Author: Victor Bornia

Mar 3

Volunteers of the Month – March 2020

Suzanne Rizzolo

Online

Suzanne is an absolutely incredible online tutor. She uses all the tools available to her to expertly meet the needs of her students — even putting together her own lesson plans and presentations. As a professional educator, she brings invaluable expertise to our program. She has such a nurturing spirit, and is great at making our students feel seen and appreciated.

Emma Gerch, Coordinator

I was a middle and high school English teacher for many years. Since I am no longer in the classroom, I found that I was missing the kids. Also, I thought that working with School on Wheels would be particularly rewarding at this stage in my career as an educator. One evening when I happened to mention the strategic use of repetition (the rhetorical device “anaphora”) in regard to something we were reading, my student Zyarre said, “You mean like when Martin Luther King, Jr. keeps repeating the phrase “I have a dream”? Zyarre had read the speech in school and very perceptively applied the new term I was introducing. I would tell any potential volunteer that working with a School on Wheels student will brighten your day and enrich your life.

Phillip DeSautell

Region 7

Mr. Phillip goes above and beyond to help the students at the SRLC. Phillip volunteers multiple times a week and works efficiently and effectively. The students look forward to receiving his help every week!

Jason Wright, Coordinator

My wife told me about volunteering opportunities she had seen in the monthly AARP Magazine, and School on Wheels was one of the ones listed. It appealed to me, because it was for children with a background somewhat like mine. I had a teacher that took special interest in me and helped “boost” me along in the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Grades. Sometimes kids just need a little “boost” to get them on the right learning track. I want to be that boost for one, or some, of these kids if I can be. One memory that stands out for me so far is when I questioned the ability of a student to read at her grade level. She looked me straight in the eyes and said “No I can’t, but I can learn.” That simple sentence will be with me for the remainder of my life, and it makes me smile for what ALL of us tutors do for these kids. Bringing tutoring help to these students will add far more value to your life than you can ever add to theirs! It is an honor.

Tony Estrada

Region 1

Tony has been with us since 2012 and is always going above and beyond for the kids he tutors. In 2019 he transitioned from one-on-one tutoring sessions to group tutoring, starting with one group session a week. Now Tony hosts three sessions every week to help as many kids he can. He is extremely patient, non-judgmental, and friendly but firm with his students. It is a treat to observe his sessions.

Manmeet Sodhi, Coordinator

A few years ago I was at Comic Con and found myself thinking about what it took to be a “real super hero.” A week later, I was listening to a podcast and an actress was talking about how great it was to be tutoring for School On Wheels. When I thought about it, I realized that helping kids in need was a way to actually make an impact. I remember when I was helping a little girl who was literally years behind in school. She had a bit of an attitude. She was very tough and sassy with me. We doubled my hours, PLUS we had another tutor helping, and gradually, her Fs and Ds became As, Bs and Cs. On the last day of tutoring, I thought she was going to be sassy with me like usual, but instead she thanked me for helping her succeed in a way she never thought she could. Her mom sent me the nicest text I have ever received. It was all so touching that I still get teary eyed about it after all these years. Helping these kids has literally made me a better and happier person.

Mar 3

Students of the Month – March 2020

Zyarre

Age 12

Zyarre and I did a fun “values” quiz together, and I think he found it illuminating. The quiz revealed that while recognition (being noticed, feeling significant in the world) is important to him, he is deeply interested in justice and helping others. He told me a story about how he welcomed a shy new student to his school, helping the other boy feel more confident. In the future, Zyarre hopes to build a meaningful and secure life that will likely involve some sort of service to others, and I find his attitude inspiring.

Suzanne Rizollo, Tutor

Moises

Age 8

Moises is 8 years old, in 2nd grade. He is a great reader, a studious learner, and approaches all the new things that come his way with determination and concentration. When he grows up Moises would like to work with lizards; he is the biggest Jurassic Park and Godzilla fan that I have met yet! For our reading time, we always set out an audience: Cat in the Hat and a stuffed dinosaur or two! I have learned from Moises that when you need to learn something new that seems difficult, approaching with a calm and studious outlook is the best way to conquer and learn! Here the dinosaurs and Cat and the Hat are helping Moises conquer double digit subtraction!

Sasana Kachirsky, Tutor

Rachel

Age 11

Rachel likes ice skating, anime, math, and making friends. She has taught me that it’s okay to be unique and comfortable with your own goofy self; she is never judgmental and always has a great attitude. Rachel enjoys talking and getting to know people, so its easy for her to drift away from her work. We’ve managed this by separating ourselves from the rest of the group during distracting times. Rachel hopes to become a psychologist because she doesn’t want kids to feel the same way she did when she was sad. If that doesn’t work out she would like to be a veterinarian.

Carlos, Tutor

Jan 27

Students of the Month – February 2020

Elijah

Age 6

Elijah is very active and loves to play sports outside! He also has a great imagination, and has no difficulty making up stories and games about cops and robbers or ninjas. Since we have multiple tutors at our sessions, our volunteers have worked on Elijah’s spelling and literacy through a team effort. One of our tutors modified board games to reinforce phonetic skills. Other times, we have been reading books, playing with flashcards, and writing storyboards for imaginary movies together. One of our young students was disappointed when I ran out of a particular coloring page, but Elijah immediately ran over with the last copy so that they could collaborate on it together. Elijah has a very bright future ahead of him! He shows me that our students are some of the most generous and altruistic.

Charlotte Kim, Tutor

Varaunica

Age 12

Varaunica likes dancing, watching movies, playing board games, and working on puzzles. Something I have really been working on with her is staying focused when concepts, particularly in math, are initially hard to grasp. The challenge is keeping her mind concentrated and her mood positive when tackling a difficult concept. I have learned patience and methods of creativity as we have tried different approaches to get a concept across or to keep my student engaged.

Gloria Brooks, Tutor

Guadalupe

Age 18

Guadalupe enjoys history, basketball, and has a passion for social awareness. I wouldn’t say Economics has been a challenge, but it is the subject we have worked on the most. Understanding certain Econ methodologies is tough for me, too! Guadalupe is very bright and I hope she continues to work hard and further her education. She has plans for college next year. When she gives me her opinions on things, it opens my mind to things I haven’t noticed or thought of. Hopefully, I’m doing the same for her.

Derrick Stephens, Tutor

CeCe (Cecelia)

Age 13

CeCe says her main interests are photography and her cats, Milo and Max. One big challenge we faced and worked on together was completing, in a short time, a math packet of various problems at many levels of difficulty. CeCe’s hopes and dreams are to graduate from college and to become an artist.

Martha Doran, Tutor

Jan 27

Volunteers of the Month – February 2020

Charlotte Kim

Region 2

I nominated Charlotte for Volunteer of the Month because she consistently shows her dedication to her students and School on Wheels. I can always count on her to be attentive, patient, and kind at her sessions. Charlotte demonstrates true passion and professionalism, and we are lucky to have her as a volunteer!

Carlie Whittaker, Coordinator

I found School on Wheels while looking for service opportunities on VolunteerMatch. I am interested in social justice and working with people at the community level. Tutoring students sounded like one of the best ways for me to give back because, of course, the public school system was something I had plenty of experience with. I have so many favorite experiences, but I was meeting a new family one day when I asked the children what they wanted to be when they grew older. They started jumping up and down, shouting that they wanted to be “just like me” — even though I had only known them for an hour! You should always be flexible and patient as a tutor. However, you might be surprised at how loving the students are, and how much they will come to appreciate even a little bit of your time.

Gloria Brooks

Region 7

Gloria is such a great example to her student and exemplifies patience, consistency, and generosity. She takes the time to get to know every student she works with and creates impactful relationships with them. Gloria provides so much positivity and faith in her students. Her encouraging and supportive manner aids her students in believing in themselves and helps them reach their goals! 

Maxine Faustino, Coordinator

I feel that getting a good education is part of the solution to breaking the cycle of poverty. I joined School on Wheels as a volunteer tutor because I wanted to be a part of the process that enables children to have that opportunity. A favorite memory of mine is from a time I was working on an art project with my student. She revealed a side of herself that I had not seen before; she relaxed while she worked and began sharing her thoughts, dreams, likes, and dislikes, and so on. She was enjoying the project so much that she asked me to stay longer until she was finished, and I ended up spending a least a half-hour after my scheduled time ended. That really warmed my heart. To anyone thinking of becoming a volunteer tutor, I would say do it! You can make quite an impact on the students academically and in other ways, and you will feel so rewarded when you see the positive results.

Derrick Stephens

Region 10

Derrick has been dedicated to not only his student but the entire family since the day he started. Derrick has a way to make everyone around him (including other tutors) feel completely welcome and safe to be themselves. This has allowed his student to be completely transparent with him, which allows him to be an even more incredible tutor. In addition, Derrick took it upon himself to work with his student’s brother whenever the assigned tutor isn’t able to make session. From the moment he joined this organization, Derrick has shown how dedicated he is and how big his heart is. I feel truly lucky to know him.

Katie Philipson, Coordinator

I’ve always enjoyed teaching and I wanted to give back in some way. My student’s honesty always puts a smile on my face. When we first met she admitted to me that she could do better. I thought that was extremely mature of her and extremely open. I’d say it’s changed me in a lot of ways for the better. It’s more than tutoring. It’s trying to affect someone’s future in a positive way no matter how small it might be. You may think one hour per week is not enough time to make a difference, but you’d be surprised. Plus, I’m getting just as much out of it as the kids are.

Martha Doran

Region 8

Martha is an exemplary tutor who is dedicated to her student, CeCe, and to School on Wheels. If we need anything at all, Martha is the first to volunteer…wrapping Christmas presents, helping out at a holiday party, attending a training, volunteering to be part of the Ambassador program, she is there! She also brings such a positive energy and warmth to everything she does. We are very lucky to have her as part of the School on Wheels team!

Chris Walsh, Coordinator

I wanted to be a part of a young person’s life in his/her discovery of who and what they are — to help them bring forth all they have to offer. Hearing my student read to me always makes me smile; we have read various books together, and her voice, her inflections, how I can picture what she says… all of these things make me smile. If you are thinking of volunteering, I would say it is rewarding, and puzzling, and rewarding, and frustrating, and rewarding, and filled with discoveries… you get the drift! My biggest takeaway is how rewarding it is to volunteer as a tutor. I have seen someone else grow and develop, and I have grown as well, being more patient, more curious, and more open to learning what it’s like to be in middle school in the 21st century. I am impressed with how much School on Wheels offers, how many talented people give their time and love to helping the students in our community. It’s a great organization; come and see for yourself!

Jan 6

Volunteers of the Month – January 2020

John Almeida

Region 11 – SRLC

John has been a consistent help with all of our students, but has really given attention to our older students. We can always count on him to be present, positive, and a genuinely caring person. John has also gone above and beyond by helping us recruit more tutors for our program.

Jason Wright, SRLC Instructor

The reason I started volunteering at School on Wheels can be traced back to my childhood. At an early age, my mom stressed the importance of using education to assimilate and achieve the American Dream. Success for me is remembering where I came from and helping those in need. I’ve had many awesome experiences at the Skid Row Learning Center, but there’s one that reinforced my purpose of being there early on. After one of my first sessions, an elementary student asked me to play Jenga with him. I was afraid and didn’t know what to say while we were playing, so it was a good thing that he was a chatter box. He told me about the last school that he went to and how he missed his friends, the playground, and the monthly student store. As he continued, I kept thinking that his descriptions of the school sounded like the one I had gone to, and his eyes lit up when I said the school name. He asked if I could read minds. We were both excited about the discovery and were able to establish a hometown bond that day. Volunteering at School on Wheels has been one of the greatest privileges I’ve had. I encourage anyone who is thinking of tutoring to lean in and give it a shot— you’ll be surprised what you learn about yourself in the process. The impact you’ll have on a child’s educational and emotional development will radiate through all parts of your life.

Diane Lopez

Region 1

Diane is currently tutoring three students. She started with one and stepped up to tutor two more when I was desperately short on bilingual tutors. Diane goes above and beyond for each one of her students. She is amazingly devoted to them, and each one has made great progress. She not only finds time for them, but also regularly finds time to give me updates regarding the progress they have made.

Manmeet Sodhi, Coordinator

I found School on Wheels while looking for tutoring jobs. I have a degree in Child Development and wanted to use it in a way that showed that I understood them and cared. I have a student who is a native Spanish speaker and sometimes I forget how to translate certain words for him; many times I’m scrambling, trying to remember the words, and he thinks it’s the most hilarious thing! I can’t help but laugh with him. If you are thinking of volunteering, I’d say do it. Just remember, this isn’t for some shiny medal or people congratulating you on social media; this is for the kids. They need someone who is there to support them, to make them smile, to be consistent in showing they care. No medal could take the place of a child’s smile.

Vicentica Valdes

Region 5

I nominated Vicentica because of her ability to connect with students in group homes & her passion for helping our students on a larger scale. In addition to attending crafting events for student supplies, she is always willing to take on challenging tutoring placements. Her ability to easily connect with our students makes her a natural go-to for building successful rapport!

Jesse Pasquan, Coordinator

I found School on Wheels after trying out a few different volunteering experiences using Volunteer Match. School on Wheels’ mission spoke to me in a way that the others didn’t, and they provided me with a more consistent opportunity to volunteer, one that allowed me to focus on my immediate community. Being able to show these kids that there are caring people in the world who can and will help others means a lot to me. My favorite experience so far during tutoring has to be the time my student had no homework and I had no materials; we ended up using a whiteboard to work through multiplication problems together. Initially, he was shy about working out a problem on the whiteboard but we made it into a competition and wound up laughing and challenging each other with new math problems. The next time he didn’t have homework he specifically asked if we could work through math problems because he had so much fun and it made my heart melt a little. Volunteering as a tutor has been incredibly rewarding for me. When I first signed up, I wanted to stick to administrative and behind the scenes type volunteering; I was a little intimidated by the tutoring aspect! But now, I’ve been tutoring for over a year and I love it. I would tell anyone who is thinking about volunteering to stop thinking and just do it!

Cynthia Zapata

Region 4

Cynthia is an outstanding volunteer and was very recently made a Tutor Coordinator. She goes above and beyond to help the kids at her shelter. She attends group tutoring twice a week and does a great job bonding with all of the kids and other volunteer tutors. Cynthia is a true gem!

Kristina Rakosh, Coordinator

I learned about School on Wheels while seeking out new volunteer opportunities. The second I had read about their purpose and what they truly care for I just knew I wanted to be a part of it. Something I have come to notice is that my students like to help each other, either with homework or just some random activity we’re doing. They help each other and it brings a genuine smile to not only my face but the other tutors as well. These kids are so bright and their love for creativity is something I always look forward to seeing every week. If someone is considering tutoring with School on Wheels I would encourage them to do it whole-heartedly! The kids may be a little tough to get through to at first, but once you get to know them, they’re some of the best kids you’ll ever meet!

Wisdom Ibole

Region 2

I nominated Wisdom because he exudes a passion for education. Recently, I had the opportunity to observe him working with his students. He is patient, understanding, and motivates them to work hard. Although he has only been with School on Wheels for three months, I can see his drive and the commitment he has to his students. He is a great tutor, and the kids are always excited to see him!

Carlie Whittaker, Coordinator

I learned about School On Wheels through my local NPR station, KPCC. I believe I have so much to learn and to give! Recently I was going over multiplication with one of the students and initially he stumbled with some of the problems, but I was astounded and elated at how quickly he came to understand the concepts. He was basically performing expansions! To anyone considering volunteering as a tutor, I would first commend them on wanting to help out, then try to tell them how rewarding my experience has been. The students might not always be responsive, but slowly, with patience, they do warm up to you. You get to help them have those “aha!” moments. You come to see their potential. You slowly learn how best to get them engaged. When you get them going, it is such a beautiful sight! They are children, after all, and just like us they want someone to be there and be proud of them. In this way, you get to be a positive influence in their lives.

Jan 6

Students of the Month – January 2020

Matias

Age 15

Matias is a teenager who is just learning English. At first, he resisted tutoring, but eventually started to ease up. He tried harder with his reading and started asking me what words meant. He dreams of being able to understand and speak English, and really wants to just have fun like everyone else. He’s come a long way in just a few weeks, and recently gave me one of the greatest gifts of them all: his smile!

Diane Lopez, Tutor

Giselle

Age 7

Giselle loves to color. She will find every opportunity that she can to show off her creative skills, whether it be with her favorite Barbie coloring page or just free drawing. She enjoys math and loves to complete her addition-by-color worksheets. When asking Giselle what she wants to be when she grows up, she happily exclaims that she wants to be a doctor, but that’s not all. She also hopes to learn piano or become a famous singer. Giselle is an incredible student and I’ve learned so much from her. She’s a true example a student who loves to have fun with academics and she’s shown me how to have fun despite the most stressful situations. We’re incredibly thankful to be playing even a small part in her journey.

Cynthia Zapata, Tutor

Malachi

Age 10

Malachi loves to watch music videos and clips from his favorite anime on YouTube. He also does a great job of seeking out challenges: a few weeks ago, he asked to learn how to multiply big numbers! Malachi wants to be able to take care of his mom; when he wins a prize on the prize wheel, he will often ask for a grocery gift card to give to his mom. He brings a lot to tutoring; aside from a great grasp of pop culture, he tends to come in with a great deal of focus and really works on his stuff. It’s a great reminder to challenge yourself to spend time wisely.

Zahn Group Tutoring

Angel

Age 16

Angel is into music, math, and colorful hairstyles. She does well on School on Wheels modules and whatever activities I bring! She has mentioned going to college and renting her own place. With Angel, I am learning the value/importance of continued encouragement and positive reinforcement. Angel epitomizes the brilliant student who just needs that little push every now and again. I’m always amazed at how little resistance she offers up when I ask her to finish an activity, and at how quickly and thoroughly she gets tasks done.

Wisdom Ibole, Tutor