Author: Martha Dietzel

Jul 8

Volunteers of the Month – July 2020

Robin Vanneman

Region 5

Robin’s tutoring story is nothing short of inspiring! She was the last tutor to start in-person tutoring before COVID-19, and we drove around for 45 minutes before her first session trying to find parking! Robin was also my first tutor to start online. None of this has discouraged her in the least, and she goes above and beyond for her student!

Jesse Pasquan, Coordinator

I made a resolution at the beginning of the year to complete 100 volunteer hours in 2020. I did some research on different tutoring organizations and programs and it was apparent School on Wheels was a great place to be. I wanted to be a part of it! I’ve been volunteering as a tutor since I was in high school — almost 15 years now — and I spent most of that time as a literacy tutor. When I moved from Virginia to Los Angeles about 3 years ago I realized this was something I missed doing. One of my favorite memories so far is when my student Ariana and I were working on ratios; at one point, Ariana suddenly blurted out “this is easy!” and it was both funny and rewarding to hear. I was so proud of her and happy that she was getting the concepts down. Volunteering as a tutor is incredibly rewarding. You get to see your student’s grades improve, and their confidence grow right along with it. Don’t second guess on whether or not to do it — sign up today, you will not regret it!

Nhi Ha

Region 1

Nhi is an outstanding tutor, Tutor Coordinator, and Ambassador. She is kind, compassionate, smart, and always ready to help. Nhi has volunteered with School on Wheels in every capacity possible. She is currently tutoring two students (siblings) who simply adore her. Her students told the shelter staff that they never want a different tutor again, she is the only one they want to be with. The testimony speaks for itself!

Manmeet Sodhi, Coordinator

School on Wheels is a wonderful organization to work with. I’d been interested in becoming a teacher for some time and wanted more experience working with children in an academic setting. Now I am considering becoming a pediatrician as children are such a joy to work with. Additionally, I wanted to help teach homeless students because a past college student of mine was greatly affected by their housing situation. No child should be left behind, and working with School on Wheels helps me empower them to reach new heights. My first student struggled in math, but with practice, she got through the problems faster and faster. One day, I presented her with a challenge problem and her eyes lit up. As a reward for tackling it, I gave her an extra sticker of her favorite animal, the lion. At the end of the session, she walked over and gave a sticker to her brother, who was also being tutored. She gave me hope. Tutoring these kids is such a unique experience; you will meet families of varying walks of life and get to know their stories. As a tutor, our primary goal is to provide academic assistance, but School on Wheels also trains us to help students work through their emotions and allow us to mentor them, so we are having a positive impact on their lives, often in ways not traditionally thought of as a regular tutor.

Anthony Estrada

Region 1

Anthony is simply an amazing tutor. He tutors three students and is able to effortlessly connect with each one of them. He is always ready with games, activities, and worksheets for his students. Anthony is a great communicator with lots of patience and a heart of gold. I admire his dedication and flexibility for his students; no matter when they need him, Anthony will show up.

Manmeet Sodhi, Coordinator

I have had my own struggles with school. I know the hardships and difficulty that academics entail. I had trouble staying focused in class and have felt the anxiety and stress that comes with not knowing if you have what it takes to graduate. Without the support of those around me, I don’t know if I would have gotten to where I am today, on track to graduate from CSUF with a major in Physics. Knowing that there must be others experiencing these anxieties, I looked for tutoring jobs and came across School on Wheels. Realizing there are children who must go through the same classes I did, but with less sleep and other issues because of their living situation is what convinced me School on Wheels was the right opportunity for me to give back to my community. For me, the best moments involve breaking down any walls separating us; I get this chance with all my students, and it is a blissful moment every time. One example was a very dismissive student who started out ignoring me to play video games — and ended with him excitedly retelling and discussing a short story we read together. All my students have had this change and it always warms my heart to see them willing to meet me halfway and really get serious about their academics. It puts everything else into perspective and is the closest thing to a magical experience.

Pamela Gripp

Region 9

Pam has been a rockstar advocate for our students, especially in the midst of COVID. Pam has taken the extra step to get in contact with all the students at her after school group site to see how she can help and make sure they do not fall through the cracks. I cannot thank her enough for her advocacy for our students.

Genesis Torres, Coordinator

When I found School on Wheels online, I was instantly drawn to it and it’s mission. After retiring from teaching elementary school for 25 years and relocating, I realized that I really missed the kids. Working with these children has been an incredible experience for me and my family this past school year. I had the pleasure of tutoring a family in Starbucks in a Target store, and also after school in a homework club, but the pandemic has wreaked havoc on families struggling with homelessness and I lost touch. Fortunately, School on Wheels was able to locate one of my families, and I was able to provide support throughout the spring despite each of their 3 motel moves. These kids are so resilient! One of my favorite memories is when one of the sisters told me that she sets up a little office in the bathroom of their motel room to work on math when her brothers get too loud. She wants to grow up to be a brain surgeon, “for kids!” In these trying times, kids need volunteer tutors more than ever to help them to continue learning. It is very stressful not having a physical classroom to go to or the necessary technology to learn remotely, while their parents are dealing with job loss and worrying about how to feed their children.

Anisha Singh

Region 10

Anisha has been so dedicated since the moment she started with her student. She continuously goes above and beyond to make sure that her student is supported and celebrated. I think Anisha may get more excited for Jasmin’s accomplishments than Jasmin herself! She effortlessly supports Jasmin both academically and as a mentor. She truly exemplifies how fun learning can be and it has been a complete joy watching her and her student grow together. I feel grateful to know such a kind, intelligent, and empowering young woman.

Katie Philipson, Coordinator

I started volunteering to try and help more children learn to love learning as much as I do, especially Math. I volunteer with Schools on Wheels specifically because I agree with their core values and message. One memory that stands out for me is when there was a big math test coming up. My student Jasmin and I were reviewing the content and Jasmin felt very prepared for the test when she left the session. And the next week, she told me that she got a really high score! It made me smile because I was so proud of her, but also Jasmin was very proud of herself and she felt like she did her best on the test and really understood the material. I loved seeing Jasmin believe in herself and prove to herself that she could do anything she put her mind to, especially in a subject that was challenging for her. Anyone who is even slightly thinking of volunteering, I would say go for it! It is one of the best feelings to know you are making a positive difference in someone else’s life, and it’s even better when you see that difference is being made. To watch someone blossom into a confident person in front of you is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have.

Andrew Chung

Online

Though he’s only in 8th grade himself, Andrew has so much energy and support to give to his student Selena. He is consistent, dedicated, and motivated to help Selena do her best. His positive energy and nurturing spirit really shine through and have had a huge impact on his student. His mom, Ellen, is also an absolute joy and does everything she can to support Andrew’s tutoring.

Emma Gerch, Coordinator

My mom and I were looking for volunteering opportunities for me, and when we came across the School on Wheels program, I absolutely loved the idea of tutoring those children in need. I always wanted to make an impact in our community by helping others, and I’ve discovered that there are so many ways to contribute. One wonderful experience I had with my student Selena was when she passed her post assessment. We were both extremely happy that she did so well on it and that all of her hard work finally paid off. Becoming a volunteer tutor is a big step in contributing; it’s an amazing way to be able to help our community and others in need. Creating bonds with students is a big part when tutoring, and helps both the tutor and the student grow together.

Jun 18

2020 Graduation Spotlights

June equals graduation for students across the country. This year the celebrations have been different, to say the least. Schools got creative and hosted car parades and virtual events to celebrate students graduating from elementary school, middle school, high school and college.  

We partnered with Community Promise to celebrate School on Wheels students graduating high school this year. In addition to supporting our work with a financial contribution, they are also helping us to recognize graduating students with certificates, gift cards, and personalized gifts.

Today we want to shine a spotlight on a School on Wheels alumna graduating college, as well as two high school graduates—one a volunteer tutor and one a student.

Former student Josie graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree from USC. We first met Josie when she was living at the Union Rescue Mission with her mom and sister in 2014. She says her mom is her hero because she always said, “Having an education was the only way you get anywhere and if I wanted to reach for something better, school was the way to do it!”

Eighteen-year-old volunteer tutor Lucy graduated from Laguna Blanca School and will be attending college in the fall. Lucy tutored two students at Transition House in Santa Barbara for over a year. Lucy recently worked with School on Wheels on her senior project. You can watch her video on Digital Divide here

School on Wheels student Kenneth in Orange County kept in touch with his tutor Benjamin even when in-person tutoring was canceled due to COVID-19. He said their weekly check-ins helped him to stay focused on graduating and planning for college. Kenneth will be attending Santa Ana College.

Feb 14

Digital Learning Day Contest

Congratulations to winners Elijah and Samson!

Did you know? February 27th is Digital Learning Day! All month long, we’re celebrating innovative technology practices in education and raising awareness about how we can intentionally bring digital tools into tutoring sessions.

Our students overwhelmingly lack access to the tech devices and education they need to succeed in school and beyond. As a tutor, you can bridge the digital divide for your student by thoughtfully using technology to fill educational gaps.

In celebration of Digital Learning Day, we want to see your students use Scratch – a program we love that teaches kids creative coding. All participating students will be entered to win a $25 gift card for Target.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Create a Scratch account (it’s free!)
  2. Have your student complete the Animate a Name tutorial on Scratch. We recommend downloading and printing these Coding Cards for easy instruction.
  3. Creativity is encouraged! Instead of a name, your student can animate “School on Wheels,” or an inspirational word like “Learn,” “Grow,” or “Think.” Or they can animate their own name (first names only please). Sample project here.
  4. Enter the contest below by sharing your project file or the link to your project!
    • To download the project, click File – Save to your computer.
    • To find the link to your project, click ‘Share,’ then ‘Copy Link’.

Note: This project requires a laptop. If wifi is a problem at your tutoring site, you can download the app here for offline use.

Contact egerch@schoolonwheels.org with questions.

Dec 9

Tutors Needed for Special Assignment in Mentone and Riverside

We urgently need tutors at the following locations. Please read on for details on these placements.

Our House (Group home) – Mentone 

  • Group tutoring for one hour on Mondays and Wednesdays
  • Teens (boys and girls) – Provides shelter services for youth 11-17
  • Students can be there for a day or for a number of months
  • Students include run-aways, children who have been sex-trafficked, teens who are foster kids, etc.
  • The environment can be hectic during the time we tutor.
  • Students need encouragement to come to tutoring, need tutors who can inspire learning, be creative and think out of the box

Path of Life (Emergency shelter) – Riverside

  • Tutoring on Mondays and Wednesdays 
  • K-12 (boys and girls)
  • Emergency shelter; families are there for up to 90 days
  • Anywhere from 1 to 5 students may show up for tutoring sessions. Tutors should be flexible and proactive in engaging students to promote attendance.
  • Tutors need to be able to work well with children who are very active
  • Creativity is very important for tutors at this location

Important Skills for Tutors Considering this Placement

School on Wheels works with students experiencing homelessness. These students carry trauma related to their unstable housing and many other experiences they may have had. School on Wheels tutors provide academic support, but in many cases, it is the other elements of tutoring–mentorship, flexibility, and consistency–that truly help our students flourish. 

Due to the nature of the population we serve and the consistent struggles they face, it is the tutors who are flexible, adaptable, compassionate, and proactive who make the biggest impact. Our partner locations are often busy and may not provide the ideal environment for learning. Families may move in and out of a shelter quickly or they may stay for months. Our students desperately need caring, motivated role models to step in once a week and provide them with support and encouragement.

If interested, please contact Regional Coordinator, Stephanie Swenseid: sswenseid@schoolonwheels.org


If you possess the following skills, you may be a perfect fit for these tutoring locations:

  • Ability to build a strong rapport with students/parents/shelter staff. Students learn from who they like and trust. Building a strong relationship with them is the first step in opening the door and developing a curiosity to learn for a student. A large part of the impact tutors make at these types of locations is actually in the mentoring, self-esteem building, etc.
  • Emotional intelligence and a strong capacity for empathy.
  • Flexibility & adaptability. At many of our locations, kids/families are moving constantly. Tutors may see a student once or twice, or they may see them for months. The tutors who show up every week ready to take on whatever the day brings are our most valued volunteers.
  • Self-starter, able to work independently or in a group. We provide all of our tutors with training and consistent support. However, these specific locations are best for tutors who feel comfortable being proactive.
  • Interest in being a positive role model, mentor, and inspiration to your students.
  • Ability to handle chaotic environments and teach within those environments. Our locations are often busy and may not provide the ideal environment for learning. Tutoring requires the ability to work well in this kind of environment. 
Dec 9

Tutors Needed for Special Assignment in Upland

We urgently need tutors at the following location. Please read on for details on this placement.

Reach Out (Drop-in center) – Upland

This is a new engagement for School on Wheels. We are looking for two volunteers who have some experience creating something from the ground up and who truly believe in our mission. Volunteers should be comfortable devoting at least a year to helping School on Wheels develop and strengthen our budding relationship with this location, its staff, and the students who live there.

This location is a drop-in center for older students who have been living on the streets or couch surfing. As a result, the number of students who attend tutoring each week will not be guaranteed. We will be working to create a tutoring environment that will attract and engage students.

Important Skills for Tutors Considering this Placement

School on Wheels works with students experiencing homelessness. These students carry trauma related to their unstable housing and many other experiences they may have had. School on Wheels tutors provide academic support, but in many cases, it is the other elements of tutoring–mentorship, flexibility, and consistency–that truly help our students flourish. 

Due to the nature of the population we serve and the consistent struggles they face, it is the tutors who are flexible, adaptable, compassionate, and proactive who make the biggest impact. Our partner locations are often busy and may not provide the ideal environment for learning. Families may move in and out of a shelter quickly or they may stay for months. Our students desperately need caring, motivated role models to step in once a week and provide them with support and encouragement.

If interested, please contact Regional Coordinator, Stephanie Swenseid: sswenseid@schoolonwheels.org


If you possess the following skills, you may be a perfect fit for these tutoring locations:

  • Ability to build a strong rapport with students/parents/shelter staff. Students learn from who they like and trust. Building a strong relationship with them is the first step in opening the door and developing a curiosity to learn for a student. A large part of the impact tutors make at these types of locations is actually in the mentoring, self-esteem building, etc.
  • Emotional intelligence and a strong capacity for empathy.
  • Flexibility & adaptability. At many of our locations, kids/families are moving constantly. Tutors may see a student once or twice, or they may see them for months. The tutors who show up every week ready to take on whatever the day brings are our most valued volunteers.
  • Self-starter, able to work independently or in a group. We provide all of our tutors with training and consistent support. However, these specific locations are best for tutors who feel comfortable being proactive.
  • Interest in being a positive role model, mentor, and inspiration to your students.
  • Ability to handle chaotic environments and teach within those environments. Our locations are often busy and may not provide the ideal environment for learning. Tutoring requires the ability to work well in this kind of environment.