For someone who once professed to “dread” running during her high school physical education classes, KidWorks alumni Fritzi Valladares has learned to fully embrace one of KidWorks life lessons: “Welcome new experiences.”

In February, Fritzi ran the 2023 Surf City Half Marathon in Huntington Beach. She’s currently training for the Orange County Half Marathon in May.

This former KidWorks student first experienced the joy of running as an early member of the KidWorks running club, formed in 2013 (although currently not active).

Fritzi was in high school at the time and had been attending KidWorks since fourth grade. She stayed enrolled in our programs through high school. We helped her pursue a college career as the first in her family to do so.

Today, as KidWorks celebrates our 30th anniversary, Fritzi is another example of a successful KidWorks student alumnus who has gone on to a successful career.

Fritzi is a program supervisor within the intensive services department at Olive Crest, a non-profit dedicated to preventing child abuse. With the encouragement of KidWorks staff, she graduated from Azusa Pacific University in 2016 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in social work and in 2018 with a master’s degree in social work from the university.

On occasion, she’s returned to KidWorks during alumni gatherings and last spring she spoke to our high school students during a career day event.

Fritzi is a perfect example of someone who reflects KidWorks’ core values: Belief, hope, perseverance, confidence and impact.

Fritzi says her time at KidWorks—including as a member of the running club —taught her life lessons she carries with her to this day.

“KidWorks taught me the importance of being confident and knowing that I could accomplish anything that I set my mind to,” Fritzi says.

She adds, “I was able to set the goal of running this February’s half-marathon after almost 10 years since running my last half-marathon. This showed me that I could accomplish any goal I set my mind to.”

Julie Herrick was active in KidWorks beginning in 2001 and was a coach/leader involved with the KidWorks running club in 2013. She’s now an administrator at the Connected Learning Lab at the University of California, Irvine.

“I’ve personally experienced how powerful it is to set a big, challenging goal and then reach it through hard work, over time,” Julie says. “I remember Fritzi as an active part of our group and being impressed with her and the other runners’ perseverance and positive attitudes, even as the runs got longer and harder.”

Julie was excited to learn about Fritzi’s successful completion of the Surf City Half Marathon:

“Fritzi, congratulations on 10 years and another half-marathon!” Julie says. “What an accomplishment and a great way to celebrate that milestone!”

Fritzi offers her thanks to Julie and the other running club coaches/leaders for the lessons the experience brought to her life: “It was a great and life-changing experience. It made me fall in love with running, and to continue to run.”

The Bruce Springsteen song, “Born to Run” isn’t about Fritzi, yet it’s an apt description of the many KidWorks experiences that have so positively shaped her life.

By Glenn Leibowitz, volunteer writer