Title: Program Lead, Townsend Street Center

Grades: Teaches kindergarten through eighth grade

Time with KidWorks: Since kindergarten as a student; since May 2022 as a team member

Favorite KidWorks memory: Camping in Yosemite as a student

Crystal Velazquez has witnessed a significant part of KidWorks’ 30-year history firsthand.

Our February 2023 “Meet the Teacher” honoree first experienced KidWorks when her mother, Maria, enrolled her in our kindergarten. Maria first became involved in our Parent Advisory Council in the early 2000s.

Crystal attended KidWorks from those early kindergarten days until she graduated from high school. In addition to enjoying a range of our programs, she also served as a volunteer while in middle school during our summer programs, working with the younger children.

Today, Crystal is a Program Lead at our Townsend Street Center. She’s also enrolled in Santa Ana College, majoring in nursing.

Karina Flores, Townsend Street Site Director, says Crystal is the perfect fit to be a program lead.

“What makes Crystal such a great asset to our Townsend Street Center is that she’s a student alumnus along with growing up on Townsend Street her entire life.”

“Crystal has seen firsthand the struggles our students face and has lived in the same environment. Crystal loves to have conversations and connect with the students. She has a very sweet and gentle approach that’s very inviting. She encourages the students and sets high expectations for them.”

 Adds Karina, “Crystal has a deeply personal and relatable way of connecting with our students because she has been in their place. As a college student, she sets an example for her students, showing them that college is an achievable goal regardless of the current struggles in their community.”

 This ability to relate to her Townsend Street students is deeply rooted in Crystal’s own KidWorks experience.

 “I love my job; I love every part of it,” Crystal says. “When I was a KidWorks student, it didn’t feel like an after school program; it felt like my second home. My job doesn’t feel like a job because the kids make me feel at home. I love being around them at the center.”

 Crystal has a clear vision of what she strives to accomplish in her classroom:

“When I’m in the classroom, my focus is helping the students grow mentally, spiritually and as leaders,” she says. “I want them to be the best version of themselves and to do amazing things in life.”

Karina says the fact that Crystal is a true veteran of KidWorks pays big dividends in the classroom.

 “Crystal knows KidWorks’ culture,” Karina says. “She understands the expectations we have for our students and the potential we see in each child.”

 “She personally received love and care from our staff and is therefore able to give that same love and care to students now that she is staff member herself.”

 Crystal is especially grateful to Karina as well as Jessica Ellis, our Dan Donahue Site Director, for walking alongside her all those years as a student at KidWorks, and to Brenda Trujillo Sanchez, our College & Career Manager, who guided her through the college application process and is an ongoing resource as she pursues her degree.

“The Townsend Street Center will always have a special place in my heart because that’s where I grew up with Karina and Jessica,” Crystal says. “I love that I am giving back to this community and the center I once attended at a young age.”

In her spare time, Crystal enjoys spending time with her 18-month-old daughter, Delilah. She’s already planning to enroll her in our state-licensed preschool when her child is old enough. Crystal also enjoys listening to music.

Despite the challenges of growing up in a family that struggled economically and in an underserved community, Crystal demonstrates limitless possibilities to each student she meets.

Crystal is the perfect example of a KidWorks student, alumni and team member who leads by example, with faith and love. We are so glad she is part of KidWorks as we embark on our next 30 years.

By Glenn Leibowitz, volunteer writer

If you would you like to personally say “thanks” to Crystal for the way she is developing our students, please email her at: crystal.velazquez@kidworksoc.org

(Editor’s note: This is the sixth installment in our monthly feature called “Meet the Teacher,” where readers have a chance to know each of our dedicated educators a little better.)