (“Feeling Good About Giving”) concluded that those who give a monetary donation to those in need “reported higher levels of happiness.”

In the words of those researcher:  "Happier people give more and giving makes people happier, such that happiness and giving may operate in a positive feedback loop."

And there’s the Gallup World Poll conducted between 2006 and 2008 that found people who donated to charity “reported a greater satisfaction with life.”

Finally, consider these statistics from the Do Good Live Well survey of 4,500 U.S. adults who supported a charity:  68 percent reported that it made them feel physically healthier, 89 percent that it “has improved my sense of well-bring” (e.g., happiness) and 73 percent that it “lowered my stress levels.”

Our KidWorks supporters are among the most generous people we know.  So, if giving equates to happiness, maybe that’s why our volunteers and contributors have such positive outlooks on life.

Need a lift today?  Consider making a donation to your friends at KidWorks!

 

By Glenn Leibowitz, Volunteer Content Writer

2016 KidWorks Luncheon Sponsors

We're just a few weeks away from the 10 Year Anniversary of our annual Foundation for Success Luncheon--and it promises to be the best yet.  Thanks so much to all of our generous sponsors and supporters for making this event so great each year.  

There's still time to secure a sponsorship for your company, foundation or organization.  Click Here for more details!

We looking forward to seeing everyone on Thursday, November 17th at 11:30 at the Double Tree Hotel in Santa Ana!

Thank You To Our 2016 Sponsors!

 

PRESENTING SPONSORS

Heidi & Ruben Mendoza

FOUNDATION SPONSOR
Bank of America Merrill Lynch

DIAMOND SPONSOR
Donahue Schriber

PLATINUM SPONSORS
Donahue Family
Opus Community Foundation
U.S. Bank
Greg & Stacey Brown

GOLD SPONSORS
CBRE
C.J. Segerstrome
Cox, Castle & Nicholson LLP
Frome Family Foundation
Homan Family Foundation
Rutan & Tucker, LLP
Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP
Stuart Kane LLP
Waste Management
Wells Fargo/Eastdil Secured

SILVER SPONSORS
Bank of the West
BBVA Compass

BRONZE SPONSORS
Banc of California
City National Bank
Deloitte
D&R Investments
Fidelity National Title
Goodwin Procter, LLP
Jones Day
McKenna BMW Porsche Audi
Milan Capital Management, Inc.
R.D. Olson Development
Schriber Family
Scott S. Pollard Trustee/Winslow Maxwell Charitable Trust
Ware Disposal, Inc./Madison Materials
Waypoint Property Group

PEARL SPONSORS
Bixby Land Company
California Bank and Trust
CDSRVS
Kinecta Federal Credit Union
Raintree Partners
Shea Home/Shea Properties
Steve and Stephanie Rados
Squar Milner
The Camille and Tim Strader Jr. Family
Warren Lortie & Associates

(Sponsors Committed as of 10/27/2016)

Foundation for Success: Helping to fund our programs for 10 years

Editor’s note:  We are pleased to present the fourth story in our latest blog series, “Foundation for Success: 10 Year Anniversary Celebration.”  In this installment, we describe how the dollars raised go such a long way to support the after-school programs at our Dan Donahue Center.

 Each school week, hundreds of students stream into our Dan Donahue Center to grow academically, learn about the arts, develop spiritually and maybe even toss a basketball around for a few minutes.

Each of these experiences—and more—in some measure or another are funded by the Foundation for Success luncheon, our premier event of the year. 

Over 10 years, $4.3 million (net) has been raised at our Foundation for Success luncheons.  Each dollar has had a tremendous impact on the lives of each of our students.

For example, for the past two years 100% of KidWorks students graduated high school on time and continued on to colleges and universities (a much higher percentage than in Santa Ana schools overall).

The majority of the luncheon’s costs are underwritten or covered by sponsors, meaning that almost every dollar raised goes towards helping the over 800 children, youth and families we serve.

As the 2016 luncheon nears, we invite everyone to be part of one of Orange County’s most anticipated non-profit events—one that for the past three years, the Orange County Business Journal has listed as one of the top five fundraising luncheons.

 

Foundation for Success:
For more information about the Foundation for Success event, or to purchase tickets, please visit: http://kidworksoc.org/foundation-for-success

To purchase tickets, please click here

 

Summer 2016 fun at KidWorks: Our youngsters artworks tells the story

Hundreds of children and youth had a tremendous summer at KidWorks.  From July 5 through Aug. 12, students in grades kindergarten through 12 participated in “The Island”-themed activities that filled those long summer days while also keeping their minds stimulated so they were “ready to go” when school started again.

Our elementary and middle school students engaged in challenging games, faith-building bible lessons, creative craft making, field trips and other fun activities.

The high school students participated in our Leadership Academy, which for years has helped prepare them for higher education after high school and successful careers.  These students experienced mentoring, company site visits to learn about the work world, character development and service opportunities.

We asked a few of your younger students to create crayon drawings so they can share their summer experience with you.  We hope you enjoy their original artwork!

"Summer is the best; summer is a lot of fun!"

"Summer is the best; summer is a lot of fun!"

"My favorite part of summer was the beach."

"My favorite part of summer was the beach."

"My favorite part of summer was the beach."

"My favorite part of summer was the beach."

"My favorite part of summer was going to the park."

"My favorite part of summer was going to the park."

"My favorite part of summer was eating food! YAY food!"

"My favorite part of summer was eating food! YAY food!"

"My favorite part of summer was playing at the beach."

"My favorite part of summer was playing at the beach."

St. Andrew's Comes to KidWorks for a Serve Day!

Thank you St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church for coming to KidWorks for your Serve Day 2016. KidWorks has been a long time ministry partner of St. Andrew's and on Saturday, September 17th,  many members of their congregation came to our Dan Donahue Center for a Serve Day. 

Volunteers hosted a carnival for our families and participated in reading buddies with our K-5th grade students. Another team of volunteers revamped our storage space to accommodate more instruments for our music program, Avanti. 

Avanti leader, Joe Cristina, led a group of volunteers in working directly with our music students and we ever had a parenting workshop.

Here are some photos from our event! 

Sails Are Up and Our Kids Are Off!

Summer is coming to a close and what a better way to finish it up than learning how to sail! Our KidWorks youth spent a week in Newport Beach learning to sail; they learned more than how to sail a boat. Sailing empowers youth by teaching them skills like teamwork, leadership, communication, and critical thinking in a fast-paced environment. 

Here are some photos of our week on the sea! Big thank you to our instructors for the week, Debbie and Grace. We learned so much from you! 

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. 

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: Melissa Peralta

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!   

The Women of KidWorks: Leticia Rivera


As her four young sons fidget beside her, Leticia Rivera reflects on what it’s like to be a parent while also being an active volunteer in several KidWorks’ programs.

“It’s a process—sometimes difficult and overwhelming—to be a mom,” she says.  “It can also be very difficult on a street like Townsend, where we live.  You avoid the gunshots and gangs.  You know that your sons can be vulnerable, so you keep them very involved in positive ways.”

For Leticia, KidWorks has been one of those positive influences.  And it goes both ways, says Sonia Rios-Guzman, our Parent Engagement Coordinator. 

“Leticia is humble, kind and hard-working,” Sonia says.  “She comes to every meeting of our Parent Advisory Council and Group of Moms, and she’s never missed a single KidWorks parents workshop.  She always wants to better herself.”

All of Leticia’s sons are involved in our programs, including Jose, fifth grade; Angel, second grade; Carlos, first grade and Francisco, kindergarten.

“I’ve always like giving,” Leticia says.  “It’s easy to want to help when I see a need.  How can I expect KidWorks to give to me and my family and then not give back?”

And give back she does!

“For our Myrtle and Townsend Street Resource Fairs, Leticia went door-to-door helping to gather neighborhood signatures giving the city permission to close the streets for the event,” Sonia says.  “No one gathered more signatures than her!”

Leticia is also quite skilled in arts and crafts.  She’s helped make accessories for our graduating students to wear along with their caps and gowns, and even taught mothers how to sew or knit dresses, scarves and hats to add to their personal wardrobe, using the sewing machines available at KidWorks.

Her son Jose is clearly proud of his mom.  “When I see her volunteer at KidWorks, it makes me want to help others,” he says.  Jose is a role model in his own right for his younger brothers as he volunteers assisting our teachers for the after school programs attended by kindergarten, first, and second grade students.

Leticia has also gotten her husband, Francisco, to join our Parent Advisory Council.  Of the 18 members, only two are men, and we hope he will inspire other fathers to join.

“Leticia always goes far beyond what is asked of her,” Sonia says.  “It’s no wonder her four boys—and all of us at KidWorks—look up to her!”

By Glenn Leibowitz, Volunteer Content Writer

The Women of KidWorks: Karina Torres

With three of her six children currently learning how to play a musical instrument, Karina Torres knows the importance of perseverance and determination.

She puts that philosophy to work at KidWorks, where this mom has volunteered for over seven years.

“Like with a musical piece, a plan is only successful if it is well thought out and you work really hard to make it the best it can be,” Karina says.  Then she smiles and adds, “I don’t like to just sit around, and if something needs to get done, I don’t need to be asked; I jump in!”

Sonia Rios-Guzman, our Parent Engagement Coordinator, says Karina is definitely a woman of action.

“Even though it might seem like Karina’s plate is full with six children, she still manages to volunteer and support KidWorks in so many ways,” Sonia says.  “And she does all of this while fully supporting her children in their educations.”

One of the ways Karina helps KidWorks is with our “Love & Music” program for aspiring musicians.  Karina is proud that three of her children are in the program:  Evelyn, 13, and Ashley, eight, who are both learning the violin and Jesse, 10, who is mastering the flute.

Karina volunteers in many other ways at KidWorks.  She is part of our Parent Advisory Council, has helped with neighborhood clean up days and both our Myrtle and Townsend Street Resource fairs.  For the most recent Myrtle Street Fair, she helped make over 150 ham and cheese sandwiches that were given out for free to those from the surrounding neighborhoods who attended.

Karina enrolled her daughter, Evelyn, in our after school programs six years ago when Evelyn was still in elementary school.

“KidWorks is not like other after-school programs, I see it as the best of all,” Karina says.  Then she adds with a grin, “On the very first day Evelyn started at KidWorks, I told her, ‘Get used to it. You are going to be there until you graduate from high school."

Recently, her 10-year-old Jesse gratefully told her, “Mom, you are always around for us.”

“Kids don’t always say it out loud, but it was his way of saying ‘thank you’,” Karina says.

Karina, we also can’t say “thank you” enough for all you do for our students and the community!

By Glenn Leibowtiz, Volunteer Content Writer 

The Women of KidWorks: Maria Velazquez

Editor’s note: We are proud to continue our latest 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! Their humility, perseverance and love touch our students, staff and volunteers each day. This week, we highlight one very special mom!

Raising five daughters quickly teaches a mom or dad how to overcome obstacles and get the job done.  Just ask Maria Velazquez, a 10-year KidWorks volunteer, who puts those parenting skills to excellent use making her community safer.

She’s teamed up with other members of the KidWorks’ Community Parent Council, which consists of parents and community members, who work hard to do good in their Central Santa Ana community.

Two examples show Maria and her team’s positive impact:

Jerome Park is just blocks from our Townsend and Dan Donahue centers.  Several years ago, most of the park lights were either broken or burned out.  Gangs congregated at night, and families like Maria’s didn’t dare go there after dark.  So, she and our Community Parent Council worked with the City Council and Parks and Recreation Department to have new lights installed and maintained.  Now, families feel safer to relax at the park at a later time.

Then there is the dangerous intersection of McFadden Avenue and Raitt Street.  The absence of a left turn light results in collisions between cars and pedestrians.  In fact, a member of our Community Parent Council was hit, but thankfully fully recovered from her injuries.  So Maria and her fellow parent council members worked with city officials to get a left turn light approved.  It took three years but the light is set for installation in September 2016.

Maria has two daughters currently enrolled in our after-school programs, Joselyn, sixth grade, and Crystal, seventh grade (shown in photo).  Maria and her family have lived on Townsend Street for 23 years, and are right across the street from our center there.

When Maria became aware of our programs, she enrolled her then 14-year-old daughter, Andrea (now 28-years-old).

“At the time, the neighborhood was very violent because of the gangs and drugs, and it still suffers in that way,” Maria says.  “Before I enrolled Andrea, I really checked out KidWorks to make sure I felt it was a safe place.”

KidWorks quickly earned Maria’s trust and it wasn’t long before she was volunteering at the Townsend Street Center, cleaning the small apartment where classes were then held.

Since then, Maria has expanded the scope of her volunteer work at KidWorks, serving at both our Townsend and Dan Donahue Centers.

She is instrumental in the pre-planning of both our Myrtle and Townsend Street Resource Fairs, and also helps out on the day of the event by getting the word out into the neighborhood.  She also prepares and sells food at the events, with proceeds going to support KidWorks programs.

“Maria has grown so much from those early days cleaning our center on Townsend,” says Sonia Rios-Guzman, our Parent Engagement Coordinator.  “As part of her efforts to champion for the park lights and safer street intersection, she has spoken before the Santa Ana City Council, Santa Ana Unified School District Board and the Latino Heath Access organization.”

Sonia sums it up this way:  “Maria is a parent for whom giving has no limit!”

By Glenn Leibowitz, Volunteer Content Writer

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

The Women of KidWorks: Monica Contreras

Editor’s note: We are proud to introduce our latest 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! Their humility, perseverance and love touch our students, staff and volunteers each day. This week, we highlight one very special mom!

Over a decade ago, Monica Contreras looked out the living room window of her Santa Ana house and asked herself, “I wonder what they are building across the street where the old tortilla and taco shell factory used to be?”

Soon, she learned that all the hammering and painting would lead up to the opening of KidWorks' main hub, the Dan Donahue Center.

When KidWorks held an open house, Monica stopped by to see what services were being offered.

She soon enrolled her then four-year-old son, Miguel, into the KidWorks preschool program.

Since that first introduction to KidWorks, Monica has been one of our most dedicated and steadfast volunteers. She didn't just enroll her children, she became part of the family, and has worked hard to make her community better from the inside out. 

She began her volunteer duties at our preschool, washing dirty dishes, picking up stray toys, helping the teachers put together learning packets and raising her hand to volunteer for anything else that was asked of her.

Eventually, all of her children enrolled in our preschool program and now continue with our after school program.  That includes, Maria, now in ninth grade, Miguel, sixth grade, and Jimena, first grade.

“At the KidWorks preschool, I really enjoy reading to the kids and helping out with field trips,” Monica says.  “Me, my husband and our kids have received so much from KidWorks, that volunteering for me is a way for me to give back at least as much as we’ve received.”

Monica also serves on our Parent Advisory Council, which is a way the KidWorks’ team receives valuable feedback and ideas about how to continuously improve our programs and services.

She’s also become a resource to other parents seeking advice about raising their children and helping to direct them to available community resources.

“I often say to them, ‘Now that your kids are involved with KidWorks, why not get involved yourselves as volunteers?’” Monica says.

You’d think that all this volunteering would tire a person out.  Not Monica.  She’s also been a longtime member of the KidWorks running club, and now has 16 half marathons to her credit.

Sonia Rios-Guzman, our Parent Engagement Coordinator, says Monica has the perfect temperament to work with the kids and provide leadership on the parent council.

“She’s so good at making others feel comfortable,” Sonia says.  “We love her sense of humor.  During Monica’s more than 10 years as a KidWorks volunteer, she has been able to win many hearts.  She’s definitely a top mom!”

By Glenn Leibowitz, Volunteer Content Writer 

 

A Tale of Two Santa Anas: Lilian Ramirez

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

Growing up, I was probably the last person you’d expect to be standing on a stage in front of hundreds of people, singing solos or playing the guitar.

Back in elementary school I was very shy and reserved.  Except for walking to and from school each day, I pretty much stayed inside our family’s rented house doing my homework, reading books and listening to music.

Today, I’m an 18-year-old graduate of Valley High School in Santa Ana.  This fall, I will begin attending San Francisco State University, where I intend to earn a bachelor of music degree.

Our family--my Dad, Mom, and sisters, Emily, 14 and Ailani, seven, and me--live about one block from KidWorks’ Dan Donahue Center.  I’ve lived there since I was born.

For as long as I can remember, our neighborhood has had a lot of gang violence and poverty.  But that doesn’t mean every kid falls into that trap.

I credit my parents for giving me a strong sense of right and wrong.  “Listen to your inner voice,” my Mom always says.  “That voice will tell you what choice to make.” 

My love of music is probably something I get from my Dad.  From the earliest age, I remember how he introduced me to all his favorite kinds of music—rock, traditional Mexican music and classical.

For the past several years, I’ve been part of KidWorks’ Avanti program, where high school students like me learn from Joe Cristina a professional musician.  We get actual experience in composition, arranging, orchestration and production.

Thanks to Joe and KidWorks, I’ve now sung and played music before live audiences.  Also, each year in high school, I was part of our choir, and last year auditioned and was accepted by the Southern California Vocal Association Honor Choir.

I hope that my professional musical career will include touring the country, singing and playing music.  Yet, no matter where my love of music takes me, I’ll always remember Santa Ana, my city.  I’ll also always be forever grateful to KidWorks’ and the wonderful staff and volunteers who helped me all these years.

By Lilian Ramirez

Living Out Our Mission in Santa Ana

18 corporate groups, nearly 700 volunteers, over 3000 pairs of shoes, and 1 amazing goal. Saturday, May 21, 2016 was an amazing day of partnership in Santa Ana. KidWorks joined forces with Love Santa Ana Initiative and OneOC for a day of beautification projects at Madison Elementary School and beyond! 

 Employees from Disneyland, Pacific Life, and Taco Bell, and other corporations teamed up with local community groups to benefit KidWorks and the community here in central Santa Ana.

Our commitment is to restore at-risk neighborhoods one life at a time ... with the goal of transforming the neighborhood
— David Benavides, KidWorks Executive Director

Take Note: Lilian, 18, Sings On Professionally Produced Music Album

Editor’s note:  This is an update to a previous KidWorks blog story about Avanti, founded in 2012 by KidWorks volunteer Joe Cristina. In Joe, the students learn from a professional musician with 37 years of experience in composition, arranging, orchestration and production. 

KidWorks student Lilian Ramirez might not yet have a GRAMMY award on her shelf, but just give her a little time.

The 18-year-old high school senior recently contributed several vocal tracks to a Latin/jazz/fusion album project being written/produced by Joe and fellow professional musician, Victor Cajiao.

Both Joe and Victor lead Avanti classes at KidWorks that are very popular with our youth.

“Lilian will be on two of the album’s tracks,” Joe says.  “One is an original titled ‘Through the Dark Night / The Lamp.’  It’s a modern lament psalm that has an end section that speaks of hope coming to the neighborhoods in Santa Ana.”

Lilian found the entire process exhilarating.

“The recording experience was phenomenal!” she says.  “It was more difficult than I thought it would be. Getting that perfect sound is tedious but once you pinpoint it, it feels amazing. I felt the adrenaline pumping the entire time.  I never thought I had that energy in me.”

Lilian will begin attending San Francisco State University this fall.

“I want to become a full-fledged musician and earn my Bachelor of Arts degree in music,” she says.  “I also want to become a composer and record music.”

Joe is very encouraged by Lilian’s God-given musical talent.  He also says her participation on the upcoming album is giving her priceless insight about what it’s like to be a professional musician.

“During the session, Lilian sees how we do sound checks, monitor her vocal levels, and keep performing each piece over and over again until we get a take that’s the keeper.”

Joe expects the album he and Victor are producing to eventually be available on iTunes and Amazon.

So, as they say in the music business, “stay tuned”!

 

By Glenn Leibowitz, Community Volunteer and Content Writer 

 

2nd Annual iHeartOC Successful!

Yesterday, at noon, the giving lines for the 2nd Annual iHeartOC Giving Day closed.  We raised an amazing $70,750 (matching amount pending) and ranked 3rd place out of nearly 400 other Orange County based non-profits who participated in the 30 hour giving spree.

Because of the generous support we have received, we will be able to provide nearly 300 KidWorks students with a summer safe haven. Our students will have the opportunity to explore new interests and spread their wings in ways they might not be able to during the school year. This summer, our students will be encouraged and empowered to dream big!  

Our supporters make it possible for us to focus all of our attention on pouring into the lives of kids that need it most, so for that we say thank you! Our deepest gratitude to each and every person that partners with us and calls KidWorks family!