This senior at Chapman University has been a vital and inspiring volunteer during our online programs for students during the pandemic.   

Pilar signed up as a KidWorks volunteer in January 2021 as part of a class research project; her timing was perfect as our programs for students were being conducted on a “virtual” basis.

“Zoom can be a difficult environment to engage students, especially for long periods of time,” Pilar acknowledges. “I use icebreakers to get everything started off in a positive and welcoming way. I view the icebreakers as mini lessons because they have allowed me to get to know the students and form connections with them.”

Adds Pilar, “One game that I introduced was the ‘Unpopular Opinion’ game where students had their cameras turned off and they were to turn them back on if they agreed with the statements I announced. Some of the statements were, ‘Fall is the best season,’ or ‘Soul is the best Pixar film.’ I used icebreakers that were entertaining because they pushed students to be active and participate.”

 To overcome Zoom fatigue, Pilar is quite resourceful.

“We played an online Pictionary game called and BASTA, a Spanish-language educational game,” she says. “We also completed several personality tests that the students really enjoyed doing. They love learning new things about themselves and my goal is to support this development.” 

The KidWorks’ team is very grateful for the significant positive impact Pilar has had even though it’s only been a few short months since she’s been part of our journey.

“Pilar was such a blessing in my online classrooms,” says Cynthia Gomez, our Youth Lead. “From the get-go, she brought so much energy and positivity, always sharing words of encouragement.”

Adds Cynthia, “In addition to class time, she supported me by making weekly phone calls to parents and students; that is a tangible reason why more students started showing up to online programs. She also volunteered for Youth Nights and Campus Crash and was instrumental in the planning, creating and leading breakout rooms. Overall, Pilar’s hard work, positivity, and energy created more successful programs. Pilar is such a gem!”

Gerardo Magaña, our Senior Director of Volunteer and Leadership Resources, agrees. “Pilar’s impact as a volunteer has been so refreshing and encouraging. She’s a hard worker and comes in with contagious energy and positivity that is not easy to carry over via computer screens.”

During her time as a volunteer, Pilar has mentored grades 11 and 12 graders, plus middle school students during Campus Crash, which introduces high school students to college and universities, and the Youth Lock-in, a night of fun and fellowship.

Pilar is an enthusiastic advocate for Campus Crash. 

“Campus Crash provides the narrative that students from any cultural background, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or any identity are capable of going to college,” she says. “During the online sessions, we heard from speakers who are KidWorks’ alumni and they shared how they got to college. I believe Campus Crash inspires students to strive to achieve their goals and never give up.

“During the virtual Youth Lock-in early this year, I led an ‘Among Us’ game room,” Pilar adds. “The students were happy to see a college student like myself playing video games with them on a Friday night and having fun. Youth nights create a safe space where students are not bound by the academic responsibilities and schoolwork they face in their daily life. Youth Nights are a time where students can socialize and interact with a familiar environment that is close to home and that is reflective of their culture.”

Pilar shares, “I also helped organize the Friendentines Youth Night in February by contributing my ideas on what items could be included in the students’ kits. I created a list on Amazon to support Ms. Cynthia so that she could choose any items she found to be useful; these items included girls scrunchies, lip balm and face masks; I found art supplies and mini easels for crafts.”

Pilar supports our shared intent to fully involve the parents of our students in all we do. To support this goal, she’s made numerous phone calls to moms and dads.

Her calls serve to remind their parents to invite their students to log on to Zoom and to keep parents up to date with any new updates or upcoming programs/events. She also reaches out to parents so KidWorks is updated on their children’s graduation plans. 

“I loved making the phone calls to parents because 99% of the contacts were mothers who spoke Spanish and I was thrilled to be able to communicate and be real with them because I am an insider in the Santa Ana community and I speak Spanish fluently,” Pilar says. “They definitely prompted their children to attend programs because I noticed that some students would log on after I finished making the calls. Many parents let me know that they appreciate my concern for their children and the information that I provide to them. I always send them Zoom links and any flyers for upcoming events because I know it can be difficult for their children to let them know of any activities they are involved in.”

At Chapman University, Pilar is majoring in political science and integrated educational studies.

“I intend to apply for a Fulbright Scholarship so that I might further my research in Latin American countries, obtain an internship abroad or teach English overseas,” Pilar says. “I hope to study for the LSATs while abroad and apply to law schools in California. I also hope to work on creating kindergarten through 12th grade curriculum for the Santa Ana Unified School District.”

Asked what she would say to high school and college students considering volunteering at KidWorks, Pilar doesn’t hesitate to share her encouragement: 

“Always say ‘yes,’” she says. “Be a ‘yes’ person. You never know who you might meet along the way or what connections can be available to you.”

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

Pilar is a well-traveled young woman.  

“I love to travel,” she says, “I’ve visited Spain, Amsterdam, Italy, Portugal, Morocco, London, Germany, Poland, Austria, the Czech Republic and definitely Mexico.” 

The journey we are most grateful for is the one Pilar is taking alongside each student who benefits in countless ways from her deep compassion and commitment to their futures.

By Glenn Leibowitz, volunteer writer