She’s greeted by Brenda Trujillo Sanchez, KidWorks’ College and Career Manager.

While the center’s not yet officially open, Brenda welcomes Cece, her laptop in hand, so she can complete coursework before heading off to classes later in the day at Santa Ana College.

As the first in her family to attend college, Cece knows she’s a role model for her three younger brothers, Fabian, eleventh grade; Santiago, eighth grade and Antonio, first grade. All three brothers are enrolled in KidWorks.

The Donahue Center is the perfect place for Cece to focus.

“With three brothers and a busy household, it can get hectic,” Cece says. “At the center, it’s quiet, the technology works and I’m not distracted by temptations, like going to the kitchen for a snack.”

The laptop Cece uses was provided free of charge since her family couldn’t afford one, thanks to a donation from Empty Nesters Unite.

Although she knew from a young age that she wanted to graduate high school and go to college, the path wasn’t always clear-cut.

“KidWorks provided so much encouragement and so many resources to help me achieve the dream of going to college. This encouragement began as soon as I first started attending after school programs in seventh grade,” Cece says.

KidWorks programs that benefit our college-bound high school students like Cece include:

Cece is deeply appreciative that Brenda goes the extra mile not only in helping her with the college application process, but also for her support as she progresses with her college experience.

“The college application process is challenging enough, but it became even more stressful during the pandemic when everything was done online and you couldn’t raise your hand for help on-site from a college counselor,” Cece recalls.

“Brenda assisted me with the application process and in securing financial aid,” Cece says. “She has so many contacts and knew exactly where to find the resources I needed.”

Cece is also grateful to her mentor, Meg Roberts, a KidWorks supporter. “Meg encourages me with texts, phone calls and get-togethers over coffee,” Cece says. “It doesn’t even have to be about school; I can reach out to her for advice about whatever might be going on in my life.”

She also thanks all the staff and volunteers at KidWorks, along with her mom, Camerina, father, Herminio, and siblings.

Cece plans to major in psychology and criminal justice, setting her sights on a career working with incarcerated youth and those in continuation schools. 

Inspired by the staff and volunteers, Cece is also committed to giving back. 

She’s an after-school tutor with our first graders, helps out during Friday Fun Day activities for our younger students and assists with our summer and spring break programs.

Cece has also helped out with KidWorks’-sponsored projects, such as a Newport Beach clean-up. It was one of the first times she’d been to the beach and even got to splash around in the surf once the project was done.

In her spare time, Cece enjoys baking (one favorite is chocolate chip cookies with almonds), volleyball and basketball.

KidWorks is very proud of students like Cece, who have a clear vision about their academic and career journeys. Cece shows that with the right help and encouragement, the possibilities are unlimited.

By Glenn Leibowitz, volunteer writer