Since 1993, the mission of School on Wheels has never wavered: to enhance educational opportunities for children in kindergarten through twelfth grade who are experiencing homelessness. Our goal is to shrink the gaps in their learning and provide them with the highest level of education possible. Our program serves as a consistent support system for our students during a time of great stress and fear.
When schools closed, our students lost the single greatest source of stability in their lives. With its structure and normalcy (as well as food and caring adults), school was a respite from the trauma of homelessness. The largest school district in the nation, LAUSD, reported that more than 13,000 middle and high school students consistently disengaged from their online classes in fall 2020, with an additional 56,000 who did not actively participate on a daily basis. They also found that two in three students are falling behind in both literacy and math. These are the children we serve.
A Message from Our Executive Director Charles Evans
A Message from Our Board President Josh Fein
This past year has been a unique and trying time for our students and their families. Students experiencing homelessness were severely affected by the shutdown of communities, the closure of schools, and the switch to an educational system that could only be accessed digitally. We quickly pivoted to enroll students in classes, deliver free digital devices, and establish outdoor classrooms. We worked with various partners to deliver Wi-Fi hotspot locations to the many in need—facilitating student access to both classrooms and tutors. In 2020 we implemented 100% online tutoring, making it possible for us to continue our important mission.
Thank you to our tireless staff who adapted their programs and working circumstances overnight. Thank you to our wonderful and committed tutors who persevered in the face of a pandemic and continued to support the needs of their students.
Most of all, thank you to our generous donors who recognized the challenging circumstances our students are facing and stepped up with tremendous support in 2020.
As we imagine a post-pandemic world, let us not go back to normal. Rather, let us work together to build a future that is equitable, inclusive, and just; where every one of our unhoused students has equal access to technology; and, where they can participate in and gain the benefits of this new online educational world.
Catherine Meek, Executive Advisor and Board MembeR
A Year of Impact
We have always called our tutors the ‘wheels’ of our bus because for the last 28 years they have gone to where our kids are, meeting them in libraries, after-school clubs, shelters, group foster homes, and school sites. But last year we tutored children in over 2,500 square miles of Southern California—remotely!
The pandemic’s effects on our students’ education is expected to be staggering. Children experiencing homelessness have always been among the most invisible and neglected individuals in our nation, and COVID-19 has significantly damaged their prospects. It has also intensified the huge digital divide between rich and poor, especially among Black and Latinx families, exacerbating education inequalities that have existed for decades.
One study found that 40% of African-American students and 30% of Hispanic students in K-12 schools in the U.S. received no online instruction during school shutdowns. These gaps in access to online education have significantly increased learning loss among unhoused children. Some research studies predict students, on average, will lose nine months of math learning by the end of the school year. However, students of color—the majority of School on Wheels students—will be 11 months to 12 months behind.
With your support, School on Wheels is doing its part to ensure that racial and income-based disparities in access to online learning are not a permanent feature of the K-12 landscape.
We have been stretched to the maximum this year and your kindness and generosity are so very very appreciated. Thank you, School on Wheels for providing support during the year for my son.
Where Our Students Live
The time your volunteers spend teaching and mentoring reminds our children that although they don’t have a house, they have a home. Thank you School on Wheels for touching our lives.
Richard Renteria, VOA Emergency Shelter
Who Our Students Are
My family and I are so grateful for all you have done for us. You not only motivated me to perform well in school, but you have also been a great friend who cares about the wellness of our family. You have been extremely patient with me and a great role model to me. Now, thanks to you I not only have a chance to go to college, I have eight colleges to choose from!
Hernan to his tutor Tulope (Tee)
The ABC Literacy Program is designed to give students in kindergarten through fourth grade a strong foundation in literacy and help them develop a love of reading.
Literacy in young students is the single most significant predictor of future success—academic, emotional, and behavioral—and yet children experiencing homelessness almost always miss this milestone (as do almost 80% of low-income students). One out of every three children who are not reading proficiently by 3rd grade will not graduate from high school. Your support is helping to change this statistic!
The goal of our Digital Learning Initiative is to bridge the digital divide and provide equitable access for our students who would not have access otherwise.
In addition to distributing laptops and hot spots to students, we are training our volunteer tutors in cutting-edge distance learning techniques and in e-skills that they can share with their students.
Our Social and Emotional Learning Program is designed to help students process what they are feeling in a safe space, teaching them to pause, breathe, and gauge their feelings before responding to an emotional situation.
Thank you for everything. Thank you for the hard work and all the help with our homework. We just want to say that you are awesome!
Alaysia and Taraji to their tutor Marlene
For over 28 years, School on Wheels has sustained strong financial stability that supports our students in the best possible way. Your generosity helps us provide programs and services throughout six counties in Southern California, investing in the educational lives of students experiencing homelessness.
In 2020, you helped us raise over $3.6 million, a truly amazing gift for our students. You funded our virtual supply drives so that we could safely distribute backpacks and supplies to our students. You shared our students’ stories with your family, friends, and coworkers. You empathized with our families as you dealt with some of the same struggles they faced due to lockdown and online learning. You even gave thousands of gift cards so that families and children could enjoy a respite from the pandemic during the holidays.
We were honored to have support from foundations large and small, corporations, and colleges, as well as individual donors from $20 to $200,000. 92 cents of every dollar you donated was used to improve and expand our programs. We are grateful to be supported by so many long-time donors, new friends, and supporters, and by all our partners who believe in our mission and are invested in our students.
Revenue & Support
We partner with over 400 sites across Southern California, including shelters, after-school programs, and other nonprofits. New partners for 2020 included Kids First of SoCal, The Los Angeles Connectivity Trust, the City of Los Angeles Mayor's Office, and The California Department of Education. The majority of our tutoring program was online last year but we did pilot a program with several of our partners to provide in-person tutoring to some of our most vulnerable students. You can read about that pilot program in the LA Times here.
It is a blessing to have School on Wheels help with school. I still keep in touch with my very first tutor who I met when I was 11. I like that they help the community and kids. They have helped me and my brother and sister so much. If you’re struggling in a subject, like I was with math, they really help. I am still not that good at math but I understand it better now.
Priscilla, Student, Age 14
Students receiving their very own laptops and tablets
Your donations during 2020 allowed us to deepen our impact and provide more students not only with a positive role model and mentor but also with the tools they need to succeed—laptops and Chromebooks have replaced backpacks; headsets and whiteboards have replaced pens and pencils! But our dedication and commitment to our students remain the same and your support and encouragement inspire us to help our students succeed in their number one job as a child—going to school and learning.
Special thanks to our major foundation partners:
Bluebird Legacy, Inc
California Community Foundation
Diane and Dorothy Brooks Foundation
Dora F. Levit Fund for People
The Edward A. and Ai O. Shay Family Foundation
The Eisner Foundation Inc.
GlobalGiving Foundation Inc.
The Green Foundation
The Kenneth T. & Eileen L. Norris Foundation
S. Mark Taper Foundation
The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation
The Sharon D. Lund Foundation
The Theodore J. Forstmann Charitable Trust
Gifts of $400,000+
- Diane and Dorothy Brooks Foundation
- The Theodore J. Forstmann Charitable Trust
Gifts of $200,000+
- John MacFarlane
Gifts of $100,000+
- The Eisner Foundation Inc.
- GlobalGiving Foundation Inc.
- S. Mark Taper Foundation
- Windsong Trust
Gifts of $75,000+
- Annenberg Foundation
Gifts of $50,000+
- BLT Enterprises
- Dora F. Levit Fund for People
- The Edward A. and Ai O. Shay Family Foundation
- The Green Foundation
- The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation
Gifts of $30,000+
- Bluebird Legacy, Inc
- California Community Foundation
- The Kenneth T. & Eileen L. Norris Foundation
- Kissel Company Inc.
- Norman Schiele and Renee Longan
- The Sharon D. Lund Foundation
Gifts of $20,000+
- Aristotle Capital Management, LLC
- Catherine and Jarrod Phillips
- Community Promise
- Dwight Stuart Youth Fund
- The Genevieve & Carlo Cabanilla Fund
- Margaret M. Bloomfield Family Foundation
- Santa Monica Westside Legacy Fund for Women and Girls
- Sawchuk Family Foundation
- Sherwood Family Foundation
- Steinmetz Foundation
- Sunair Children's Foundation
- Universal Studios Hollywood's Discover A Star Foundation
- The Walt Disney Company Foundation
- Wassim Slaiby and Rima Fakih Slaiby
Gifts of $10,000+
- ABAR Foundation
- Amazon Smile Foundation
- Bowen H. & Janice Arthur McCoy Charitable Foundation
- Carrie Estelle Doheny Foundation
- Crail-Johnson Foundation
- Ellen and Ben Padnos
- Frieda C. Fox Family Foundation
- J.K. Barker Foundation
- Jackson and Jasmine George
- Janvi Patel and Omar Al-Midani
- Jimmy Hutcheson
- Joe McDevitt
- Josh Fein and MaryJo Lauterio
- Levi Strauss
- The Louis & Harold Price Foundation, Inc.
- Michal and Ken Salkin
- Property Management Associates, Inc.
- PureLife Dental
- Seattle-Sonoran Foundation
- Semler Brossy Consulting Group
- The Sylvain and Marjorie Heumann Family Foundation
- USC Good Neighbors Campaign
- William C. Bannerman Foundation
Gifts of $5,000+
- A.C. Israel Foundation, Inc.
- Apple Inc.
- AT&T Services, Inc.
- Beong-Soo Kim and Bonnie Wongtrakool
- Carl E. Wynn Foundation
- Catherine Meek and Al Earle
- Charlotte Hughes and Christopher Combs
- Chris Pernin
- Conrad N. Hilton Foundation
- Deacon Charitable Foundation
- Elizabeth Lynn Foundation
- Freudenberg Medical
- GHJ Foundation
- Guy Oseary
- The Harper / Harpoothian Family Fund
- The Herman Foundation
- Impact Club - Virtual Event Chapter
- James and Cheryl Furlan
The James Irvine Foundation
Joanne Bloomfield Hunter and Jim Hunter
The Kim and Harold Louie Family Foundation
Lark Ellen Lions Charities
The Looker Foundation
Modern Parking, Inc.
The Neiman Group Architects
- O'Melveny & Myers LLP
- Pasadena Host Lions Club
The Pipkin Family Foundation
Porsche Cars North America, Inc.
The Robert and Rochelle Light Foundation
Santa Monica Bay Woman's Club, Inc.
Scott Family Foundation, Inc.
Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton
Southern California Edison
Spotify USA, Inc.
Weaver and Tidwell Private Foundation
Gifts of $2,000+
- The Adam Frand Foundation
Andre and Mina Zimmerman
Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc.
AZ Bus Sales
Bel Air Internet
The Capital Group Companies Charitable Foundation
City National Bank
Command Entertainment Group
- Evelyn Robbrecht
- Frances Regalado
- Harbani Bawa
Joann and Stan Benson
Karl and Laura Slovin
Loni and Jeff Rush Family Foundation
Martingale and Company
Melissa Zukerman and Benjamin Goldfarb
Nancy and Mike Wiggins
Paper Kite Productions
- Richard Bernard and Kim Sandnes
- The Rosenthal Family Foundation
Steven and Denise Yeh
Titan Investments, LLC
University Church of Christ
Whole Foods Market
Gifts of $1,000+
- Alan Grossbard
Alex and Kathy Barloewen
Black Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles, Inc.
The Chapman Family Foundation
Charles Brewer Fiscus Foundation
Chip and Sharyn Moore
Covington Capital Management
Elaine Lasnik-Broida and Michael Broida
Ellen and Donald Raab
- Ellia Thompson
- Emma and Amy Tracewell
Ervin Cohen & Jessup, LLP
- Gary Lisenbee
The Howard Group
JK Group, Inc.
Janet Ambrosi Wertman and Adlai Wertman
John And Carolyn Cree Marshall
Justin Carr Wants World Peace Foundation
Karen and Jim Houghton
LA Kids Foundation
Makoff Family Foundation
McDonalds Southern California
- Michael Doner
Michael J Rapino
- Miller Family Foundation
Million Dollar Baby Co.
Oaktree Capital Management, L.P.
Paul Getto and Tiana Murillo
Paul J DiRado and Kristine M Nowak
Social Justice Fund of Ventura County
Terry and Karen Harstad
Thomas Molloy and Alan Schimpff
Wendy E. Pearson
Material donors provide the tools our kids need to learn and grow. In addition to backpacks, school supplies, and laptops, our students were gifted so many things they needed: earbuds, headsets, hot spots, robotics equipment, handmade knitted hats, snack boxes, face masks, hand sanitizer, and Halloween costumes, to name a few!
Major Material Donations
- Allison Latham
Amazon Smile Foundation
Assistance League of Los Angeles
AT&T Services, Inc.
The Biddy Mason Foundation
Boss Consulting INC
- The Broad Museum
Bunny James Boxes LLC
California Science Center
- Gregory Castro
Harvard Westlake Middle School
Janvi Patel and Omar Al-Midani
- Costco Wholesale
Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles, Troop 981
- Justine Siegal
La Canada Unified School District
- LA Dodgers Foundation
Los Angeles Regional Food Bank
Michal, Ken, Daniel, & Margalit Salkin
Office of LA City Councilmember David Ryu
One Cal Plaza
SAGE Publications, Inc.
Chief Financial Officer,
Property Management Associates, Inc.
Chief Accounting Officer,
The Neiman Group Architects
Prof. Christine C. Goodman
Pepperdine University School of Law
Senior Vice President, Disney Studios
The Kissel Company, Inc.
Senior Vice President and General Counsel,
University of Southern California
School on Wheels
Cecil L. Murray
Professor of Religion,
Tanzy Chair in Christian Ethics, USC
Angela M. Sanchez
Program Analyst for College Success,
Janet A. Wertman
Principal Communications Group