Month: April 2016

Apr 4

Students of the Month – April 2016

Skid Row Learning Center

Killiy, School on Wheels Student of the Month

– Killiy, 6th Grade. Killiy has earned March’s coveted designation of Student of the Month for three reasons. First, Killiy always comes to School On Wheels prepared to work. As soon as she’s done eating her snack, she always takes out her agenda for inspection and direction on what to work on that day. Second, Killiy often goes above the call of duty by volunteering for online tutoring in an effort to close her gaps in learning. Finally, her preparation and self-motivation have resulted in an ever improving report card that now has 2 A’s!

Brian Lopez, Skid Row Learning Center Instructor

Region 1 – East LA, El Monte

Madison, School on Wheels Student of the Month

– Madison, Kindergarten. Madison is a very bright young girl. From the first tutor session to now, Madison has made great progress. I notice the improvement in her spelling and writing in particular. Madison has progressed so much that she made honor roll at her school.

Emily Alfaro, Tutor

Region 5 – Hollywood, Silver Lake, Highland Park

Sokari, School on Wheels Student of the Month

– Sokari, Kindergarten. When I met Sokari, he hadn’t even started kindergarten yet. During our first sessions he would often bring toys to get out of “school stuff” and now he brings books excited to show me what he can read. As much as I enjoy seeing his academic progress, it’s even better to see his personality shine through when he’s showing me his dance moves or the right way to draw his favorite superheroes.

Sabrina Aguilar, Tutor

Region 7 – San Fernando Valley

Aranza, School on Wheels Student of the Month

– Aranza, 6th Grade. My student, Aranza is in the 6th grade. Her favorite subject is math and she is very good at it. I am strong in a number of subjects; however, math is not one of my strong suits. Aranza always has a laugh when I have to use my calculator to check her math homework. Aranza also likes to doodle and draw. She enjoys playing games on her phone, especially 10:10 and she likes to watch “Clarence” on Netflix. Her favorite holiday is Halloween. Last year she was a cat and the year before she was Hannah Montana. She would like to become a surgeon as she enjoys learning about anatomy. Congratulations, Aranza!

Cindy Gunn, Tutor

Region 10 – South Orange County

Isaiah and Isabel, School on Wheels Student of the Month

– Isaiah, 10th Grade and Isabel, 1st Grade. Mom is so grateful for Mark and Mellina!

“They are doing so well in school. Especially, Isaiah. His grades went up within a few weeks after receiving tutoring. Mark and Mellina have really made a big impact on all of my children. I am very grateful for the program and for both Mark & Mellina.”

Gabriela, Mom

Online Tutoring

Leilanni, School on Wheels Student of the Month

– Leilanni, 1st Grade. My student Leilanni enjoys working on the computer. I believe she is more engaged in our tutoring sessions because she can work on the computer. Leilanni now likes to type questions and problems on the whiteboard, and then solve them. When Leilanni realizes she has solved questions and problems correctly, her face lights up and she gets excited. Not only has she learned something new; she is proud of herself. Leilanni also loves to see my kitten Spyder who sometimes shows up to our online tutoring sessions! It has been a joy to watch her grow in her academics and self-confidence.

Leilanni is teaching me about Elsa and Anna of Arendelle from the Frozen movie. She loves to draw. We enjoy playing Hangman and Tic Tac Toe at the end of our sessions. She frequently wins. We also ask each other questions about what we’ve learned that day.

Leilanni is a special person. She is capable of overcoming many obstacles when she grows up. I am so happy to call Leilanni the School on Wheels Online Student of the Month. She has earned it!

Cathie Alter, Online Tutor

Apr 3

Diana Camarillo works hard to put herself through college

dianna success dianna success2


Tens of thousands of children and youth have received support from School on Wheels.  Tutoring and mentoring relationships can last for years or just for months, but we never underestimate the difference our volunteers make in the lives of the students we serve.

Diana Camarillo recently visited our booth at a volunteer recruitment fair at Mount St Mary’s University in Los Angeles and  proceeded to tell us her story:

“I was homeless for about two years, living in three different shelters.  I was matched with a tutor when I was twelve because I struggled with language arts and composition.  My old backpack was really beat up. School on Wheels gave me a really beautiful new Jansport backpack.with  all new supplies inside. We  worked together for six months before my family moved into permanent housing.

At 16 I got a part-time job  because I knew then that I wanted something better.  I decided to work hard at school to get into college and get a degree, so I could have a career rather than just a job.

With financial aid and working two jobs I now have my own apartment and am finishing my first year at Mount St. Mary’s College.”

We contacted Diana’s tutor Carol Yee who was thrilled to know how well Diana was doing seven years later.

“I am so happy for Diana and remember her very well.  She was mature for her age and just delightful to work with.  I am very proud of her and not a bit surprised with her success.”

Diana has come a long way from where she started and she has this advice:

“I would say to any student experiencing homelessness to keep working hard at school.  When I was homeless I didn’t think college was an option. I didn’t try hard at school and didn’t get great grades, so I wasn’t able to get a full scholarship to college.  Now I have to work two jobs and finance myself.  But I am proud of my achievements and grateful to organizations like School on Wheels and Puente College Prep Program for helping me understand the importance of education.”

Apr 2

Former student Tatiana Obukhova finds success after a life-altering move

tatiana success 2 tatiana success


Tatiana’s mom fell in love. She moved the family from Russia to California to be with her new husband in 2009.  The relationship quickly fell apart and became abusive. Tatiana, her mom and little brother ran away and that’s how the family found themselves homeless.  Tatiana said that they stayed at so many shelters during this time that she can’t remember how many.  Tatiana barely spoke English and her mom knew even less.  

School on Wheels met Tatiana’s family when she was in ninth grade, at a shelter in Ventura County. When Disha Patel saw her student for the first time, she was dressed in a most creative way.   A painted spider web adorned her face with open fingered gloves on her hands and a big flouncy skirt. This young girl with big beautiful eyes was shy but definitely interested in this new mentor in her life. When she spoke, she stuttered slightly and had an accent.  

They started to work right away as Disha was able to tutor her ninth grade student in advanced math. Tatiana was gifted in math and art but was not really interested in school.

“The best thing about having a School on Wheels tutor during this time was that Disha kept me motivated to study and complete my school work.  I thought our situation was too complicated, with no money or home. What was the point of school? I would never get to go to college. So why even try?”  

The unlikely duo met weekly and Disha encouraged Tatiana  to keep her options open and find out what she was interested in.  She even helped Tatiana get a summer scholarship from School on Wheels for an art program with the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) . Over the years they spent time researching colleges and visiting campuses. Disha kept reinforcing the importance of college and that it was possible.

In eleventh grade two important things happened: the family found a studio apartment, a home of their own and Tatiana attended a field trip with School on Wheels to UCLA.  She fell in love with the campus. She knew this is where she wanted to be.

Tatiana Obukhova  is now in her first year of college, studying Animation at the California College of the Arts.

My mom was also an important motivator for me to go to college.  She knew we could find a way to make it happen and I am proud of her as she is in college too.

I received several college scholarships, including one from School on Wheels. With grants and a part-time job, I am able to enjoy college life.  I miss my mom and brother; college can be frustrating, but I am beginning to have fun and feel at home.

“Complicated” is a word we hear a lot from our students when they describe their lives.

Homelessness is complicated, getting to college is complicated. Learning a new language is also complicated, but we think Tatiana’s achievements are simply brilliant.  Her tutor Disha had this to say: “Tatiana is a talented, capable young woman with great potential and I am excited to see what is in store for her in the near future.  It was a pleasure to be her mentor. As much as she learned from me, I learned from her too.”