Over 70 students celebrated Halloween and trick-or-treated thanks to support from the LAPD, Downtown L.A Industrial District BID, our amazing volunteers, Hulu for their donation of trick or treat bags and goodies, everyone who donated costumes and candy, and our very own Allison Maldonado.
Author: Martha Dietzel
On Sunday, October 28, in the 5:30 AM early morning mist, students from all over Southern California began pouring into Dockweiler Beach for the annual Students Run Los Angeles (SRLA) Beachcomber 10K. This year, SRLA selected School on Wheels, Inc. as an official nonprofit partner for the SRLA Cares “Every Penny Counts” initiative.
At the event, members of our staff along with volunteer tutors, Natalie Platon, and Sam Hiatt connected with some of the 3000+ students and families and shared information about our program and about the students we serve. Staff members Ian, Angie, Ryan, and Natalie even got to run the 10K alongside the students and families! Thank you, SRLA, for inviting us to share our mission with your students and families and for selecting us as a recipient of the SRLA Cares initiative. For more photos of the event check out their website.
Marianna tutors at a domestic violence emergency shelter and her Tutor Coordinator nominated because of her dedication and consistency to the students. The expectation is that a tutor would come one day, one hour a week, but Marianna regularly comes 2-3 times a week. -Ana, Volunteer Support Coordinator
Marianna Schroeder – I learned about School on Wheels through volunteermatch.org. After scrolling through a number of volunteer opportunities in my area, I found that School on Wheels was the perfect match for me. Regularly practicing philanthropy, empathy, and compassion is highly important to me, and I’m grateful to have witnessed the personal and educational impacts of these traits among students and tutors at School on Wheels.
In a recent tutoring session, a fifth grade student asked me insightful questions about college and told me he wanted to attend UCLA. It amazed me that while overcoming immense instability and difficulty in his life, he was already considering pursuing higher education and working diligently in our sessions to achieve academic success. This memory will always stay with me and make me smile.
Volunteering as a tutor with School on Wheels is a fulfilling, engaging, meaningful, unforgettable, and rewarding experience. It’s genuinely touching to see the joy that is brought to both students and tutors when students believe in themselves and their ability to succeed.
Becky and her tutoring partner, Alli, are two of the most dedicated, consistent, passionate, and patient tutors I could ask for. Each week, they work with a vulnerable group of teen girls at a group foster home. They plan amazing art projects and field trips and inspire not only the girls they work with but me as well. Thank you, Alli and Becky, for all that you do! -Angie, Regional Coordinator
Becky – A few years ago I had brain surgery that left me with some disabilities, but School on Wheels and the group home community has always accepted me as I am. I accept the girls at the group home for who they are too. Really, who could ask for anything more?
Allison Rowe – Tutoring at a group home constantly reminds me of the power of showing up. You can’t undo yesterday, and there’s no knowing what tomorrow will bring.This is especially true for our girls. Showing up, being flexible with how the lesson flows, and bringing creative energy is what builds trust and acceptance between everyone at the table. There are days that the most impactful lessons are the ones I take home about the strength of the human spirit. Every week is an opportunity to listen and learn. It is a true gift to be a part of this community.
Jeremy Agrusa – I was looking to volunteer online and found School on Wheels to be something I was compelled to be a part of. Starting I was a bit nervous. I didn’t know if I would be able to help all that much. I found out was that it’s not about knowing everything or being a teacher: it’s about being there for someone who needs the help. These students are smart and eager to learn, and sometimes they just need to be encouraged. It’s amazing to see the change in a student’s attitude when you congratulate them on the work they do. One of my students in particular does not like math. He would start to get overwhelmed by the amount of work on the page, so we simplified it. I showed him a few tricks that worked for me when I was young and it clicked for him. He got so excited with his progress and speed that he finished 80 problems in less than 20 minutes instead of hours. That’s what this program is about, showing these students that we are there for them and that they are capable of exceeding their own expectations.
Eric Garcia – I began working with School on Wheels through my work at Revolve. I’ve been helping to tutor Latin students at Casa Libre through Schools on Wheels. I try to help students in any way I can; I usually read in English or sketch with the students. I feel lucky to be helping tutor at this organization because I truly believe good change starts with youth. I feel fulfilled to help the students as best I can to reach their goals!
Charlotte Kim – While I grew up in Los Angeles, I didn’t think twice about what it meant to be able to enroll in SAT bootcamp or other enrichment programs during high school, let alone have a stable home. Joining the hip-hop club when I started college, however, initiated my interest in underserved communities and some of the issues they face. Since January, I have had the pleasure of sharing my passion for learning with tomorrow’s future leaders and thinkers at an emergency shelter. It is always gratifying to see how excited the students are when I arrive with the other tutors for group tutoring, where we practice anything from math to reading to art. Thanks to School on Wheels and their endless support, I now see how much talent, enthusiasm, and compassion exist in our city despite immense challenges.
Miriam Leserman – I have been with School on Wheels for about four and a half years now, and it has been one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had.
I was looking to do volunteer work and stumbled upon School on Wheels. Since the beginning I have worked as both a tutor and tutor coordinator at various locations.
I am currently at a domestic violence shelter. This location has been by far the most rewarding. Although I don’t get to work with the same children all the time, it has given me the opportunity to work with dozens of children and serve the community on a greater scale.
Lori Horhor – I completely love my experience online tutoring with School on Wheels! I love watching students reach their “a-ha” moment after struggling with the material for some time, because it demonstrates that hard work and practice always pays off. I realized that students look forward to meeting with their online tutor every week, which signifies that the relationship between tutor and student is extremely valuable in ways greater than simply academics. I hope that as an online tutor, I not only help my students understand their schoolwork, but also instill within them a curiosity and passion to learn and thrive.
Gabriel (11th grade) – I love seeing Gabriel brighten up when we talk about art and clothing! He’s very interested in becoming the best person and truly understanding what interests him! We sit and sketch together during the week and talk about shading, contouring, construction of garments, and croquis! – Eric Garcia, Tutor
Marco (age 16) – Marco and I work on his projects and homework together each week. Most of the time we are going over things as a recap or moving forward and learning something new. Marco is a smart, funny, intelligent and creative student. We are in the process of designing a game, and I will be teaching him how to code using Unity. He was responsible for the design, concept and gameplay. Over the past few weeks I have seen Marco grow in his confidence with schoolwork and ability to problem solve. He shows a great interest in coding and biology, which is perfect for designing biology-related programs. Keep up the great work, buddy! – Jeremy Agrusa, Tutor
Layben, Nytirri, and Lamar – There are few kids’ rituals as important as Saturday morning cartoons, but the siblings Layben, Nytirri and Lamar are always eager to work on math, kindly helping us set up the chairs and tables without being asked.
In the first few sessions, Layben (kindergarten) was more reserved, and I hardly heard him speak. After more one-on-one time, I have found he has a burgeoning sense of humor, playing jokes while I watch him make speedy progress on addition and subtraction.
Nytirri (2nd grade) reminds me of me as a child, with her diligence and her affinity for arts and crafts. If you teach her something new, she will master it by the next week and ask you to give her a more difficult problem set. Sometimes, she makes her own problems and teaches them to us.
Lamar (3rd grade) is equally devoted, bringing his own workbook to do extra practice at the end of a lesson. He loves brain games, like word searches and chess. He quickly learned the rules of chess one day, then taught them to the other students. As the oldest, he has a sense of confidence that I feel will enable him to be a leader.
– Charlotte Kim, Tutor
Katrina (10th Grade) – Katrina is very bright, a quality she undoubtedly gains through her love for reading. She invests hours into reading everyday and enjoys every minute of it! She says she loves to be transported to an alternate universe, in which the interesting events are taking place. Katrina is also an extraordinarily quick learner and grasps material after only a few minutes of practice. Often, we get through much more than I had initially intended to cover in one online tutoring session! It has been wonderful being able to connect with Katrina through online tutoring, and I have no doubt that Katrina will accomplish amazing things in the near future!
– Lori Horhor, Tutor
Skid Row Learning Center:
Bailey (Kindergarten) – Bailey is the first Kindergartener ever chosen as Student of the Month at the Learning Center! She is helpful, dutiful, kind, caring, and respectful. She not only completes her homework quickly and efficiently, but she also helps her classmates. She is the epitome of what a Student of the Month should be! – Jason Wright, Tutor
My student, seven year old Nick, has been doing great in school! When I first met him, he didn’t seem to enjoy school very much. He definitely didn’t like seeing me once a week. He didn’t want to talk to me, he didn’t want tutoring, and he basically had a bad attitude every time he would see me. His behavior was not great, to say the least. His mom would thank me often for having so much patience with him.
I have been tutoring him for about seven or eight months now. Every time he sees me now, he gets so excited! He seems to enjoy school very much! He loves math, and he’s always so excited to show me how much he has learned! He’s such a bright kid, and I’m so happy I get to tutor him once a week. I’ve seen him progress academically, emotionally, and behaviorally. I’m so proud of him!
Most of all, I am so grateful that School on Wheels has given me the opportunity to be a light in the path of a young soul who just needs a little bit of guidance in the right direction. Nick is still so young and has his whole life ahead of him! I hope and pray that I will make even the slightest impact on his life to help him succeed in the future. Nick has so much academic potential! I’m very excited to see him succeed step by step. I have posted his latest masterpiece, a minion pumpkin!
School on Wheels Tutor
Milan Narula – I began tutoring with School on Wheels in 2016. I tutor in a group setting at an emergency domestic violence shelter. I love that I get to meet and work with lots of different students. I’ve had so much fun with all of them! This past summer, a friend and I applied for, and won, a community grant to buy Chromebooks to teach coding to kids. From the very beginning, the students at the shelter loved coding and being on the computer, and the tutors loved teaching it. One family in particular (10th grade sister, 7th grade brother and 4th grade sister) were especially quick to pick up coding, and they challenged us because we had to keep coming up with new curriculum. It was fun and rewarding to see how much progress they made in such a short time, and I only hope they’re able to continue coding in their next home. Initially, the plan was for July to be our Month of Code, but the kids loved it so much that we continued until school started, and we hope to keep coding during the school year (whenever the kids are done with their schoolwork). I wish everyone could see the students’ enthusiasm and eagerness to learn — it’s the best part of being a School on Wheels tutor.
Riki Aihara – My experience with School on Wheels has been eye opening. I never knew the extent of how many kids and families face homelessness so close to my own home. I had this idea of the suburbs that excluded such problems and realized I had been naive. Being able to help and support these kids in any way possible has been both challenging at times and pure joy in others. I hope to continue making a difference in children’s lives with this great organization.
Thu-Anh Holton – I came across School on Wheels when I did an internet search for ways I could help out children. Education was always a big part of my upbringing and I was fortunate enough to have a strong support system to push me and help me with my studies. I wanted to pass that along in any way that I could. With my work schedule I end up with little pockets of down time, and wanted to make the most of that time. I started by donating school supplies, because without those things, learning can be so much more difficult than it already is. When I found out that School on Wheels had an online tutoring program, I thought it would be a great fit and it certainly is. I travel a lot for work and I would never be able to commit to physically being at a specific location to tutor. I hope to continue to work with School on Wheels for as long as my schedule allows. It’s such a great feeling seeing smiles on my students’ faces when they accomplish something!
Michael Hacker – In 2011, I was working a demanding job with the typical nagging desire of wanting to “give back.” I realized that I had to simply take that first step or nothing would ever happen. School On Wheels looked like a great organization and that proved to be a good hunch. I started with a student in Hollywood, and we worked together until he graduated from high school. We’re still in close contact, and he’s moved to Oregon and is living a productive and happy life. Last year I started working with Iris, who’s about to start her senior year in high school. Just an hour a week can make an enormous difference in the lives of these students, and it definitely continues to change my life in an extremely positive way.
Skid Row Learning Center:
Jennifer Soto – This coming November will be a full year of tutoring with Schools on Wheels. I get the biggest smile when the kids tell me how the tips I gave them for the week helped improved their school work. It’s amazing to know that tutoring once a week can still can make a big difference in the students school work. I had a student recently tell me that her goal is to be a famous DJ. She asked if I could help her with an assignment to explain why she wants to become a DJ, list ways on how she can reach her goal to become a DJ and come up with a creative DJ name. I love how our students always set their goals high. I like to remind the students that they can achieve as many goals they set their mind to. Any goal can be achieved, if they take the right steps on getting there and if they continue to have a positive mind with determination to never give up. I try to tell them not to listen to the people who say their goal is unrealistic or unachievable. A quote a friend told me once was there is three C’s in life, choices, chances and changes, we must make a choice to take a chance or our life will never change. I like to share this advice with our students, it’s a great way to explain why we should take the chance to pursue our goals. I will always want to continue tutoring at Schools on Wheels and thank you again for picking me as your tutor of the month!