Month: August 2017

Aug 13

August Newsletter 2017

It’s August, which means back to school is right around the corner. A huge thank you to all of our wonderful backpack donors of the month, including Temple Judea, Sage Publishing, and Frances Martinez, who donated backpacks and school supplies to help our students get ready for the upcoming school year. Volunteer, Katy Michaelis, shared with us her story about how she went from not only being a tutor but a huge cheerleader for her student, Sunny, as well (read the story here). A huge shout out to Q95.9 FM and Katherine Murillo for inviting us on their morning show and hosting a school supply drive for our students.

Aug 10

Tutoring Commercially Sexually Exploited Children – CSEC 101

Young people who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation may have certain behaviors and special needs, and it is important to understand the challenges and trauma they have faced. In this workshop, child welfare consultant and organizer Miranda Sheffield gives School on Wheels tutors the information they need to successfully tutor children and youth rescued from CSEC scenarios. She is joined by a sexual trafficking survivor, Rachel Thomas, who discusses her experience. This workshop is specifically designed to inform School on Wheels tutors who are working with or may be working with CSEC students.

About the presenters: Miranda Sheffield has spent the last 10 years working within the child welfare community. Early on, she worked with Los Angeles County DCFS to promote youth engagement and accountability with youth living in group homes. In the last five years she worked with the Children’s Law Center supporting youth in extended foster care. Miranda helped create CLC’s Peer Advocate program, giving clients an opportunity to work with peer advocates who have had direct experience growing up in foster care. She was a part of CLC-specialized CSEC team, which included attorneys and case managers providing legal and social support to youth in the life. Miranda has transitioned out of her role at CLC and currently works as a consultant, providing training to those in the child welfare community.

Former music video model and sex trafficking survivor Rachel Thomas is a dynamic educator who speaks from the heart and aims at the head. With a Masters in Education from UCLA and over 10 years’ experience in teaching and mentoring, Rachel co-founded Sowers Education Group to sow seeds of sex trafficking awareness and survivor empowerment.

Rachel was a junior at Emory University when she unknowingly met a trafficker: a professional and well-spoken ‘modeling agent’. He had business cards and a portfolio of contracts with beautiful models of all ethnicities. He groomed her with high-quality, all-expense paid photo shoots and legitimate modeling work in various music videos and magazines. Then, after he had collected a W9 form from Rachel (including her parents’ address and SSN), the relationship became dangerous. He began forcing her to have sex with buyers, threatening to kill her and her family if she didn’t obey. He became physically and psychologically abusive, ushering Rachel into the dark world of sex slavery. Thankfully, the police and FBI were eventually able to help Rachel, and the trafficker’s dozens of other victims, to escape this devastating situation. As Rachel continues to overcome and understand her experience, she is “turning a mess into a message” that will spread prevention and empower victims.

Since 2012, Rachel has reached over 36,000 live audience members and millions more through numerous media outlets including The T.D. Jakes Show, The New York Times Upfront Magazine and ABC’s Newsmakers. Rachel was also honored by Congressman Ed Royce of California’s 39th district and Los Angeles Supervisor Don Knabe for her leadership and trafficking prevention efforts. To learn more about Sowers or Rachel Thomas, please visit

Aug 8

Ask A Tutor Tuesday – 8/8/2017


“I’m working with a 6th grader and am having a hard time tutoring math. It’s so different from the way it was taught when I was in school. Sometimes I feel like I’m giving him the wrong information, and a couple of times I’ve definitely been wrong–and found it a little embarrassing. Any advice would be appreciated.”

My experience has been math is almost always the subject kids have problems with. I have a strong background in math, so usually my problem is how the subject is being taught in school.  I use a couple of sources. I first go to Khan Academy to see how they present the problem. I also have a number of books from third to sixth grade math on what the students should know and how Common Core is teaching it. Also, looking at the student’s book and homework assignment oftentimes has examples. Once I learn what particular section of math the student is working on, I will spend time prior to the meeting preparing so I don’t waste time when I am there. I always carry a small whiteboard and erasable markers to both show the student examples and let them work so I can see it. Additionally, seldom do students know the fundamentals very well (times tables, fractions, percentages), so I spend some part of the lesson reviewing them, usually with apps on a tablet.

Sixth grade might be algebra or geometry, and one of the first things I do is try to relate the subject to the real world. For example, algebraic equations are expressions of how nature works. The next time you go to a drinking fountain and press the handle, you will see that the water rises and then falls. The shape is a parabola and its equation is Y = X (squared). This can be too sophisticated mathematically, but it starts to help students understand the abstract nature of math.   

It is difficult to attempt to tutor a subject that you don’t know really well; however, today there are many online free courses that you can look at. Hope that helps.

Khan Academy Sign Up

About the Tutor: Richard Bennett graduated from the University of Michigan with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and has a JD from Whittier Law School. In his professional career, he was a software engineer, sales and marketing executive, and business owner of a software and consulting firm. He has been a volunteer for SOW for nine years, and for the last five years he has tutored students at Family Promise of the Verdugos. He is also currently a member of the Board of Directors for the Glendale YWCA.

Have a question for our Ask a Tutor feature?
Email askatutor [at] or use the #AskATutor hashtag on any of our social media sites.

Aug 7

From a Tutor to a Mentor

Sunny and Katy at her high school graduation, and Katy with her Presidential Service Award

Katy Michaelis met Sunny in 2012 when she was in 8th grade. In December 2015, Sunny moved into the foster care system and was placed with a foster family. It took a little bit of time, but with School on Wheels’ help, Katy got back in touch with Sunny and they started meeting weekly at a coffee shop.
“Over the years our relationship changed from tutoring to mentoring. We mostly focused on math, but when Sunny got to AP Chemistry in her junior year, I was just there to encourage and cheerlead! It felt like she didn’t like me at first, but after meeting for so many years we developed a relationship, and sometimes there were days when we just talked rather than tutored.”

Sunny graduated in June from high school and has a full ride to Cal State Fullerton through Guardian Scholars – a program that is committed to supporting ambitious, college-bound students exiting the foster care system. Both School on Wheels and her tutor Katy are very proud of her achievements and Katy said she is inspired by Sunny’s determination to succeed.

Katy and Sunny talked about college for a long time, and it was always in Sunny’s mindset that she was going, but she never knew for sure. When we asked Katy what she thought her contribution had been to Sunny’s success, she said that she likes to think at a minimum that she kept Sunny focused on college. They talked a lot about what college was going to be like, and Katy wrote a letter of recommendation for Sunny’s scholarship request. She also turned up week after week, and the stability and consistency of their tutoring time was a contributing factor. Sunny received help from a lot of different organizations, including School on Wheels, which provided her with backpacks and school supplies from 8th grade onwards, as well as a scholarship for books for high school.

“Tutoring was something that my mom signed me up for,” Sunny said. “I didn’t want to do it at first. It was kinda scary to be doing homework with a stranger. But after my initial hesitation, it soon became part of my routine, and meeting Katy every week was something stable in my life. Sometimes I became so overwhelmed with tests and homework, but she was there to ground me. I had a vague idea who School on Wheels was – support for kids whose demographic was homelessness. But Katy really helped me when I transitioned into the foster care system because I felt like she was a neutral person. The second I saw her, I could tell her everything: about my anxiety, about my new foster family, my mom, about anything. She always stayed neutral and positive. She helped to guide me on what to say and how to say it. It felt good that she was invested in me and helped to rationalize my thoughts.

Tutor Katy is having a baby and is due in a few weeks. Sunny is so excited and has watched Katy’s bump grow with delight and is counting down the days to meeting her new friend. She is also anxious about starting college in August. “I am still trying to get my head around the fact that I am actually going to college and gauge how I feel about it!

We asked Sunny what she would say to other kids in a similar situation, and she said this:

“Kids that live in shelters, motels, and group foster homes need to take advantage of all the programs out there to help them, especially with school, like School on Wheels. Ok, so it’s just tutoring, but it becomes so much more that that. I have met a friend for life, and she has become the most positive influence in my life.”

Aug 2

Volunteer Survey Results – 2017

Every year, School on Wheels sends a volunteer survey to all active and on-break tutors. The goal is to determine what is working well and what needs improvement in our volunteer program. This year, over 200 tutors responded to the survey, sharing thoughts about everything from the training process to communication with staff to the resources and materials we provide.

Thank you again to everyone who participated in this year’s survey!

Click the image below for a summary. 


Full Survey Results – 2017

Aug 1

Tutor Anniversaries August 2017

We would like to give a huge shout out to all of these amazing tutors who have volunteered with us for a year or more! We couldn’t impact the lives of thousands of children without you.

Eight Years
Franklin Rutherford

Five Years
Bryan Herrera

Four Years
Esther Chan
Nancy Ayon
Nancy Owen
Jonathan Bauer

Three Years
Sidney Wagner
Jared McKiernan
Norma Perez
Beatrice Epping
Mary Lee Davis

Two Years
Susan Lawi
Casey Richards
Sarah Talaei
Amanda (Amy) Miller
Diana Lee
Cameron Riefe
Alex Riefe
Lisa Olmstead
Jenny Tao

One Year
Josie Azzam
Nikolay Ivanov
Niyant Krishnamurthi
Tiana Shambayati
Meredith Brace Sloss
Chloe Uhls
Yalda Tehranian-Uhls
Victoria Tran
Daniel Sanchez
Juan Nunez
Constance Chiang
Lynn Deng
Marcos Mendez
Denise Coleman
Ghadear El-Ali
Shana Schwer
Catherine Do
Fausto Mares-Davila
Hana Catudio
Jason Wright
Jocelyne Lopez
Yea-Lyn Pak
Usha Idnani