Author: Sinead Chilton

Jul 1

July 2015 Newsletter

Dear Friends,

Summer is in full swing and I have a special request for all our amazing volunteers and supporters — please keep helping our students during the summer months. Summer may bring thoughts of vacation, leisure, and fun activities. For our homeless students, however, the summer break is not their friend. Students forget a lot of what they have learned throughout the school year, particularly homeless children. On average the learning loss is about three months of reading and math skills. Our students have enough obstacles in their lives – we don’t want them to lose everything you’ve helped them with during the school year.

Studies also show that being out of school is a dangerous time for unsupervised children and teens. They are more likely to use alcohol and drugs, engage in high-risk behaviors, receive poor grades and drop out of school than those who have the benefit of constructive activities supervised by responsible adults.

I know that many of you work with and support our students year round. Thank you – that will help them retain the knowledge they have learned during the school year and reduce that summer learning loss.

We know that summer learning is critical to ongoing academic success. We want our students to have a variety of experiences that challenge them, develop their talents, keep them engaged, and expand their horizons during these summer months. Our students don’t have a vacation — don’t let their learning take a vacation either.

With deep appreciation for everything you do,

Catherine signature
Catherine Meek
Executive Director

Click here to see more from our July Newsletter

Jun 28

School on Wheels Student accepted to University Southern California

Josephine Bailey-McLein

JosieWe met Josephine (Josie) when she was staying at the Union Rescue Mission (URM) on Skid Row in the fall of 2014. Josie graduated from University High School, Santa Monica, in June and will be heading to University Southern California to study Human Biology this fall. She received five scholarships, including one from School on Wheels, as well as a grant from USC.
Josie was a regular student at the School on Wheels Skid Row Learning Center. We caught up with her to ask her a few questions about her time as a School on Wheels student and how she coped with school while being in a homeless situation. Josie, her mom, and sister are still homeless, but they are now living in a longer term transitional living shelter and said it feels more like home.

Josie, what was it like living in the largest homeless shelter in Skid Row?

I liked that it gave me a place to sleep but it was a very stressful experience. There were lots of people there that you would not meet in everyday life who were from all walks of life.

What was your first impression of School on Wheels’ Learning Center?

When I first walked in, I noticed straight away how many kids were there, especially younger kids. It was loud and busy but warm and welcoming. All the staff and volunteer tutors were really friendly, and Miss Allison, Skid Row Learning Center (SRLC) instructor, is an amazing person who was very encouraging to me and made the center a nice environment to be in.

What difference did School on Wheels make for you during this time?

Being able to study at the SRLC was very important to me because I was able to access the internet. (No internet at the shelter) Most of my homework assignments were online so I needed to be able to get online. They were also great at providing me with school supplies.

Did you move schools a lot?

Yes, I went to three different high schools and eight schools in total. We moved to LA from Indiana but we only became homeless two years ago. I knew I always wanted to go to college. It is such a great feeling to know I am finally done with high school!

Who is your hero?

My mom is my hero because she always pushed me to do well at school. She said that, ‘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!’

Do you have a message for any students out there going through the same experiences as you?

I would tell them not to worry about their living situation and to take advantage of the resources available, like School on Wheels, and the people they meet that are there to help them. I would also say that it is important to be around other kids the same age and try to have fun. It is easy to get stressed about your situation, but sometimes it’s good to forget and just be a kid!

Jun 20

High School Graduate Success Story

Brianna Audinett is a former student of School on Wheels. We met Brianna back in 2008 when she was chosen to represent School on Wheels students in Sweden at the World Children’s Prize for the Rights of a Child ceremony. Agnes Steven, Founder of School on Wheels, had been nominated for this award. This May Brianna graduated from high school, and we caught up with her to find out what she is up to and how School on Wheels has impacted her life.We asked Brianna these questions and here are her responses:

What was your best memory of representing School on Wheels at the prize ceremony in Sweden?

It was all wonderful. But I do remember the plane ride in particular because it was my first time on a plane. Spending time with Catherine, her husband Al, Agnes and Mr. Matt, who was one of my favorite tutors, was also wonderful. When I was in Sweden I felt so much love surrounded by people who loved me. I went back to Sweden six times as a jury member and made many great friends there. We stay in touch via Facebook and emails.

You spent a lot of time with Agnes; what is your best memory of her?

Agnes listened to me and took me seriously. She was candid and sweet and always asked, “What do you need me to do for you?’ Agnes was interested in my education and well-being, and that made me feel great. Knowing that someone, other than your mom, is invested in you is a good feeling. I am kinda indebted to Agnes because she affected me greatly, and I miss her.

What was it like to live in a homeless shelter?

The thing about living in a shelter that upset me the most was the atmosphere. It just destroyed me. Children have to grow up really fast when they are living in a shelter, and the shelter we were living in didn’t cater to children or our childhood. We had to be quiet and sit there and take it!

Do you have a message for our current students?

Yes, the one thing they must do is have hope and self-reliance. You kinda have to maintain your sanity and focus on the people that love you and uplift them too. When you do that, it reflects back… you have to have some degree of faith in yourself to pick yourself up.

Brianna is looking forward to attending college in the fall but she was unable to go to her first university choice due to financial constraints. Going to college, she says, will give her a chance of stability and she wants to be able to sustain herself academically. We know you will get there, Brianna.

Brianna and her mom have been living in permanent housing for a number of years.

 

Jun 1

June 2015 Newsletter

“The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.” – B.B. King

It’s June and for most teenagers, that means getting ready for prom, graduation ceremonies, a summer of celebration. And for seniors, it means all the anticipation and excitement in preparing for the start of college. It’s not like that for the homeless high school student. For them, there is no SAT exam, no prom, no summer fun. The high school graduation rate for homeless children in California is less than 25%. There are many pressing issues facing our nation, but surely preparing young people for success in life is one of the most critical. Education is the fastest path out of poverty — the only way to achieve a more equal society. That’s why we do what we do.

We work with thousands of children and teens. In this issue, you will read about the success of some of our homeless students; students who, against all odds, find the power within themselves to continue each day, to study and keep focused on learning. They are truly inspirational.

Brianna Audinett, a former School on Wheels student, has not only excelled in school; now she is heading to San Francisco State University. She also represented School on Wheels and homeless children as a member of the World’s Children’s Prize Child Jury. The Child Jury consists of 15 children from all over the world who select the three final laureates for the World’s Children’s Prize.

School on Wheels gives hope and opportunity to graduating seniors through the Catherine McAuley Scholarship Fund. Josephine Bailey-McLein received one of our scholarship awards; she is heading to USC this fall. Allan Valencia, Emily Valencia, and Tatiana Obukhova also received scholarships.

Our wish is to plant the seeds of hope, confidence and knowledge in our students. You, our amazing supporters, help us do that.

With deep appreciation for everything you do,

Catherine signature
Catherine Meek
Executive Director

Click here to see more from our June Newsletter

Mar 1

March 2015 Newsletter

There is such tragedy and sorrow in our world. Every day, we learn of murder and mayhem, of war and hateful acts. There is also much beauty and joy. Our beloved Founder, Agnes Stevens, died last month. She was a visionary and the most positive person I’ve met. She saw beauty everywhere. She did not let anything stand in her way when it came to helping homeless children.

Emily Austin, a young woman at the beginning of life’s journey, also died, killed tragically in a car accident. Out of this heartbreak, came hope for our homeless students. Sue Taylor, President of OMD Entertainment, established a memorial fund in her honor and over 50 of Emily’s colleagues are volunteering to tutor our homeless students in her honor. This is what Sue said about Emily:

“When our friend and co-worker, Emily Austin, was killed so suddenly, our company looked for a way to channel our feelings of love for her and our grief at the tragedy to do something good in her honor. School on Wheels was an answered prayer. It allows us to give back to children, upended by circumstance, who are asking for help. Helping homeless children was always a passion of Emily’s and her family. The flexibility, training, organization, and reputation of School on Wheels has provided a tailor-made solution for us to give back in memory of our dear Emily.”

What wonderful legacies these women have left. They will continue to inspire us to help our students succeed in their number one job as a child: going to school and learning.

Catherine signature
Catherine Meek
Executive Director 

Click here to see more from our March Newsletter

Feb 1

February 2015 Newsletter

Greetings!

When we developed our three-year strategic plan at the end of 2011, we established an ambitious and audacious goal to double the number of students we tutor. And with your help, encouragement and support, we did!

You made last year the best yet for School on Wheels and all our students. 3,129 homeless students in Southern California were tutored by 1,816 volunteers in 2014! We awarded scholarships to 12 outstanding students, presented the prestigious President’s Volunteer Service Award to 167 remarkable volunteers, provided backpacks, schools supplies, uniforms, bus tokens and computers to over 6,000 homeless kids, and you, our kind and very generous friends donated over $1.5 million in gifts.

We can only accomplish this work because of you. With one in every 30 kids homeless in America, we have much to do. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the magnitude of the numbers, but we can’t forget that each of those statistics is a child, a child who is scared and lonely and falling behind in school. You provide a critical benefit to that child, one that literally has the power to change the course of her life. You enrich and make a lasting difference in the lives of thousands of homeless children.

With deep gratitude and admiration,

Catherine signature
Catherine Meek
Executive Director

Click here to see more from our February Newsletter