Month: June 2015

Jun 20

High School Graduate Success Story

Brianna Audinett is a former student of School on Wheels. We met Brianna back in 2008 when she was chosen to represent School on Wheels students in Sweden at the World Children’s Prize for the Rights of a Child ceremony. Agnes Steven, Founder of School on Wheels, had been nominated for this award. This May Brianna graduated from high school, and we caught up with her to find out what she is up to and how School on Wheels has impacted her life.We asked Brianna these questions and here are her responses:

What was your best memory of representing School on Wheels at the prize ceremony in Sweden?

It was all wonderful. But I do remember the plane ride in particular because it was my first time on a plane. Spending time with Catherine, her husband Al, Agnes and Mr. Matt, who was one of my favorite tutors, was also wonderful. When I was in Sweden I felt so much love surrounded by people who loved me. I went back to Sweden six times as a jury member and made many great friends there. We stay in touch via Facebook and emails.

You spent a lot of time with Agnes; what is your best memory of her?

Agnes listened to me and took me seriously. She was candid and sweet and always asked, “What do you need me to do for you?’ Agnes was interested in my education and well-being, and that made me feel great. Knowing that someone, other than your mom, is invested in you is a good feeling. I am kinda indebted to Agnes because she affected me greatly, and I miss her.

What was it like to live in a homeless shelter?

The thing about living in a shelter that upset me the most was the atmosphere. It just destroyed me. Children have to grow up really fast when they are living in a shelter, and the shelter we were living in didn’t cater to children or our childhood. We had to be quiet and sit there and take it!

Do you have a message for our current students?

Yes, the one thing they must do is have hope and self-reliance. You kinda have to maintain your sanity and focus on the people that love you and uplift them too. When you do that, it reflects back… you have to have some degree of faith in yourself to pick yourself up.

Brianna is looking forward to attending college in the fall but she was unable to go to her first university choice due to financial constraints. Going to college, she says, will give her a chance of stability and she wants to be able to sustain herself academically. We know you will get there, Brianna.

Brianna and her mom have been living in permanent housing for a number of years.


Jun 11

Guinness World Record Challenge

Saturday, June 27th, 2015

Do you want to be a world record breaker? Do you want to help homeless kids? Join us as we set the Guinness World Record for the “largest gathering of people dressed as Albert Einstein.” The event will take place at the California Science Center on Saturday June 27th at 9:30-10:30am. We will be raising money to provide academic resources to homeless students, advocating and raising awareness for homeless youth, and setting a world record all at the same time!

We will award prizes for the best kid’s and adult’s costumes. The costume must consist of a white or gray wig, matching mustache, blazer, necktie, and dress pants. The wig and mustache will be provided, or you can bring or grow your own! The blazer, necktie, and dress pants will not be provided, so please wear your own.


For more information, contact Sinead Chilton at or visit our Facebook event page.

Jun 1

June 2015 Newsletter

“The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.” – B.B. King

It’s June and for most teenagers, that means getting ready for prom, graduation ceremonies, a summer of celebration. And for seniors, it means all the anticipation and excitement in preparing for the start of college. It’s not like that for the homeless high school student. For them, there is no SAT exam, no prom, no summer fun. The high school graduation rate for homeless children in California is less than 25%. There are many pressing issues facing our nation, but surely preparing young people for success in life is one of the most critical. Education is the fastest path out of poverty — the only way to achieve a more equal society. That’s why we do what we do.

We work with thousands of children and teens. In this issue, you will read about the success of some of our homeless students; students who, against all odds, find the power within themselves to continue each day, to study and keep focused on learning. They are truly inspirational.

Brianna Audinett, a former School on Wheels student, has not only excelled in school; now she is heading to San Francisco State University. She also represented School on Wheels and homeless children as a member of the World’s Children’s Prize Child Jury. The Child Jury consists of 15 children from all over the world who select the three final laureates for the World’s Children’s Prize.

School on Wheels gives hope and opportunity to graduating seniors through the Catherine McAuley Scholarship Fund. Josephine Bailey-McLein received one of our scholarship awards; she is heading to USC this fall. Allan Valencia, Emily Valencia, and Tatiana Obukhova also received scholarships.

Our wish is to plant the seeds of hope, confidence and knowledge in our students. You, our amazing supporters, help us do that.

With deep appreciation for everything you do,

Catherine signature
Catherine Meek
Executive Director

Click here to see more from our June Newsletter

Jun 1

Students of the Month – June 2015

Rayvon, School on Wheels Student of the Month

Skid Row Learning Center

LeAna, School on Wheels Student of the Month

LeAna, 8th grade. LeAna arrives at the Skid Row Learning Center every day with her headphones in her ears and a dance in her step. A big fan of dancing, LeAna works hard to be a positive role model to her little brother as well as to the other kids at the center. On multiple occasions she has helped tutor kindergarteners, completed administrative tasks, assisted with snack and still had the energy to supervise her brother on the commute to the shelter. She ensures that he safely gets on the bus and they make it to dinner in time. After a long day of commuting on the bus, multiple classes, after school tutoring, helping tutors at the center, and helping with her sibling, I can rely on LeAna to offer a warm hug and a big smile as she walks out the door.

Allison Maldonado, Skid Row Learning Center Instructor

Region 2 – South Los Angeles, Compton, Lynwood, Inglewood, Watts, Gardena, Torrance

Star, School on Wheels Student of the Month

Star, 10th Grade. When I first met Star she seemed a little shy and nervous. During the past few months, I have been able to watch Star come out of her shell and become a fun, interactive people to talk with. She has a sense of humor that always makes me laugh. From working through the more challenging math problems to reading, she maintains a positive attitude. She inspires me to keep an optimistic outlook on everything I do in life. As Star continues on her path of education, I hope that she continues to grow as she has over the past few months and that all of her dreams come true.

Rejoyce Green, Tutor

Region 4 – Long Beach, San Pedro, South Bay Cities, Carson, Bellflower, Lakewood, Norwalk

Rayvon, School on Wheels Student of the Month

Rayvon, 6th Grade. In October Rayvon had many new experiences: a new home, a new school district, starting middle school and his first tutor. Rayvon is a bright, well spoken, and friendly 12-year old with a winning smile and a winning attitude. At school Rayvon learned the school routine, made friends, enjoyed art class and worked on improving his personal best running time. At home he learned about keeping a schedule and fulfilling his responsibilities. He also had a specific academic goal for tutoring. He learned to be on time and ready to learn with his tutor every week. He worked hard and tracked his progress. In March that first goal was achieved. Way to go, Rayvon! Now these lessons can be applied to many future subjects.

Deborah Chankin, Tutor

Region 5 – Echo Park, Hollywood, Highland Park, Silverlake, Mid-City

Viviane, School on Wheels Student of the Month

Viviane, 11th Grade. Viviane has made enormous strides from the day we first met. She comes prepared and on-time for our study sessions. She has improved her grades from D’s and F’s to all A’s and B’s on her most recent report card. She completes her school work on the days we do not meet and is making a lot of progress in all subjects. Now that the school year has ended, Viviane has expressed interest in her future career, one in which she wants to help others. I am excited by what the future has in store for her.

Akina Lantow, Tutor

Region 7 – Canoga Park, North Hills, North Hollywood, Sylmar, Glendale, Van Nuys, Sun Valley

Hailey, School on Wheels Student of the Month

Hailey, 5th Grade. Hailey is currently in the 5th grade and is probably one of the most unique kids you will ever meet. She’s a part of the chorus at her school, enjoys reading books and is in love with the movie Frozen. Whenever she finishes her homework early, she loves to look up images of Queen Elsa, a character in Frozen, and shows me her favorites. Hailey hasn’t decided exactly what she wishes to be when she grows up but her choices are either a teacher, an aerospace engineer, or an artist. She is one of the smartest kids I have ever met. She has a vast imagination that allows her to think so creatively about everything. Hailey is a great listener and an outstanding student. I honestly can’t imagine tutoring anyone else!

Samantha Montes De Oca, Tutor

Region 8 – Ventura, Oxnard, Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley

Marleth, School on Wheels Students of the Month

Marleth, 5th Grade. Marleth has been a joy to teach. She is eager to learn and very cooperative, something teachers hope for in their students. Her writing teacher indicated that she is very bright and on grade level despite having moved here from Mexico only four months ago. We have been working on phonics and constructing both oral and written sentences. Marleth has good observation skills and an above average ability to focus. She also has a good sense of humor, and plays the jokester occasionally. I suspect she will soar academically once she becomes proficient in English. I feel honored to be able to play a small part in Marleth’s educational process.

Ann Klein, Tutor

Region 10 – Costa Mesa, Santa Ana, Huntington Beach, Tustin, Irvine, Lake Forest, Fountain Valley, Westminster

Erick, School on Wheels Students of the Month

Erick, 6th grade. Once Erick had a math assignment that I couldn’t explain to him. The problems were simple, how to convert fractions into decimals into percentages, but I wasn’t prepared that he had no understanding of fractions. When I realized this, it stumped me. I had learned fractions so long ago that I didn’t know how to explain them or even where to start. So we began to work on it together, breaking the parts into little sections. After a few sessions he was able to solve the problems. I was so excited by what he learned that I couldn’t stop smiling the rest of the session.

The drawing is something Erick’s little sister drew. Apparently I’m the middle one with the big ears and Erick is the one on the right.

Eric Chang, Tutor

Online Tutoring

Hannah, School on Wheels Student of the Month

Hannah, 11th Grade. Seeing my student prosper during our online tutoring sessions makes it all worth it. When I began tutoring her, Hannah was barely able to set up a problem on the CAHSEE practice exam. I noticed that after a few weeks of tutoring she started to approach the problems on her own and began to do more and more each week. Our tutoring sessions turned from weekly to biweekly lessons that dramatically enhanced her understanding of math and sparked her passion for learning. I asked her whether she was considering college as an option. At first told me, “No, it’s too hard,” but after spending time with her, her views have greatly changed and she’s more confident with herself.

In Hannah’s own words:

Catherine is a great teacher and she has a way of making me feel comfortable asking questions about math. I feel more confident in my math abilities and in going to college. Thanks Catherine!

Catherine Santizo, Tutor

Jun 1

Tutors of the Month – June 2015

Samantha Montes De Oca, Tutor of the Month
Samantha Montes De Oca, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

Region 7 – San Fernando Valley

Samantha Montes De Oca, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

– Samantha Montes De Oca. I am 17 years old and currently a high school senior. One day I was searching different volunteer opportunities in my community when I stumbled upon the School on Wheels website. I knew right away that being a tutor for a homeless child was something I really wanted to do. Now that I am tutoring, my student Hailey and I meet every Wednesday; honestly, it’s always the highlight of my day. Before we get started on homework, we always take a moment to talk about her day. I’ve enjoyed not only being Hailey’s tutor, but also her friend and someone she can count on. Becoming a tutor for School on Wheels was the best decision I ever made.

Thank you, Samantha, for being such an amazing tutor and a consistent person in Hailey’s life. Hailey says it best with the following statement, “Samantha has taught me so much about everything, like how to think about an answer before I choose it. She is so nice, she’s the best!”

Brianna Grothe, Regional Coordinator

Skid Row Learning Center

Katrina Jiang, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

– Katrina Jiang. On my first day of volunteering, I came in bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, yet slightly doubtful of my ability to manage an army of children. To my surprise with each passing day, I grew more comfortable working with the children and, even, with letting my guard down around them. Now I supervise the Digital Learning Center with my middle-school sidekicks as we scurry around the DLC facilitating learning through online educational programs. Having worked with the organization for about two months, I’ve developed greater patience, compassion, and understanding not only for the children but also for myself. School on Wheels has been as important to me as it has been to the children I tutor. I share with them my hobbies, my academic interests, and my passions in life. I’ve come to know them better as individuals when they, in turn, open up to me. Interacting with them every day at School on Wheels has given me a sense of belonging; after all, like them, I’m still a kid at heart.

Allison Maldonado, Skid Row Learning Center Instructor

Region 2 – South Los Angeles, Compton, Lynwood, Inglewood, Watts, Gardena, Torrance

Rejoyce Green, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

– Rejoyce Green. Rejoyce is an amazing tutor. She has been volunteering for four years along with her UCLA group. Rejoyce coordinates college tours and field trips for a group home for teen girls, where she currently tutors. She is always coming up with creative ideas to keep her students encouraged and engaged. Rejoyce has been a wonderful asset to School on Wheels.

Tutoring with School On Wheels has truly been one of the best tutoring experiences I have had. I have always valued my teachers and mentors; the idea that I could be that person for someone else is highly rewarding. As a tutor, I think I have also learned more about myself and how I can help others feel confident in their understanding of a particular topic. I look forward to Wednesday afternoons when we get to work with the students. Being able to watch them mature as individuals and grow in their knowledge of a particular topic is a heartwarming experience.

Kenisha Edwards, Regional Coordinator

Region 4 – Long Beach, San Pedro, South Bay Cities, Carson, Bellflower, Lakewood, Norwalk

Deborah Chankin, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

– Deborah Chankin. When I retired last year, one of my goals was to volunteer in my community. I learned about School on Wheels from and then saw the PBS NewsHour piece. I have always been drawn to groups that take a pragmatic approach to complex issues. School on Wheels’ tutoring model does exactly that. As a city government professional, I knew about the challenges of homelessness and other special living situations. As a parent, I knew about the challenges of giving each child the right academic support. Now I can contribute in a new way from both of those perspectives. I am so gratified to help one student close the education gap in his learning.

Louis Mena, Regional Coordinator

Region 5 – Echo Park, Hollywood, Highland Park, Silverlake, Mid-City

Akina Lantow, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

– Akina Lantow. I’m very proud to highlight Akina Lantow as the Tutor of the Month. It has been a joy to have her as part of our School on Wheels volunteer team for the past seven months! Akina is such a great role model for her student, motivating Viviane to work hard. Akina is enthusiastic about helping her student succeed, and it definitely shows. Excellent job, Akina!

In her own words:

Shortly after moving to Los Angeles, I joined School on Wheels to be directly involved in the community that I live in. School on Wheels seemed to be the best place to use the combination of my educational background and past involvement in homelessness issues. I love working with teenagers, so I was so lucky to be assigned to my student, Viviane. The most challenging subject for Viviane is math; so we spend the majority of our time working on math homework, academic planning and goal setting. One of my favorite moments of tutoring was when we spent two hours solely on geometry; the time just flew by! She shocked me by saying that it felt like we had only spent five minutes on the assignment.

Lancella Hunter, Regional Coordinator

Region 8 – Ventura, Oxnard, Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley

Ann Klein, School on Wheels Tutors of the Month

– Ann Klein. In March Ann Klein celebrated her first anniversary of being a School on Wheels tutor. Over the course of the past year she has worked with five students. Previously Ann had a long career as a special education teacher in Miami. After retiring she moved to Dallas to help raise her grandkids. With her grandkids grown now, she moved to Ventura three years ago, where she was sure she had found paradise. But something was missing. Ann asked her daughter to find her volunteer opportunities working with kids and she stumbled upon School On Wheels. Ann says, “ I just love working with the little ones! I need to be around kids.” Whether it’s stickers, phonics workbooks, words of encouragement or a kind smile, Ann takes the time to make her students feel special and that is what truly matters. Ann, I admire the positive, fun and creative ideas you bring to your tutoring sessions! Thank you.

Terrie Soto, Regional Coordinator

Region 10 – Costa Mesa, Santa Ana, Huntington Beach, Tustin, Irvine, Lake Forest, Fountain Valley, Westminster

Eric Chang, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

– Eric Chang. Eric is respected and appreciated by everyone he has come to work with through School on Wheels. The shelter staff have pulled me aside specifically to let us know how awesome they think he is. The parents have called me multiple times expressing their gratitude for a tutor that has finally been able to instill confidence in their kids. And most importantly, his students absolutely love him! They look forward to tutoring sessions and learning from Eric.

My experiences as a tutor at School on Wheels have been far more fulfilling than I had hoped for. The two students I have the privilege of tutoring are both so bright, patient, and eager to work with me. Despite the stresses they have to deal with, they always do their best to never complain or have it affect them during our sessions. Their behavior and optimism constantly inspire me to be the best possible tutor I can be for them and to be much more appreciative of everything I have in my life. It’s very clear to me that if they are just given the opportunities we take for granted, like a consistent place to sleep or study, that they can far surpass anything I’m capable of doing. After college I stumbled upon School on Wheels, which sounded exactly like what I was looking for, and am very thankful for the amazing opportunity it has provided me.

Lilian Pahn, Regional Coordinator

Online Tutoring

Catherine Santizo, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

– Catherine Santizo. It is an honor to highlight Catherine Santizo as our online tutor of the month. Catherine, a full-time college student, enjoys the convenience of online tutoring. Over the last 2 to 3 months she has helped her student Hannah pass her CAHSEE examination and develop a strong interest in pursuing a 4-year college degree.

In her own words:

Tutoring online has been a life changing experience. I used to tutor in person at a shelter, but once I heard online tutoring was an option I knew it’d be the perfect fit for me. As a full time college student, online tutoring gives me the flexibility I need. I even get to tutor at school, which fits perfectly with my hectic schedule.

I love School On Wheels and recommend it to anyone who wants to make a difference in a child’s life. The fact that online tutoring is an option makes volunteering appealing to even the busiest person out there.

Ian Chan, Digital Learning Coordinator