Thanks to all our artists who participated in this year’s contest! We loved seeing all your amazing submissions and hope you will continue to create art year-round.
The winners of 2019 School on Wheels Holiday Art Contest are Mia and Keiley! Congratulations to all the artists, it was a very difficult decision and we know you all worked very hard! In addition to posting on our website, we will also be posting on our Facebook page next week. You can enjoy all the students’ contributions by scrolling through the gallery above.
Guest post by School on Wheels Ambassador Victor Maldonado
There are enough children without homes in Los Angeles to fill Dodger Stadium. Yet, when we think of homelessness, children aren’t who we typically imagine. With over 65,000 students without homes in Los Angeles County alone, why does child homelessness go so grossly unnoticed? The answer is simple: out of sight, out of mind. These are children who are living in shelters, motels, group foster homes, vehicles, and on the streets. The common thread that connects these children is a lack of consistent education.
I am proud to volunteer with an organization that bridges these gaps in education, giving children experiencing homelessness a fighting chance at a stable life—School on Wheels. Their approach may seem modest: tutor a child for one hour per week. However, the impact on that child’s life is incalculable—it provides these children with the structure and consistency they need. That hour reiterates to them that they aren’t forgotten, that they do matter, and that they can change their circumstances.
And once a child believes in themselves, the hope and optimism they carry is truly inspirational. In January 2018 a student of mine was struck in the crossfire of a drive-by. In the weeks following, I recall trying to be sympathetic to his condition by telling him we could just play games until he felt better. Knowing he had the SATs coming up, he responded, “Games won’t get me into college. We’ll work on math sections.” To contextualize things, this was a student who, not even a year prior, would constantly vocalize that he might as well “pick out a box to live in now” because he felt he had no chance of attending college. It was at that precise moment that I realized how much of an impact that hour a week can have on the self-esteem of a child in need.
School on Wheels is the only non-profit organization in Southern California that focuses on the education of children experiencing homelessness. As such, its’ success, as well as the success of the children it serves, is directly related to its number of volunteers. Sadly, that number is often limited by people’s misconceptions on whether they’re “qualified” to volunteer. In reality, the only obstacle is a person’s willingness to volunteer.
Regardless of your age, background or level of education, your mere presence in a child’s life can be transformative. They will never forget that someone cared enough to show up once a week during the most turbulent time of their lives. Get started today.
Adam, 16 years old, started with School On Wheels in March 2018. He describes his experience with his tutors as being “positive and helpful in creating a template to reach his goals.”
When Adam came to School On Wheels his main aspiration was to work on increasing his SAT score. Adam’s current goal is to score within the top 1 percent of students on the PSAT, which will make him eligible for the National Merit Scholarship Program. He would like to attend USC and study biology and design.
School On Wheels worked to facilitate a personal relationship that would support Adam in achieving his goals. Yalda,16, and her mother Naz tutored Adam together. Adam says, “they are both very helpful and have different points of view. Perspectives from both the mother and daughter help in different areas and provides a balance in learning.”
The three met each week, and sometimes their sessions lasted over two hours. If they were unable to meet in person they did Skype sessions on the computer. Adam was very grateful to School On Wheels for providing a computer so that his learning has no boundaries.
Adam and Yalda are the same age. Yalda has benefited from the tutor sessions as well, as she was studying to take her SAT test soon. Typically, when one of them answered a problem incorrectly, the other will have answered correctly, and vice versa. Naz, in a truly parental fashion, made sure they took breaks outside of the library: getting fresh air and even going for a quick jog around the building.
This unique tutoring template they have created “worked working wonderfully,” Naz explained. When Adam began his School on Wheels tutoring sessions with Naz and Yalda, his score was 1170. He’s now at 1450! “This was a big turning point”, Naz continued, “when Adam scored so high, it made all three realize their hard work and dedication was really showing results and it gave them all more trust in each other and the process.”
Adam’s advice to other School On Wheel students is this: “Find a goal and dedicate yourself to your goal. If you are struggling to find something to focus on, ask others what they think you are good at, see if that is a good fit, and keep your head down and work hard. If things get hard along the way, believe that it will get better.”
Adam adds that “when he achieves his success he will have three to credit: Yalda, Naz and School On Wheels for helping him get there.” Yalda believes 100% in this possibility, saying “Adam has a bright future ahead of him and can do anything he commits to.”
“Give the tutoring sessions time. If they feel that connecting and relating with the children is difficult at first then allow time for walls to break down. These children have endured more than we may ever understand and it takes time for them to allow new people in their life. Keep showing kindness and respect to your student and always encourage them on their studying. It is amazing what you can do for their confidence in showing them positivity with their work and letting them know you are proud of them.”
Allison, School on Wheels Tutor
Growing up school was a difficult thing for Angie. “I switched school so many times and it became very hard,” she says. “I got depressed with the constant change and eventually fell very behind in school, so I just gave up and would not show up for school.”
Angie spent a great deal of her youth staying at different foster homes. She would eventually spend six years with a family. However, Angie’s foster Dad passed. Things became complicated and she switched homes again. Her depression grew, but through this pain, she found motivation by focusing on her education and finding purpose in wanting to help others like her.
Currently, Angie is at a group home. With the school year coming to an end and graduation looming, she needed to complete her math credits quickly, a daunting task as math has long been a difficult subject for Angie. She was connected with School on Wheels and tutor Alison Ochoa who focus exclusively on Angie’s math. “My goal during our tutoring sessions was to take each math course one section at a time. We go over multiple problems and ensure that she takes her quiz and understands each individual problem, even if it meant refreshing on prior skills.”
This practical approach worked and Angie completed her credits in time to graduate. Alison continues to explain, “she has exceeded my own expectations.”
Angie and Allison will continue their tutoring relationship as Angie begins college this fall. Angie now has confidence in her abilities and knows that she has a great support system for her educational goals, as well as a friend, in Allison.
Angie’s future goal is to be a social worker. After going through the foster care system herself, she understands how important it is for kids to have someone they can trust and depend on.
“Keep reaching out to find someone that can help you and that you trust,” is the wisdom Angie would like to share with other School on Wheel students. “Believe that there is someone out there for you to trust. Stay motivated and work on building up your self-esteem so you can apply that confidence with your education.”
Already Angie is off to a great start of helping other kids.
Longtime ED Catherine Meek to serve as Executive Advisor
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Sinead Chilton, 213 905 2777
LOS ANGELES—August 1, 2019- Ushering in its next generation of leadership during a critical time in serving children experiencing homelessness, seasoned School on Wheels executive Charles W. Evans Jr. has been appointed as the new Executive Director for School on Wheels (SOW) effective August 1, 2019. Veteran SOW Executive Director Catherine Meek, who was involved in the search committee’s process, will remain with SOW as an executive advisor continuing to work with foundations and donors. The announcement was made by the Board of Directors of School on Wheels who named Evans to his new role.
The homeless crisis in Los Angeles County now impacts over 60,000 homeless public school students, with 17,494 in LAUSD alone. School on Wheels relies on funding from individual donors, major corporations and foundations to fund programs that train and mobilize volunteer tutors to educate and mentor children in homeless situations throughout six counties in Southern California. In 2018 SOW provided tutoring services to over 3,600 children, as well as over 5,500 backpacks filled with school supplies.
Evans begins his new role effective August 1 in full partnership with Meek, who through a transition period will be actively involved in day-to-day operations. Ultimately Meek will focus solely on advising Evans and the Board on fundraising strategies and relations. Meek has worked with School on Wheels since 2000, including roles as a volunteer, regional coordinator, organization consultant, and COO before her election as Executive Director in 2009.
“Charles has an outstanding track record working with School on Wheels to help and empower children who experience homelessness to succeed academically. He has the passion and experience building and leading teams, creating opportunities, delivering results, and leveraging his creativity to make a positive impact during a time of great urgency for our community and mission,” said Josh Fein, Board President. “We are thrilled that Catherine will continue as a trusted advisor and contributor. The partnership between Charles and Catherine will make the organization stronger and better prepared for the future.”
Stated Meek: “I could not be happier that Charles has been selected as my successor. Charles and I have worked together for more than ten years and we will continue to partner to keep School on Wheels strong, solution-oriented and striving to help as many children experiencing homelessness as possible. Charles has worked and flourished in every position he has held at School on Wheels. As Executive Director, Charles will lead us to a new level of success in helping and giving hope to our students. He is exactly the right person at this critical time in our history.”
Evans joined School on Wheels in 2008 as a regional coordinator in South Los Angeles, where he was born and raised. He was subsequently promoted to executive leadership positions, and prior to being named Executive Director served as SOW’s Chief Regional Officer. In this role, he oversaw 11 regions in six counties in Southern California, covering more than 3,600 students and 2,300 volunteers. As part of the leadership team, Evans serves on the Board Strategic Planning Committee where he contributed to the development and enhancement of SOW’s student outreach program by partnering with several school districts and agencies serving homeless children. Prior to School on Wheels, Evans worked for FAME Renaissance as an Environmental Outreach Field Representative, under the leadership of Reverend Cecil “Chip” Murray.
“I am so honored to have the opportunity of being School on Wheels’ next executive director. Being able to continue to build upon the legacy of Agnes and Catherine is exciting yet humbling,” said Evans. “The last 10 and a half years have been an amazing and inspirational journey, and I look forward to leading School on Wheels into a promising future.”
About School on Wheels
School on Wheels is a local nonprofit founded in1993 that trains and connects volunteer tutors to children living in shelters, motels, vehicles, group foster homes, and on the streets in Southern California. They are the only organization in Southern California dedicated exclusively to the educational needs of this fragile population. Last year, they tutored over 3,600 kids with the support of over 2,300 volunteers.
The heart of School on Wheels’ programs is the volunteer tutors who come from all backgrounds and professions, with a shared goal – to reach out to a child without a home to teach, to mentor, and to assist in their educational life.
NBC4 and Telemundo 52 Los Angeles have launched the return of Supporting Our Schools donation drive from July 11-19. The stations are teaming up with Ralphs and Food 4 Less to provide homeless students in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura Counties with essential school supplies they need before school starts in the fall.
The public is invited to make a $1 or more donation at check-out when shopping at their local Ralphs and Food 4 Less supermarket – visit Ralphs.comand Food4Less.com to find a location near you. All proceeds will go to support School on Wheels!