A dozen years ago, Omar Salazar’s mother, Maria, learned about KidWorks from a family friend in their central Santa Ana neighborhood. Soon afterward, Omar was enrolled as a KidWorks preschool student.

Fast-forward to 2021 and Omar—now a junior at Mater Dei High School—arrives every Monday and Tuesday afternoon at our Dan Donahue Center to tutor students during after school programs. He also helps with clean up after each session. Omar has also assisted with KidWorks University, our volunteer-led workshops that focus on art, science, music, dance, creative writing and more. 

Omar has also provided childcare for our youngest students when parents are at the center attending meetings. He especially enjoys this experience. “I help take care of the kids and keep them entertained. I enjoy seeing their smiles each time we play a board game or just be there so they have someone play with.”

Here’s how Vanessa Sedano, our Volunteer Coordinator, describes our October 2021 Volunteer of the Month:

“Omar is such a lovely student who is caring and kind to his peers and staff. He arrives a shift early to work on his own homework before he starts to volunteer. Omar never hesitates to say, ‘yes’ or ‘is there anything I can do to help?’”

Adds Vanessa, “Omar’s dedication to KidWorks is outstanding. The first week we returned to on-site programs, Omar stopped by our volunteer center to say he would like to volunteer twice a week. We love having him as part of our team and it’s so special to see his willingness to give back to his community.” 

Omar has been a KidWorks after school programs volunteer since 2020 and was back in the classroom as soon as in-person programs resumed in mid-August. In addition to homework help, Omar is at-the-ready for our teachers whenever they need him. He assists with classroom management, passes out school supplies and makes sure they are properly stored and ready for the next group of students.

“Recently I’ve worked with multiple grades but mainly with third and fifth grade,” Omar says. “I think what makes them stand out is that they’re very open with the volunteers and always show their appreciation. Their smiles and laughter are very contagious and can turn any day into a great one.”

“My style as a volunteer is kind, trustful and easygoing,” he says. “I try to make students feel as comfortable as possible and I always make sure to offer words of encouragement when I see them struggling; when they finally figure it out, I make sure to congratulate them.”

Adds Omar, “As a student myself, I can relate to them. I’ve been where they currently are and I see myself in them. I do consider myself a role model. I tell them that I came to KidWorks as a little kid and that they can be someone great; their eyes just shine bright and glisten.”

“Omar takes his role as volunteer very seriously,” says Rachel Cervantes, our Arts Coordinator. “He gives his best to each student and takes his time explaining and leading students through their homework.”

Adds Rachel,  “Omar is always reliable and dependable. He has helped with little projects in my room, such as displaying student work on the wall and printing out class material. Omar’s style is a volunteer who values creating a safe space for the student to ask for help. I believe this comes from him being a KidWorks student himself, which gives him great insight to what he thinks the students need to feel supported.”

“Omar has helped me during KidWorks University sessions with my third-graders,” says Alyssa Saucedo, KidWorks Program Associate . “He’s very hands-on during these sessions, making sure everyone understands to the best of his or her abilities. He has been reliable and dependable. I always trust that he will get done what is asked of him.”

Omar has big dreams for his future. After graduating high school, he plans to attend either Stanford University or the University of California, Irvine. His career goal is to be a licensed physical therapist, working for a professional soccer team as part of a sport that he loves to play and watch.

“KidWorks students are always so energetic and there is never a dull moment with them,” Omar says. “They always manage to make my day even if it’s not going too well. They are so kind and make me feel very appreciated.”

Our students feel the same way about you, too, Omar!

By Glenn Leibowitz, volunteer writer