COVID-19 forced our annual lock-in to be held virtual, however, this new format allowed staff to creatively reimagine the event to include fun and meaningful activities focused around social and emotional well-being.

The event’s theme, “Finding Light in Darkness” resonated deeply with both students and staff. Like in previous years, the lock-in included lots of fun with not a lot of sleep.

“Anxiety and depression have definitely been on the rise and some KidWorks students are experiencing fatigue while others are becoming more frustrated,” says Cynthia Gomez, Youth Lead, After School Programs, who conceptualized and managed the event with Rachel Cervantes, Program Leader at our Dan Donahue Center, who also oversees KidWorks University workshops.  

“Students may feel that COVID is robbing them of traditional school functions, activities and experiences that they were looking forward to enjoying,” Cynthia adds. “The Lock-in provided several mental health activities that focused on essential coping tools. Students learned about self-awareness and the importance of identifying one’s emotions and thoughts, plus how to connect with people they trust so they are not so isolated.”

All of the virtual activities included a social and emotional well-being component. Dance parties and workouts encouraged students to move their body and spa time and manicures encouraged students to love the skin they’re in. Tie-dying shirts, playing games and laughing with friends were equally as important for our students to laugh and make memories with their friends.

Several meaningful discussions were held about the power of connecting with people during COVID. Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Libni Cortez, shared with students tools to help navigate their emotions.

Libni also answered questions submitted anonymously by our students that touched on some of their most pressing challenges during the pandemic.  Stress balls and fidget spinners were provided to students thanks to our friends at Cal Optima.

 John 8:12 and the “Lock-in: Finding Light in the darkness” theme was perfect for the 2021 event.

“We shared the verse in the beginning of the event and Libni ended her speaking portion with additional Bible verses,” Cynthia says. “She also reminded our students that they can always pray to God and read the Bible because there are so many verses that give hope and encourage friendship.” 

Cesar Ledesma, a KidWorks’ Program Leader, led a body scanning session, described as a way to “listen” to one’s body and then use meditation and other techniques to cope and relieve stress.

Another creative way for the students to get in touch with their feelings was an exercise during which they picked words/phrases that describe what they felt in 2020. At the end of the night, some of the words/phrases listed were:

At the end of the night after all the activities, students identified meaningful words for 2021 describing their hope for the coming year.

KidWorks thanks the many volunteers, supporters and staff who made the event possible through time, talent and resources, including:

The Lock-in provided a springboard for future social and emotional well-being discussions and activities at KidWorks.

“KidWorks’ programs will continue to focus on self-awareness and self-management as a way of providing students with coping skills,” Cynthia says. “These will be taught along with leadership lessons. Self-awareness and self-management let students realize they have more control during the pandemic than they realize.”

The KidWorks’ team is already dreaming and planning for the 2022 lock-in.

 “We’re excited about the 2022 lock-in event and optimistic about the possibility to once again have our traditional in-person all-nighter with no sleep, but endless fun and inspiration,” Cynthia says.

By Glenn Leibowitz, volunteer writer

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”  John 8:12