Heroes of Orange County: Therapeutic Arts Center Inspires Those in Need


Ana Jimenez-Hami. Photo credit: Mariah Tauger

Here’s to the best among us—those who overcome great challenges, plunge headfirst
into danger, and fight the good fight. They’re selfless. They’re courageous. Simply put, they make our world a better place.

 

Ana Jimenez-Hami makes a difference with her Orange County Children’s Therapeutic Arts Center in Santa Ana.

Created in 2000, the center offers arts enrichment to children with special needs as well as at-risk youth and adults in the community. It also provides free family counseling, tutoring, career development, and homework help.

Jimenez-Hami is a passionate advocate for the power of the arts. She nearly bubbles over with pride when talking about alums such as Martha Rivera, who came to the center when she was 11 to learn the piano, blossomed into a talented musician and serious student, and recently received her master’s degree in education from Harvard University.

“Art is much more powerful than people realize,” Jimenez-Hami says. “It has the power to impact a child academically, emotionally, and socially. For special-needs children, it’s even more transformational. It gives them a voice, which is very empowering.”

Her educational background is uniquely suited for her work with the center; she holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in psychology and music, and a doctorate in education. She was studying for the latter when she learned that her parents had been killed in her native Puerto Rico during a robbery at their jewelry store.

She founded the center to honor their memory, she says, because they frequently donated food, clothing, and toys to children from low-income families, especially those with special needs, and taught her to do the same.

Now, when she sees a smile light up the face of a boy who’s playing the violin with his prosthetic arm for the first time, she knows her parents are proud.
“They may not be physically here,” she says. “But my parents inspire me every day.”

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