While frequently donating items to the Orange County Rescue Mission, Nikka Shahrokni and a group of her Arnold O. Beckman High classmates noticed much of its programming for homeless youth lacked peer involvement.
They decided they could help and founded the nonprofit Kreative Kiddos in January 2020. There, Shahrokni and the other volunteers teach STEAM-driven activities — which encompasses science, technology, engineering, arts and math — to children at the Rescue Mission, a nonprofit helping individuals and families experiencing homelessness with shelter and other basic needs.
“We understand that these students were displaced, and we really wanted to provide not only scientific material but also peer mentors,” said Shahrokni, who lives in Tustin.
Shahrokni, 18, primarily works with kindergarten students, walking them through experiments and explaining the science behind them. They try to make the STEAM activities fun for the kids, including doing themed activities during the holidays such as involving cranberry sauce for a Thanksgiving-time experiment.
“We would close off with a sweet treat at the end and hope to see them the next time,” she said.
And the response, she said, was a “light-hearted happiness,” especially as some of the kids did not have other mentors previously.
Last year, Shahrokni watched “The Weight of the Nation” documentary, where producers looked at obesity and how it affects individuals as well as health systems in the U.S. It left such a profound impact on her that she has decided to pursue a career in public health.
A primary problem she hopes to tackle within the public health space is food deserts, or the lack of access to fresh and nutritious foods. With disfigured produce often thrown away, Shahrokni hopes to find a way to redistribute it to eliminate food deserts.
The documentary “really put into perspective the lack of access to nutritional and exercise facilities for a lot of underserved regions across America,” Shahrokni said.
The documentary also showed Shahrokni “there was a lot of planning and interpersonal relationship skills” that go into creating public health programs to address the obesity epidemic. In the future, Shahrokni said she would like to connect with community members on a one-on-one basis to get to the crux of why they suffer from obesity, “whether it was a lack of nutrition or a lack of public exercise facilities.”
Working at Kreative Kiddos as its chief financial officer helped her gain these skills.
Shahrokni said she learned how to network, and it gave her invaluable experience in large-scale management and how to efficiently manage donated supplies.
Shahrokni and her Kreative Kiddos co-founders graduated high school this year and are headed in different directions for university. She is UC Irvine bound to pursue an undergraduate degree in public health sciences with five scholarships under her belt, including the Claes Nobel Future Female Leader Scholarship by the National Society of High School Scholars. Of the 750 applicants for the scholarship, Shahrokni was one of the 15 students selected.
Since she is staying local, Shahrokni still hopes to be involved with the nonprofit.
Graduate made her mark advocating for changes at CSUF
LGBTQ+ organizations and allies attend OC Board of Education meeting to demand change
Southern California school board meetings now political battlegrounds
Titan Voices: Pursuit of Middle East peace is never a wasted endeavor
AltaSea in San Pedro vows to forge the world’s largest ocean tech hub