Jesse Torres may be one of KidWorks busiest high school seniors.  In addition to honors classes, he plays varsity lacrosse, serves on his school’s color guard, and is active in KidWorks leadership.

“Jesse maintains the most positive attitude despite being extremely busy and at times exhausted. He’s always fully engaged.” says Clarisa Vargas, our College & Career Readiness Coordinator.  

KidWorks has always been a part of Jesse’s world.  In addition to music programs, Jesse has been involved in after-school programs and youth leadership teams where he has volunteered in the classroom, attended summer camp and advocated for the building of skate parks in Santa Ana. 

“Many of my KidWorks’ experiences—such as playing the flute in front of a crowd during a concert and presenting to elected officials—helped me gain confidence in public speaking and being a leader,” Jesse says.

“I’ve seen Jesse grow into a very caring and confident young man; he is a natural-born leader,” says Maria Ruvalcaba, our Youth Leadership Development Coordinator.

She adds, “His faith and self-confidence have grown over the years. He’s always looking out for others and is not afraid to speak and voice his concerns. He embodies a humble leadership style that is very admirable for someone his age.”

Now that college is on the horizon, Maria, Clarisa, and other KidWorks staff have worked alongside Jesse to help him complete college applications, apply for scholarships, and prepare for college life. 

Jesse plans to major in computer science and has already received several acceptances including Cal Poly and Vanguard University.  

He credits KidWorks with giving him the confidence—and the motivation—to pursue higher education.

“In my elementary and middle school years, I thought college was out of reach because it would be too expensive and also that I didn’t have what it takes,” Jesse says.

All that changed when Jesse attended Campus Crash, visiting UCLA, USC, UC Irvine and others.

“KidWorks opened my eyes that if I tried hard enough, I’d have what it takes to attend college,” Jesse says.

“Math was one subject that was not my strong suit during my elementary school years,” Jesse recalls. 

KidWorks’ tutors helped him gain confidence and proficiency in math, so much so that he’s been enrolled in honors math classes in the areas of algebra and pre-calculus since his sophomore year in high school.

Another big influence is Lance Lew, 26, an incoming medical student and future doctor, who is part of KidWorks’ mentor program.  Like other KidWorks’ mentors, Lance meets with Jesse at least once a month.  But they connect whenever Jesse needs advice.

“The world needs more people like Jesse, who are positive, passionate and kind to the core,” Lance says. “When I sit down with Jesse, I’m immediately in a brighter mood. His strong sense of self and ability to enliven others is inspiring.”

When you support students like Jesse you are making a significant impact on future generations who will be tomorrow’s respected leaders.

By Glenn Leibowitz, volunteer writer