After two years of virtual events, our students were ready to experience the lock-in once again in person.

The lock-in is more than a late night party with friends, it provides meaningful time to focus on students’ spiritual, social and emotional well-being.

“As with the rest of the population, the pandemic has taken a toll on the health of our students, including their mental health,” Cynthia says. “At KidWorks, we strive to give our students spaces where they can ask deep questions about whatever they may be wrestling with, validate those concerns, listen and understand, and value them as the unique individuals they are. The lock-in was such an opportunity.”

A special highlight of the evening was a talk by Benjamin Juarez, a pastor at Newsong Church in Santa Ana.

Pastor Benjamin‘s topic was “God is with us and watches over us.” 

He based his talk on Genesis verse 28:15 in the Bible: “I am with you and will watch over you whenever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

Pastor Benjamin says, “As a former youth pastor and someone who grew up in very similar circumstances as these young people, it’s hard not to come back and encourage students. With all the voices our young people are constantly hearing, it is an honor that they would listen to me. I give them respect and treat them as the brilliant people they are.”

As part of the faith-based aspect of the youth lock-in, the teens created a private prayer room in a KidWorks classroom where they submitted written prayer requests. They also participated in one-on-one prayer time with Newsong team members Charius You and Jason Park.

There was also a mental health panel where students could ask anonymous questions to staff, an MFT, and other local non-profits.

Fun activities at the lock-in included rooms for video games, a spa, sports and art, plus a dance floor featuring an in-person DJ, Eduardo Iniestra (“DJ Kaboom”) from Scape Music Events.

We are grateful to Chick-fil-A for donating 140 delicious sandwiches, enjoyed by students, staff and volunteers. KidWorks staffers Jessica Ellis, Dan Donahue Site Director and Jacky Hernandez, Program Assist/Program Leader, prepared mini corndogs, snow cones and esquites, a popular Mexican corn snack.

KidWorks is also grateful for the KidWorks Youth Leadership Team (YLT), who helped with set-up, decorating and with leading the evening’s events. They were exceptional. 

“YLT began preparing for the Lock-in since December 2021,” says Maria Ruvalcaba, our Youth Leadership Development Coordinator. “Even on days off when afterschool programs weren’t scheduled and during their winter break, the team worked on the posters and decorations.”

Adds Maria, “Despite having small set-backs–such as posters falling, tearing, and having to re-tape them–the youth were smiling with excitement and anticipation for their most beloved event.”

YLT members also received support from youth at our Cedar Evergreen and Townsend centers, along with youth from the Ignite Leadership Program.  

“Ultimately, our goal is to empower youth to believe in their creativity and abilities and see the fruit of their labor showcased in their favorite event,” Maria says.

Another group, the Young Professionals for KidWorks, helped with the breakout sessions and assisted during the entire event.

Bobby Cerda, volunteered for the first time and shared, “ I felt it was a perfect blend of passion and fun! KidWorks volunteers really want to change the lives of these kids while also letting them be kids! Great environment, great people!”

Says, Melissa Ley, the co-president of the Young Professionals network, “The Lock-In is a highlight for our young professionals; it is both exhilarating and exhausting as a volunteer, but I wouldn’t miss it.”

“I am so grateful for the collaborative effort by all departments who came together to support our young students,” Cynthia says.

The 2022 lock-in was surely the key to an evening our students, guests, staff and volunteers will always treasure. 

By Glenn Leibowitz, volunteer writer