KidWorks graduate Cynthia Espinoza is a busy freshman at CSU San Marcos, yet she still finds time in her busy schedule to volunteer and tutor virtually for KidWorks.

Last Fall, Cynthia—our May 2021 Volunteer of the Month—saw an opportunity she just couldn’t pass by.

Cynthia was helping a high school junior struggling with her math assignment during a “virtual” KidWorks’ homework hotline session.

Math is Cynthia’s favorite subject, but she also knows not every student shares her love of numbers.

Cynthia proceeded to assist this student and helped her complete the math assignment, encouraging her to look at math from a more positive perspective

Dianna Valdez
Site Director at our Cedar Evergreen Center.

But Cynthia didn’t stop there.

“After they finished, Cynthia asked her about school and what colleges she was interested in applying to, as well as her overall plan after school,” Dianna says.  “She shared that as a junior, it was time to start thinking about her plans after graduation. Hearing Cynthia encourage another student and help change her perspective about math and college was beautiful to witness.”

Adds Dianna, “Cynthia is the first in her family to go to a university and the first to leave home during a pandemic. Her transition has not been easy but to hear her still be so positive and encouraging to a younger student shows her perseverance and strength. It’s a legacy she’s leaving to other Cedar Evergreen students. She’s showing them that, yes, it’s hard but she is still pushing forward and striving to succeed despite the difficulties. She is showing them that if she can do it, so can they.”

It’s not surprising that Cynthia is able to identify so well with students enrolled in our programs.  That’s because this KidWorks’ alumni was enrolled in our programs from eighth grade until she graduated high school.

Until her freshman year in high school, Cynthia attended our Cedar Evergreen Center.  She’s also been a welcome presence at our Dan Donahue Center since her freshman year in high school when she joined our youth leadership programs and began serving as a volunteer.

As the first person in her family to pursue a university degree, Cynthia credits KidWorks for leading her to that decision.

“I would be lost without KidWorks and the wonderful staff,” Cynthia says. “I would have zero knowledge of college and would have been struggling a lot if it was not for their help not only with homework but emotional wellbeing as well.” 

“At KidWorks we prioritize college readiness,” says Erika Sanchez, our College & Career Manager. “We believe college should be an option for every student and we walk alongside students like Cynthia to ensure that outcome.  KidWorks provides wraparound support services for college students. For example, we provide ongoing support with Free Application for Federal Student Aid and California Dream Act Application.”

Cynthia’s pursuit of higher education aligns with KidWorks College Success Initiative™, which serves students from“Pre-K to B.A.” This represents our 18-year commitment to each student at KidWorks. Because of CSI, our students are on the path not only to graduate from high school—but also to enroll and graduate from college or university and go on to meaningful careers.

“Cynthia is an exceptional leader,” Erika says. “During her time in high school her leadership truly helped transform the Cedar Evergreen Center into a place where leadership is valued. She often led by example. When I would visit the center, she would be there helping younger students with their homework or giving them helpful advice. She always played a role in helping an event take off, or helping students feel welcomed and valued. I admire Cynthia’s tenacity and willingness to work hard. She is extremely committed to what she sets her mind to and by doing so becomes an example to others.”

Before the pandemic, Cynthia volunteered during in-person afterschool programs for kindergarten through fifth grade students, leading dance, plus arts and crafts activities as part of KidWorks University (which are volunteer-led workshops focused on art, science, music, dance, creative writing and more for students in kindergarten through 12th grade). She also helped with prepping the Cedar Evergreen Center for summer activities, and  then led game and crafts sessions. Cynthia was also a speaker at KidWorks’ Noche de Estrellas event in 2020. 

“Cynthia relates to our students on a special level because she was in their shoes as a student herself,” Dianna says. “She knows what it’s like to not have anyone at home that knows how to help you with homework, so giving back is incredibly important to her.”

Cynthia says it best when describing her heart for the student we serve:

“I love helping kids with homework but also like learning more about them. I want to be more than just a person that helps them with homework, I want to build a foundation of trust and really get to know them. I think it’s important to go beyond just helping with homework but really ask them about their day and how they’re really doing.”

Cynthia thanks Dianna, Cedar Evergreen Site Director, for being “an amazing part of my KidWorks journey.”

“Dianna has shaped me to become the person I am today,” Cynthia says. “She has not only helped me be a great student but has also helped me become a great leader. I want our community to be transformed and do my best to show the younger generations that we can make this a better community. This is why I go to KidWorks: to make our community better. I want to see my community transformed and have more kids go to college just like I am right now. KidWorks has still been there for me and I stay connected with them in every way I can.”

That deep connection with our students and staff is why we are so delighted to honor Cynthia Espinoza as our very deserving May “Volunteer of the Month.”

By Glenn Leibowitz, volunteer writer 

We invite high school and college/university students to learn more about how KidWorks can provide you with opportunities to earn service hours, intern and volunteer