School on Wheels Regional Manager, Lisette Gaeta, and Regional Coordinator, Riley Hennessy interviewed with iHeartRadio to talk about the work our volunteers do in the community to help provide educational assistance to our homeless students.
Often children will develop basic reading skills, but struggle to move on to more advanced material. We explore the main roadblocks that kids face when learning to read and learn how they engage with the material from their own perspective. We also learn one easy game that you can play to make a dramatic difference in older students ability to become a strong reader. It works like magic!
About the Presenter: Mary Beth Fletcher was a public school teacher in Pomona Unified School District for 17 years and she has taught every grade level. For the last 7 years, she has been working as a private reading specialist and tutor.
April is Volunteer Appreciation month, and every year we celebrate our volunteers and thank them for dedicating their time and talents to supporting the homeless students we serve. As this year is our 25th anniversary, we hosted our biggest event ever. On Saturday, April 21, over 150 volunteers from Long Beach to Ventura joined staff and board members for an inspirational breakfast and award ceremony.
Mayor Eric Garcetti honored volunteer tutors with certificates of appreciation and recorded a video for us to share at the event. Speakers included a parent whose daughter is now attending college and student Charlie (15) who surprised his tutor, Executive Director Catherine Meek, by reading out the proclamation she received from the mayor. Click here to see a full list of the amazing volunteers who logged over 50+ volunteer hours in 2017.
Eight AME churches recently united to present the Community Lenten Caravan (CLC), a series of services held in L.A. and Pasadena leading up to Resurrection Sunday.
The goals were spiritual renewal for believers and raising funds to assist two local nonprofits. School on Wheels of Los Angeles and Alkebulan Cultural Center of Pasadena received all of the proceeds from the CLC services.
Above, the nonprofit representatives (center) pose with CLC Pastors (from left) Dwaine Jackson, Darryl Walker, Benjamin Hollins, Kelvin Calloway, John Cager III, Carolyn Baskin-Bell, T.C. Johnson, Mary S. Minor and Larry Campbell. (Jacquelyn Calloway photo)
Nonprofit Spotlight: School on Wheels Volunteers Going the Distance in Tutoring and Guiding At-Risk Students
By Alexandra Fradelizio | m/Oppenheim Media Writer
For thousands of homeless and unsheltered children, falling behind in school is an occurrence that jeopardizes their future education and livelihoods. The Southern California based organization School on Wheels works with about 3,500 at-risk youth annually“to reduce the gaps in education of homeless kids from kindergarten through grade 12,” stated Executive Director Catherine Meek.
Students who are tutored by the volunteers of School on Wheels reside in Los Angeles County with many meeting at the organization’s learning center in Skid Row. For the majority of children unable to visit the learning center, dedicated volunteers travel to homeless shelters, a nod to the organization’s name.
“We work with the kids that are the most transient,” explained Meek.
“We go to wherever the kids are. They don’t come to us.”
In order to recruit volunteers, the School on Wheels staff conducts extensive interviews and provides a mandatory training program to ensure tutors are able to remain within the organization for the foreseeable future. The process not only effectively matches volunteers with students but also helps to create a “lasting relationship,”Meek stated.
“The most important success factor for our students is consistency of volunteers and the bond that is created between the student and the volunteer.”
School on Wheels accepts volunteers across all age groups and backgrounds. Tutors as young as 12 are permitted to volunteer with a parent or guardian, and the organization has previously recruited individuals with professions in business, science, and drama. A senior volunteer initiative has also been implemented to attract individuals over the age of 55. Ultimately, staff of School on Wheels seek to find individuals who want to both help and guide students in receiving an education.
“It’s very difficult to gain the trust in a short time period of kids who are unsheltered, and they are arguably the kids who need our help the most,” said Meek.
The organization was originally founded 25 years ago by retired school teacher Agnes Stevens who volunteered as an aide at a Los Angeles school. When she discovered that numerous students lived at homeless shelters, Stevens and her friends, including Meek, began to tutor the children and experienced the numerous positive effects of their work.
Eventually becoming the executive director of the organization in 2009, Meek has helped to grow the outreach of School on Wheels and increase the number of children served despite challenges. The Los Angeles Times recently called the current homeless situation in the city “disgraceful”as a decline in affordable housing has contributed to the drastic growth of unsheltered children.
“What we want to do now is to have a bigger impact on each individual student in terms of the quality of the service we provide,” stated Meek.
In addition to offering tutoring sessions, students also directly receive benefits from the organization. Funds from School on Wheels help to give the children school supplies, uniforms, and scholarships. The organization has also instated a number of new initiatives, including digital learning and reading literacy programs, to help diminish the educational disparities among at-risk youth.
With the unrelenting commitment of their volunteers, School on Wheels is helping to pave a positive future for many youth.
“Their lives are just filled with inconsistency and instability and chaos, and so we want to provide a refuge,” said Meek.
“We want to be able to provide that consistency of caring and compassion and support.”
My experience tutoring with School on Wheels has been my favorite part of college and, no matter how hard the week has been, that hour continues to be a bright spot. – Kayla Williams
I chose to be a tutor because I think that the community can benefit from this academic support and our work has been very productive. – Annika Moen
I choose to tutor with School on Wheels because I am committed to helping provide equal access to education for all. – Clara Keane
I have had an amazing experience volunteering with School on Wheels. – Ellen Prince
I have really enjoyed seeing the progress made over the year. There were some students who struggled with reading and to see them persevere and make progress has been rewarding. – Sara Woldegebriel
I love working with children and believe education is the ultimate tool of empowerment, especially for kids. I started volunteering for School on Wheels because I was excited for a chance to work with kids and because I wanted to give back to the community. – Dalia Quezada
School on Wheels is doing great work and we’re glad that we are contributing in a helpful way. – Manjun Hao
So far my experience with School on Wheels has been a very positive one. I’ve developed a close relationship with my student and I’ve really enjoyed seeing her reading comprehension develop over the course of our time together. – Darla Howell
I choose to volunteer for School on Wheels because the value of education is immeasurable. – Gianna Zinnen
Skid Row Learning Center:
Shannon Moore – Shannon has been with School on Wheels since 2016 and recently formed a girls group, aged 10 and up, which gathers every Tuesday. They work on various emotional topics such as confidence, self-appreciation, and self-care.T he girls love it and look forward to their time with Ms. Shannon! In her own words, “From the moment I met my first student Rafael, I knew destiny was hard at work! School on Wheels has given me the opportunity to not only be a tutor, but a role model and friend to these beautiful souls.
Field trips in summer and birthday parties at the shelter have created irreplaceable memories that I can share with these incredible students for a lifetime. I’ll never be able to thank School on Wheels and my students enough for truly changing my life!”
Albert Zhu – Tutoring for School on Wheels has been a very delightful and inspiring experience for me. Helping my students understand and master what was taught to them in school has been very rewarding, and it always brings a smile to my face when I see them finally have their “aha!” moments. School on Wheels has not only given me the joy of teaching, but it has also allowed me to discover the need to sometimes put aside my own personal goal and desires to help others achieve theirs. If I had not known that School on Wheels tutored homeless children, I would not have thought for a second that any of my students were homeless, because once the label of “homeless” is taken away, each and every SOW student is just like any other student in the world—with the desire to learn, the ability to succeed, and the potential to shape their futures. I am always glad to put aside some of my time each week to help my students take control of their education and reach their future goals.