By Kevin RiceAfter walking into the Anaheim Family Justice Center (AFJC) and witnessing the laughter and playfulness in of each child, one would never assume that just a short time ago, these children were being physically abused and witnessing violence in their homes.
The mood was joyous last Friday at the graduation ceremony for Kids Creating Change, AFJC Foundation’s Children’s Survivor’s Academy.
Much like its predecessor, the innovative Survivor’s Academy, an eight-week program for women that was founded in 2009, Kids Creating Change is a 20-hour program that provides children of violence the knowledge and skills to shatter the cycle of abuse.
Kids Creating Change covers: conflict resolution/playground bullying; anger management; communication skills; physical health; and, effective family communication (combined parents and children, with breakout sessions).
To accomplish effective learning, the children are grouped into classes of no more than 15 children per age group and provided age appropriate lessons and activities. Juan Gutierrez, 6, and Emily Flores, 7, said that they love to come to Kids Creating Change.
“We did fun things like drawings and Play-Doh,” said Flores.
The graduation ceremony included a certificate presentation to the graduates, words of thanks from the Anaheim Police Department, including Anaheim Police Chief John Welter, a potluck and a special visit from a pair of singers from Anaheim High School.
The students sang “I Won’t Give Up” by Jason Mraz and “Firework” by Katy Perry to the tune of an acoustic guitar.
Welter took the stage once again and thanked the parents for allowing their children to participate in this program, but it was the parents that wanted to thank Welter and the many program leaders.
“Muchas gracias por su tiempo (thank you very much for your time),” said one grateful parent.
“Important work is done here; the kids are so sweet and they love to come,” said Susan Bruegman, retired kindergarten teacher and AFJC Foundation Board of Trustees and volunteer with and co-founder of the Kids Creating Change program, “but the real joy is seeing the parents’ faces as the program progresses.”