Rachelle Cervantes, Kids First Coordinator at Thunderbird Elementary

Rachelle Cervantes is one of our treasured coordinators at Thunderbird’s afterschool Kids First program, which is part-funded by Cause We Care.
When did you start working with kids?
Starting from an early age I have been involved with working with both children and youth. At the age of 18 I began a teaching assistant position at a local elementary, St. Joseph’s in East Vancouver. I began my involvement in city day camps, beginning with Trout Lake for one summer, and continuing to Killarney for five summers. I grew a passion for working with youth, specifically through my involvement in a leadership youth camp at both Ray-Cam and Killarney Community Centre. Presently I work with Thunderbird Elementary through Kids First, while maintaining a variety of evening youth programs at Ray-Cam Community Centre.
How did you first become involved with CWC?
I first heard about Cause We Care when I was hired as the programmer for Kids First in September 2015. As they have always played a large part in the program’s funding, I’ve since been in communication with them throughout the years to update them on the progression and growth of the children involved and the program itself.
How does CWC help at Thunderbird Elementary?
Cause We Care plays an integral part in supporting the Kids First program at Thunderbird Elementary. As one of the main funders of the program, Cause We Care’s funding enables the program to run on a day-to-day basis. While the program ran from Monday – Thursday in previous years, due to the high demand and needs of the community, the program is now available Monday – Friday. The student’s themselves even petitioned for the additional day! Cause We Care also contributes to the school and community by working together with the school and local Community Centre to hold an annual Christmas dinner in the school gymnasium. The event brings together families from the Kids First program, as well as all the families from the Thunderbird Elementary and the surrounding community.
What have been the biggest changes you've seen in the children who have taken part in the program?
The biggest changes I’ve seen in the children who have taken part in Kids First is an improvement in their general wellbeing. Establishing an inviting, warm environment where they feel comfortable and safe is the central goal of the program. All 30 of the children are referrals by the principal, teachers, youth and family workers and the neighbourhood worker in the school. From Monday – Friday the Kids First schedule is based on a variety of essential themes: homework support, technology information, dance, arts, and cooking. Through this weekly structure the Kids First kids work on a wide range of activities that allow them to balance both work and play in a safe environment with caring staff. Several of the students who struggle with English can practice reading, writing, and speaking with the other students, volunteers, and staff.
How can people help to support the program?
People can help support the Kids First program in a number of ways. High-school students from local high schools such as Van Tech Secondary contribute their time as one-on-one supports for the children. Referred to as their buddies, the kids really do enjoy their company and look to them as role models and even future program leaders. Individuals have also donated art supplies or toys that the children can put to use in program. People can also support the program and programs like it by donating to Cause We Care, aiding in the work they do in programs all over Vancouver. The money goes towards helping to sustain programs like Kids First.