Success Story Archive
Nicole Salimbangon, Virgil Middle School
Trying new things is nothing new to Nicole Salimbangon. She enjoys all subjects at school, has a passion for dance, skillfully plays the guitar, performs Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles” on the piano, and previously played the violin. Currently in the 7th grade, Nicole’s dreams for the future vary from becoming a dancer, musician, or actress to a doctor, physical therapist, or architect. Thus, when offered the chance to further develop new skills and gain new experiences by joining WFIT’s afterschool program, Nicole jumped at the opportunity.
Since becoming a part of A World Fit for Kids in 2010, Nicole has turned her interest in dance into a creative means of expression through her strong commitment to Hip Hop. The hard work Nicole puts into dancing, along with the program’s emphasis on healthy habits and nutrition, has had a definite impact on her behavior. “WFIT changed my daily fitness habits and healthy behaviors by allowing me to build up my stamina, be more active, and build my abs,” Nicole reveals with a smile. “It has been very good for my diabetes, according to my doctor,” she adds.
In 2008 when Nicole was diagnosed with diabetes, she was forced to learn about the significance of healthy living. Since her diagnosis, she has not only become aware of how her physical activity and nutrition helps keep her blood sugar normal after school, but with WFIT she has also developed the confidence and the mindset to share with her family “how to think positively, because it will affect our future goals.”
In WFIT’s afterschool program, Nicole works with devotion in her Hip Hop classes, maintaining straight A’s, keeping a positive attitude, and an open, eager desire to learn. “WFIT has helped me be a more responsible, active, and confident person,” she says.
Mario Flores, WFIT Coach-Mentor, Office Clerk
Mario Flores is an avid sports fan and has always had a passion for helping others in need. He was working as a campus aide at his alma mater Virgil Middle School in Los Angeles, when his friend told him about A World Fit For Kids! (WFIT). After learning more about the organization, Mario decided to apply for a job and was hired as a soccer coach at Virgil. Coaching turned out to be tough for him at first because even though he already knew most of the kids and the basic rules of the game, he really didn't know many successful coaching techniques.
Through WFIT's extensive Mentors in Motion℠ training program, Mario developed and refined his coaching skills and has become a positive adult mentor and role model. Mario knows he's making a real difference in the community by providing his guidance and advice to his students to keep them off the streets after school, when the highest incidences of youth participating in criminal or unsafe activities occur.
After working for WFIT for more than 10 years now, Mario continues to inspire his students to be physically active, eat healthy, and succeed in school, which gives him a real sense of accomplishment. Recently, after his sports teams advanced to the semifinals and district finals he said, "It's awesome to see their faces and hear them talk about it in school when they get their trophies. Some of them have never won a trophy before. It's really rewarding."
Mario's compassion doesn't stop with his kids. His older brother Nelson is currently experiencing kidney failure and has been on dialysis since his first kidney transplant failed six years ago. Mario has been with Nelson every step of the way, taking him to doctor's appointments, dialysis or running errands. Last year, Mario decided to donate a kidney to Nelson and has undergone extensive tests needed before the transplant.
Before the surgery took place, the WFIT team wanted to give the brothers a memorable experience together. They are both huge L.A. Lakers fans, but had never been to a game together. Thanks to the generosity of a few donors who were touched by their story, Mario and Nelson were able go to three Lakers' games together this season. Unfortunately, recent tests show that transplanting Mario's kidney to Nelson would not be successful, so Nelson is currently on a waiting list for a new kidney donor. Despite this news, Mario has remained positive and determined to do whatever it takes to ensure a healthier future for Nelson, himself and the kids he works with at Virgil.
Edgar Morales, Teen Mentors in Motion Alumnus
"A World Fit For Kids! helped me overcome my fears. They helped me shape my personality and be more outgoing."
As a Mentors in Motion (MiM) teen program alumnus, Edgar Morales became involved with A World Fit For Kids! (WFIT) as a sophomore at Santee Education Complex in downtown Los Angeles. At that time, he spoke very little English and his accent made him too uneasy to talk with others or express himself in school.
To improve his language skills, Edgar worked with his WFIT MiM facilitators, Rachael Smith and Martha Cordero. The MiM teen program provided Edgar with healthy behaviors and personal empowerment leadership training which has helped build his personal confidence and skills while he served as a positive role model for younger students and peers.
"It inspired me to see his courage," Rachael said. "I saw a profound effect on him."
Edgar is now a sophomore at California State University, Los Angeles with a double major in civil engineering and international business and a minor in mathematics. He plans to achieve his PhD and work for a civil engineering company before starting one of his own.
Furthermore, Edgar is continuing to pursue his dream to helping others in need. In his last year of high school, he was a tutor with a local nonprofit organization called A Place Called Home. Edgar volunteers to assist with WFIT's Teen MiM trainings and often speaks to students about his own experiences, opportunities and personal and career goals.
Edgar has used the training and support he received from WFIT to become an active healthy behaviors mentor and role model for younger students. Edgar remembers what it was like to be a teen WFIT MiM participant when he speaks to high school students: "I see myself in them. When I train, it feels good – together we create a family."
Giovanni Flores, Belmont High School
"A World Fit For Kids! has changed my way of thinking because I used to believe I would not go to college or even amount to anything," said Giovanni Flores, A World Fit For Kids! (WFIT) participant. "WFIT has taught me to never give up on myself and that there is always a way to success."
Following in his sisters' footsteps, Giovanni joined WFIT to meet new people and obtain some job experience. Little did he know that after only one year in the program, he would consider his work in WFIT's Mentors in Motion Program his biggest success in life—so far.
Inspired by the leadership skills and personal empowerment training he received at WFIT, Giovanni is now making history. He created Belmont High School's first student community program called "The Speakers Series" that brings in motivational and relatable professionals to share their struggles and accomplishments with students. Furthermore, Giovanni received funds from the Hispanic Youth Institute at UCLA to give college scholarships to seniors at his high school through his program.
Giovanni is now utilizing WFIT's training and success strategies and has become a healthy behaviors mentor and role model for his peers and younger kids while creating a bright future for himself. Giovanni is planning to pursue a college degree as either a movie director or a forensic scientist... because thanks to WFIT, Giovanni believes he can create what he wants in the world and the sky is the limit!
Maria Ponce, WFIT Community Health Educator
Growing up in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles, Maria Ponce has always strived to make a difference in her community by keeping a positive attitude and serving as a role model for the less fortunate. After graduating from high school, she decided to pursue her dream to help people by obtaining a degree in Community Health at California State University, Los Angeles. During her studies, Maria began a 6-month internship with A World Fit For Kids! (WFIT).
Her dedication, leadership and diligence lead Maria to a full-time position at WFIT as the Community Health Educator. Maria teaches students to give nutrition demonstration workshops to parents at WFIT Snack Shacks which provide access to affordable, fresh produce for families. Additionally, she trains students from WFIT’s Mentors in Motion program, a comprehensive training and internship program for high school students, to become physical activity and nutrition mentors to assist coaches at WFIT school sites.
During her time at WFIT, Maria has been an integral part in developing WFIT parent workshops where she teaches parents to be smart consumers and shares tips on how to lead healthy, active lifestyles. Her personal struggle with diabetes has motivated her to share the major changes she’s made in her life to become a healthier person to inspire parents to choose healthier habits at home.
“I feel like I am doing something significant in my life,” said Maria. “It’s made me realize it’s important to give back to your community and serve as a role model to many of our kids who do not have a positive role model in their lives.”
Maria’s not only a WFIT staff member, but also a WFIT parent. Her son is currently in the WFIT afterschool program at Norwood Elementary School, which allows her to see the WFIT program from the parents’ perspective so she can relate more directly to the families she serves. Through her involvement in WFIT’s nutrition and physical activity-based workshops and trainings, Maria has contributed to the growing success of WFIT’s life-changing programs for young people in Los Angeles.