Author: Victor Bornia

Mar 2

Students of the Month (3/21)

Himika

Age 13

Himika loves to read different books, and is also learning Japanese! In math, she has been struggling with exponents but we worked on that and it’s gotten much better now!


Working with Himika, I have learned that even though some concepts can be tough to master with many different intricate parts, more and more practice can lead to amazing progress!

Aditya Kalahasti & Darren Cao, Tutors

Irvin

Age 19

Irvin is very special because he is so eager to learn and he is such a courteous young man. Since he has had so many breaks in his education history, the online system (made necessary by the pandemic) is especially challenging. Nevertheless, Irvin is making great progress toward earning his high school diploma!


Irvin wants to become a chef, and someday open his own Mexican restaurant. Working with him, I have seen and learned the power of resilience.

Judith Seki, Tutor

Yozelyn

Age 6

Yozelyn loves to draw, play soccer, and use her imagination to play pretend. Her favorite colors are baby blue, royal blue, gold, baby pink, and baby purple. She loves cats, koalas, and bunnies.


When Yozelyn grows up she would like to be a police officer or a nurse. I have learned that consistent one-on-one time spent on literacy skills allows students to make gains they need to become fluent readers. Every child deserves the opportunity to become a strong reader.


Yozelyn has also taught me that she learns better when I am open to her sense of humor. She loves constructing sentences that make her laugh when we learn new sight words, and I have learned to be flexible!

Mia Kenworthy, Tutor

Amari

Age 9

Amari’s unmatched and diligent work ethic makes him extremely special. He has had a little difficulty regarding mathematical equations, but after weeks of arduously working on the skill together, he has mastered it.


While not certain about what he wants to do in the future, Amari knows that he wants to go to college.


I have learned many important lessons from my student, including thinking in a different perspective, which allows me to benefit him even more.

Shant Khamo, Tutor
Mar 1

Volunteers of the Month (3/21)

Helen Kwon

Region 10

I decided to nominate Helen because she always goes above and beyond with her students. Helen is currently matched with 2 students at one of our sites in Tustin and she meets with these students a total of 6 times a week! She puts so much passion behind the work she does with her students and it is truly inspiring.

Aeriell Woodhams, Volunteer Support Coordinator

As a former high school English teacher I can supplement my own children’s education, and I wanted to do that for others. I was troubled by the disparities in education, especially during the pandemic. I could see the lack of education my own children were receiving.

I’ve mostly worked with older children and I enjoy the rapport with them, but sometimes I don’t necessarily see the academic improvements as readily. Today I’ve been working with my current 1st grader for just over 2 months and I can already see huge gains in her literacy. She’s actually reading!

If tutoring a child in need sounds interesting, try it — one on one tutoring really works! Just devoting one hour per week makes a real difference in that child’s current life & future possibilities.

Tazin Yunis

Region 10

I nominated Tazin because of the impact she is making on the high school students she works with. Tazin is currently working with four high school students and helping with college applications. All four have applied to their respective colleges and completed their FAFSA. The impact Tazin is making is amazing and is going to make a lasting impact on the students.

Aeriell Woodhams, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I have been a “volunteer” all my life; in my faith community, voluntary service is heavily encouraged and regarded as a responsibility and obligation to our fellow citizens on this Earth. I believe education is of the utmost importance and something we can carry with us, no matter what life may throw at us. It’s the one thing that can’t be taken away from us, and if need be it can be used to start all over, whether we have to change states, countries, or continents.

By volunteering with School on Wheels, I can use my skills, time, and energy to help at-risk students improve and excel in their studies and make strides towards changing their futures. After tutoring students in math, reading, science, and English for over 7 years, in the fall of 2020 I started helping high school seniors with their college and FAFSA applications. After researching and going through the process with my own daughter, I felt experienced enough to help advise our School on Wheels students with putting their best foot forward on their applications. I am a CPA by trade, so helping our students obtain financial aid to make their college dreams a reality is very rewarding. I am excited to see them enter the next phase in life and blessed to have been a small part of their journey.

No matter how busy or stretched you might feel you are, there is always time to give back. Find a cause that is important to you and dedicate some time to it. If supporting students experiencing homelessness speaks to your heart, I highly recommend getting involved with School on Wheels. One hour a week is easy to give and could make such a difference in a student’s life. During COVID, volunteering is as easy as logging into an online platform and meeting with your student virtually, you don’t even need to leave your home! Get involved and make a difference!

Raya Smith

Online

Raya has demonstrated patience, dedication, and persistence in supporting her student, who has special needs. Raya tutors twice per week, regularly researches resources to help Marcos thrive in school, and always models care and understanding in her sessions with him. We are lucky to have Raya in the School on Wheels family!

Emma Gerch, Digital Learning Specialist

After COVID-19 hit the U.S. last spring and we were all sent home from college, I was seeing a lot of stories online about younger kids who were struggling with keeping up in online learning. After doing a bit of research, I found School on Wheels online. I fell in love with the mission and wanted to do my part to help tutor those in need!

I always smile whenever Marcos gets really excited about learning or sharing something with me about his life! He loves to talk about animals, and we always learn about a new animal after doing math during a session. One time, he pulled a guinea pig out of his hood and it surprised me so much I couldn’t stop laughing! He definitely loves his animals 🙂

If you’re considering volunteering with School on Wheels, do it! The staff is super supportive of their tutors, and the kids are awesome to work with! School on Wheels provides a fairly low-time-commitment way to make a difference in a student’s life!

Judith Seki

Region 8

Judy is one of the most patient, kind, and helpful tutors I have met. She has an amazing way of connecting with and relating to her student. She understands the struggles our students face and is always willing to be an advocate for their rights. Working with Judy is an inspirational experience!

Manmeet Sodhi, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I learned about School on Wheels in 2015, while I was a teacher at Soledad Enrichment Action Charter High School. I was reading the L.A. Times and saw the obituary for Agnes Stevens, the founder of School on Wheels. Impressed with her story and the organization’s mission, I decided that volunteering for them would be one of my retirement projects. I retired in 2016, and soon thereafter joined the School on Wheels family. I love teaching and have a special appreciation and love for students who have experienced barriers that have prevented them from having an ideal educational experience. Although I retired from my teaching job, I never want to stop teaching!

Through the years, I have had so many experiences that made me smile! Some are funny, and others are pure joy in students’ accomplishments. I recall an essay written by a high school student who had to name one fictional character she would like to meet, and what she would like to do with that person. She chose Cinderella, and stated that she would like to do chores with her!

It is a very rewarding experience to see how you can make a difference in someone’s life by tutoring. I always feel that I end up learning the most!

Shant Khamo

Region 9

Shant had my region’s second-highest number of sessions held last quarter! He went above and beyond, meeting with his student two times a week. Shant hit the ground running, tutoring in any way possible, and continues to make sure his student has the opportunity to complete his work when they are able to meet together online!

Genesis Torres, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I was inspired to start volunteering because I felt that School on Wheels offered me an outlet where I could make a genuinely positive influence on the upcoming generation.

I have found it most gratifying when Amari had a moment of realization where he obtained a better understanding of a subject. One memorable experience we had was during the beginning of tutoring, working on his math skills with an online math game. Amari truly enjoys games in general and loves to compete!

For anyone considering volunteering with School on Wheels, I would tell them to immediately sign up to start tutoring because it truly has a very positive effect on both myself and my student. I am extremely happy with this program, and I have made a new friend in my student, Amari.

Feb 2

Students of the Month (2/21)

Nayven

Age 17

Nayven is very special. He has a wonderful family that loves him so much. He is a very happy and intelligent person who enjoys so much and consumes whatever I give him. He has a thirst for knowledge and enjoys making those around him happy.

Nima Kharrazi, Tutor

Nayven wants to be a world-renowned painter, or a mechanic and an auto painter, where he can still express himself artistically. Working on fractions, we went step-by-step, thinking outside the box, and got out of our comfort zones. We looked at it from different angles and allowed time for it to make sense.

I’ve learned about time management with Nayven. It’s easy for us to get lost in conversation, so we’ve budgeted the last 10 minutes of our hour for debate, during which time I’ve learned a lot about about DC vs. Marvel, wolves vs. tigers, and more.

Vinh

Age 7

Vinh enjoys using his iPad, playing video games, and spending time with his friends.

Ava Tran, Tutor

Currently, we’re working on reading comprehension and phonics. Vinh wants to be a doctor because he’s worried about his family and wants to be able to save people.
I’ve learned a lot from Vinh’s process of learning English and seeing him improve every time I meet with him.

Laura

Age 10

There are plenty of reasons that Laura is special, but I would say that the most amazing thing to me is her attitude.

Mia Kenworthy, Tutor

Distance learning has been tough on everyone, especially students who are facing additional challenges in their lives. Despite this, Laura tunes in to tutoring every Wednesday with a big smile on her face, ready to tell me about her week and then get to work.

Laura and I once spent an entire session practicing spelling words for an upcoming spelling bee. Because of our practice, Laura did an awesome job in the competition! Laura thinks that she might want to be a chef, possibly even a pastry chef so she can sell pastries (and the batter). If being a chef doesn’t work out, she might want to work at a spa. If she doesn’t become a chef or work at a spa, she might want to clean houses, because she loves to clean (except for her own room!).

Laura has taught me to laugh more, and to not take myself too seriously. She showed me how funny and clever children can be, catching me off guard with her witty jokes. She has also taught me to celebrate the small wins that come over time with tutoring. I feel so lucky to be Laura’s tutor.

Francisco (Bubba)

Age 9

Bubba’s disposition and fun-loving nature make him a joy to be around. He is an extremely gifted artist and hopes to one day make art his career.

Kyra Rude, Tutor

Academically, I’ve got to say my student is a rock star! He excels in every subject. We’ve been working a little extra on his multiplication tables, but I wouldn’t really call them a challenge for him.

Working with Bubba, I’ve learned how important it is just to be fully present with a student. I have learned that academics are important, but some of our most memorable tutoring sessions happen when we’re watching a video together or playing a game.

Feb 2

Volunteers of the Month (2/21)

Nima Kharrazi

Region 7

Nima radiates compassion and generosity to everyone he comes across – his student, their family, and other tutors. He constantly strives to be a better tutor and mentor every day. Nima’s kindness and dedication has impacted so many students and he continues to foster a desire to learn in his current student!

Maxine Faustino, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I started volunteering because I wanted to give back and School on Wheels was the closest organization to my heart. There is one main thing that has kept me volunteering for almost 8 years now: I love seeing the look on a student’s face when they finally understand the thing they’ve been struggling with. It’s like they have discovered a new way to approach any problem, and will use that knowledge for the rest of their lives.

I remember one day my student Nayven and I were done with his math and were discussing dragons (of course). He shared some pictures of dragons with me, and I showed him how to set the correct ratio for his dragon’s head, based it on some simple Algebraic principles. He really enjoyed learning how to draw a better and more realistic dragon, and I got to sneak in some more math for him.

If being a volunteer tutor sounds interesting at all, give it a try. It will honestly change the way you feel, the way you see things, and the way you approach life. It seems like a big reward for 1-hour a week, but it’s true. My only regret is that I didn’t start this sooner.

Mia Kenworthy

Region 6

Mia is a gifted tutor, mentor and role model. She has a beautiful ability to show deep empathy and compassion for every student she tutors. She makes learning fun and her students adore her. I’m so fortunate to have her as a volunteer and her students are so lucky to have her as their tutor.

Stephanie Swenseid, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I started volunteering because I think it’s important to use my education and the opportunities that I’ve had to help kids and teenagers who have not had the same advantages. On top of that, I love working with kids and find it rewarding to watch my students grow, both academically and as people.

My student has taught me to laugh more and to not take myself too seriously. She showed me how funny and clever children can be, catching me off guard with her witty jokes. She has also taught me to celebrate the small wins that come over time with tutoring. I feel so lucky to be Laura’s tutor!

Before COVID-19 hit, I was tutoring at a boys’ group home in Pomona. One day, a couple of the students were asking the tutors about ourselves, and eventually asked us how much we get paid for tutoring them. We explained that we’re volunteers, and we tutor because we enjoy it. After that encounter, several of the students acted more warmly towards us, knowing that we come to tutor them each week for nothing in return. That is one of my favorite memories from my time at School on Wheels.

I cannot recommend School on Wheels highly enough! Working with our students can be challenging, but it is also very rewarding. It takes so little of your time but makes such a lasting impact on your student. School on Wheels has been a transformative experience for me, and I recommend it to anyone looking to help out in their community and make a difference in the life of a child experiencing homelessness.

Kyra Rude

Region 8

Kyra is an incredible volunteer who is always willing to lend a helping hand, whether it is stuffing backpacks or helping at a holiday party at the shelter. On top of that, she is a fantastic tutor who has built a wonderful relationship with her student and is his greatest champion and cheerleader. Kyra not only has a positive influence on her student, she also inspires me with her joyful dedication and outlook!

Chris Walsh, Regional Coordinator

I was looking for a volunteer opportunity and a way to spend more time with children, and School on Wheels is the perfect fit! I love being around children; their energy and excitement is definitely the most rewarding part for me. It really makes me feel special when my student wants to show me his latest artwork.

If you’re considering volunteering with School on Wheels, don’t think about it any longer, just do it! It is so rewarding to interact with these young people and exciting to watch them progress. The time commitment is surprisingly small for the impact that it makes in these students’ lives.

Dec 22

Students of the Month – 1/21

Celia

Age 13

Celia enjoys scary things, Harry Potter, Tik Tok, and eating chocolate candy. We work on Celia’s reading skills, and her favorite book series is Harry Potter. She loved listening to the audiobooks, but School on Wheels got her an actual book for her to keep and she was thrilled!


Celia wants to go into the military, then become a “YouTuber” after she is discharged. Working with Celia has given me a chance to learn about the video-making process, especially for YouTube. I also learned about some scary, haunted places!

My Nguyen, Tutor

America

Age 8

America likes animals, drawing, Beanie Boos, and Shopkins. She is also interested in learning how to sew. When we get together, we mostly focus on sentence structure, parts of speech, and multiplication tables. America wants to be a marine biologist one day! Having a great attitude is a real asset.

Darren Sepanek, Tutor

Annika

Age 10

Annika loves to draw. We end each Big Blue Button session with her drawing on the whiteboard as I read from a novel.


Annika is a great student and a hard worker who takes pride in her work. She has the attitude of “not knowing something—YET!” Long division and fractions are more work than they should be, but she is working hard to learn her multiplication tables and would like to go to college. I am in awe of her perseverance!

We never miss a session. Once, during the summer, she was unable to get an internet connection at her shelter, but Annika didn’t give up! She used her mother’s cell phone and worked from the back seat of her parked car (seat belt on!) until she got too hot.

Mary Ann Mailloux, Tutor

Chaitanya

Age 11

Chaitanya is interested in coding, drawing, and gaming—especially Sonic.


Working with Chaitanya, I’ve learned how different each student is with their learning styles, behaviors and personalities, despite being in similar situations, and how to adapt based on those variances. I’ve also just learned a lot about Sonic!

Ava Tran, Tutor
Dec 22

Volunteers of the Month – 1/21

My Nguyen

Region 1

My is a very dedicated tutor who takes her work seriously. She is reliable, kind, patient, and always there for her students. My comes prepared for every single session and bonds with her students effortlessly. She has been matched with multiple students throughout the year and greatly impacted each and every one of them.

Manmeet Sodhi, Regional Coordinator

After graduating from college I was looking for a volunteer opportunity. I had worked as a tutor for a few years and really enjoyed that experience, so I thought School on Wheels would be a perfect place for me.

It’s been great! I always feel so happy when working with my students, especially when they actively engage in the learning process and creatively answer my questions.

For anyone considering becoming a volunteer tutor, I would say, “Go for it!” You will have chances to gain a lot of valuable experiences and to become a better version of yourself.

Darren Sepanek

Region 2

Darren is an incredible and dedicated volunteer. She always goes the extra mile for her student and always has a positive attitude. Despite the pandemic, Darren has remained committed to her student and the mission of School on Wheels. We are so grateful to have her on our team.

Carlie Whittaker, Student Support Coordinator

I learned about School on Wheels 6 years ago through a friend. At first I volunteered simply because I love children, but I quickly came to love working with and meeting so many amazing kids and their families.

Sometimes tutoring takes a bit of creativity. I once tutored a very bright high school senior who was taking an AP math class, and since math is not my strong suit, there wasn’t a lot I could help him with. We would watch lessons on Kahn Academy together and I’d have him teach me what he learned. This helped to some extent, but when it came to the really hard stuff, we would call my daughter, a math wiz who happened to be living in Australia at the time! Sometimes you just have to call in the right resources, no matter where they are!

If you are considering volunteering as a tutor, don’t worry about being a great teacher/tutor; that’s only one part of what you can bring to these kids. If you love working with children, it is an extremely rewarding and fun opportunity to make a real difference.

Claudia Bloch

Region 3

Claudia is a superstar volunteer and tutors two students! She is committed to providing her students with high-quality academic support and is a tremendous education advocate.

Alex Toutant, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I started volunteering because I wanted to make a difference in a child’s academic life. One experience I had that made me smile is when my student and I did jumping jacks between assignments. Gandhi once said that there is nothing more satisfying than losing yourself to the service of others.

Mary Ann Mailloux

Region 4

Mary Ann has been a dedicated tutor for a few years now. She loves tutoring and she has made meaningful connections with all of the students she’s worked with. Her students love her and look forward to meeting with her every week! She is consistent, caring, passionate, and loves what she does!

Kristina Rakosh, Regional Coordinator

After I retired from working as a teacher a school librarian in 2015, I looked around for some volunteer opportunities and found School on Wheels. It’s been a great fit.

I completed training and met with my first student in April of 2016. Since then I have worked with lots of wonderful students and alongside inspiring volunteers. I have tutored in three different shelters in Long Beach, and now I am working with kids online. I prefer in-person tutoring, but we can still share jokes, lessons, and help with homework.

School on Wheels has given me lots of resources and lessons to use with my students. I never arrive empty handed!

Ava Tran

Region 7

Ava has been a tutor with School on Wheels for over a year and a half, and is an amazing tutor! She works with three different students and has built such a strong rapport with each of them. When the transition to online learning became overwhelming, she stepped in and helped her students get back on track.

Jesse Pasquan, Volunteer Support Coordinator

My middle school required a small amount of community service each year, and to fill the hours, I worked as a referee for fencing tournaments at my fencing club. I realized it was really fun to work with kids, and I wanted to do more outreach with the time I had. With a bit of research I found School on Wheels, which turned out to be a great fit. I really like their mission and what they are doing.

One time I was with my student and we decided to play Connect 4 online. We played game after game, and he beat me every single time. I kept on insisting on playing another game, but it was hopeless. Even though I lost, thinking back on that always makes me laugh.

If you’re thinking about volunteering as a tutor, do it! It’s extremely fulfilling and super fun. It sometimes requires a lot of patience, but it always ends up being a blast.