“SOLFul helped me realize that I wanted to be a leader”

Summer is so fun!  If you’re a kid… it’s even more fun. Popsicles, long days, mangos with limón and chile, vacation Bible school, and fireworks! It’s also a time for Summer reading challenges at Fullerton Library, day camps and new excursions.  For OC United, having fun in the Valencia Park community looks like bringing kids, teens and parents together to learn, grow and explore at SOLFuL (Summer Of Love Fullerton) day camp.  SOLFul brings the community together to help fill the educational gap for students during the summer. This year, our theme is “Spreading Kindness around the Globe” chosen by a student leader committee.

This is our sixth year running SOLFul and we are looking forward to launching our first ever, Teen Leadership Cohort for high schoolers. The leadership cohort is an opportunity for teens to develop valuable experience as they help make SOLFul 2018 a success. They will have the opportunity to deepen existing friendships and make new ones with other high schoolers participating in SOLFul. They will help lead elementary students (1st-6th grade) in classroom activities, plan and prepare lesson plans, and work alongside and learn from other SOLFul leaders in leadership development classes.

Over the past five years, it has been parents and teens stepping in the gap to met the need for leadership at SOLFul, without them it would be impossible to have a successful SOLFul. One of our talented high school volunteers last year was Alex Tobin of Buena Park High School. Hear in her own words her experience working as the art teacher’s assistant.

I spent most of the time growing up going to summer programs and getting to meet new people that I would never meet in school. Then, later on, I was too old to go to them. I soon forgot all the great times I had with all the new people I met. When I got into high school we were required to do community service to graduate. I slowly started doing community service for school, then for myself. I was recommended from Mrs. Donna Whitman since I worked at United Kids after school (OC United’s after-school program). I was a leader of art and I was also a leader of a small class of up coming first through third graders.

The first week, I was uneasy yet excited to start my new journey with the kids, but I knew if I needed anything the staff were there to give me the information and the reassurance (as well as one of my friends who joined the program with me). Soon after I found it really fun to be with the kids and help the kids out. Sometimes the kids would come to me for help and other times they came to me (during lunch) to play with them. I always found it intriguing what the kids would come up with, and see their creativity with dance and art.

I realized more and more that working with kids was really fun and I wanted to do it more often. At the end of the program I was sad that I couldn’t have fun with the kids anymore. I realized that working with the kids filled some sort of gap that I have been missing for who knows how long. Since it is my junior year of high school I started thinking of what I wanted to do and be when I got out of high school. SOLful helped me realize that I wanted to be a leader. I wanted to help and see kids grow and show them how to be themselves with a creative mind.

SOLful helped me realize that I can be a leader. The program helped me realize that I wanted to study to become a teacher. SOLful helped me get to know the kids better who were going to United Kids after-school program. I loved working with all the staff at SOLful because I know that they care about the kids. Everyone cares about the kids even though some of them might try to get under your skin. I am excited to go back this summer to have fun with everyone again.

This Summer we are trusting God to provide an amazing team of volunteers, young and old, to commit four weeks to standing in the gap for kids in Valencia Park. If you are a teen, a grandma or grandpa, empty nester, retired teacher or a college student on break… please join us in impacting this generation of leaders.

You can be just like Alex. She said that SOLful helped her realize that she “can be a leader”, however we know that she is a leader. Just like Alex, your life will never be the same… your heart will be touched by incredible kids and your summer will be so much FUN!

Learn more and apply at ocunited.org/solful/.

– Alex Tobin & Donna Whitman
United Kids After-School Program and SOLFul at Valencia Park Elementary