Author: Victor Bornia

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 white board to work through multiplication problems together. Initially, he was shy about working out a problem on the white board 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

Nov 6

Students of the Month – Nov. 2019

DeAndre

Age 16

DeAndre would like to be a software engineer. He loves Fortnite, all things Marvel (especially Spider-Man), YouTube, and math. We have studied together for a big World War II history test, practiced getting ahead in his math classes using a Geometry workbook, and had informative lessons about earning credit, minimum wages, resume building, salary negotiations, and other applicable skills.

Christina Schoellkoph, Tutor

Kyla

Age 7

Kyla loves to draw–mainly animals–and enjoys science. Her love for science is sparked by discovering new things like fossils and dinosaurs. She also loves ice cream! She struggles a bit to stay focus but has greatly improved each time I have been with her. When she grows up she wants to become an artist, doctor, scientist, a famous dancer or singer. Oh, and she wants a peacock for a pet. Kyla has taught me that an interest in school can help you dream big. The perseverance that she has shown tells me that she has a bright future ahead.

Nathalie Martinez, Tutor

Anthony

Age 13

Anthony wants to go to college and to work on solving global warming. Math is an academic challenge that we have worked on together. Working with Anthony has taught me that being humble is one of the best personality traits someone can have, and also how important it is to always be open to learning new things.

Eden Ettenger, Tutor

Azekial

Age 8

Azekial is very interested in video games and drawing, and enjoys cartoons like Teen Titans Go. I think that one of the biggest challenges we have faced was trying to get him familiar with the way time is represented on a clock. At first, he couldn’t identify the times in the pictures, but now he has made much progress. Azekial isn’t yet sure what he would like to do in the future, but is a very bright student so I’m sure he will make it far.

Nivitha Kandula, Tutor

Jacob

Age 14

Jacob likes to ride his bike and skateboard, and to practice tricks on them. He is also enjoys video games and watching YouTube. At school, PE is his favorite subject. His dream job would be a professional BMX rider. On weekends, Jacob sometimes helps out a family member with handyman jobs which allows him to learn how to fix things. This gives him the opportunity to discover if there is a trade that he would be interested in pursuing when he finishes high school.

Chris Smith, Tutor

Nov 6

Volunteers of the Month – Nov. 2019

Christina Schoellkopf

Region 4

Christina is a dedicated tutor! She tutors one-on-one at the same time and place as several other School On Wheels tutors. I have received a lot of feedback about her from those other tutors and it is all incredibly positive. She does a great job and has made such an impact with her student.

Kristina Rakosh, Coordinator

As a journalist, I had been overwhelmed by the hate and misconduct I had been reporting. When the #MeToo movement reached a tipping point in 2018, I realized I couldn’t control how other people treated members of their community. But I felt compelled to do more to add goodness to mine. So, I started researching ways I could give back and help people. I think what’s special about School on Wheels is that we are more than tutors, we have the power to be advocates.

For example, I learned that my student DeAndre wanted to earn his driver’s license, but didn’t know where to start. I contacted his social worker and asked how he could start this process and if there was a way I could help, and when I relayed back to DeAndre about it, he said something like, “Wow, you really care,” and this meant a lot to me! The one hour a week I give of my time brightens my entire week. We may be called tutors, but we do a lot of learning on this end, too.

Shreya Mardia

Region 9

Shreya is an absolute rock star of a tutor! She comes to group tutoring every single week with a huge smile on her face and a passion for the students she works with. She is pure joy and sunshine and the students love working with her.

Rachael Christenson, Coordinator

Initially I was volunteering at my local library to help my community, but I wanted to help out where it was most needed. When I found School on Wheels online, it seemed like a perfect fit, as I had prior experience working as a tutor.

Not long ago, I was working with a very young student who was trying to learn how to write his name. After I helped him learn how to write the letters and he was able to write his name all by himself, he was so excited and proud about this accomplishment. He even turned to another tutor and showed it to them, saying that I had taught him how to write his name correctly. It made me happy that I was able to make such a difference in someone’s life just by spending little of my time every week. I’m truly glad that I was able to be a part of its wonderful volunteer program. If you are thinking about volunteering, definitely become a volunteer tutor for School on Wheels. It’s only an hour a week and you could change someone’s life for the better!

Eden Ettenger

Region 8

I had a chance to get to know Eden at an Advanced Tutor Training and I was so impressed with her dedication, her enthusiasm and her commitment to her student, Anthony. She followed up that training with a wonderful email asking how she could become more involved and now she is taking on a new program at Transition House as a Tutor Coordinator! We are so lucky to have her in Region 8!

Chris Walsh, Coordinator

I am actually from the same town as Agnes Stevens, the founder of School on Wheels. My mom knew her and I remember doing volunteer events for School on Wheels when I was younger. The organization has stayed in my mind ever since. Homelessness and education are the two social issues that are of most importance to me. I have always loved School on Wheels’ mission and I think it addresses an issue that is too often neglected: the effects homelessness has on one’s educational experience. I feel very lucky to be a part of School on Wheels’ work. Whenever I do science experiments with my student, I love seeing how curious he is to learn more; he is incredibly intelligent, and seeing our work together pull that out of him is a very special experience. For anyone considering becoming a volunteer tutor, I would say definitely do it! It is nothing short of a life-changing experience.

Nivitha Kandula

Online

Nivitha is an incredibly consistent and positive influence on her student. She is always thinking about the best ways to support him.

Emma Gerch, Coordinator

I learned about Schools of Wheels through personal online research. I was interested in trying to be a part of something new and help others even when I may not necessarily be in the same location. I think that knowledge is something that everyone should have, and I wanted to take a small part in spreading it, one step at a time.

It always makes me smile when my student and I compete against each other in games. He’s usually better than me at some of the games, and it makes me laugh when he wins. It’s a very rewarding experience and you can form a bond with your student. You can also learn new things or reinforce topics. There is always a new experience to come and new things to try, so to anyone considering becoming a tutor, I say go for it.

Chris Smith

Region 10

Chris prioritized his student, Jacob, and his success from the second he started his first session. Chris’s positive attitude is infectious, not only for his student, but for his fellow tutors. He has a way of making everyone feel comfortable and welcome and it truly impacts everyone around him. From making sure his student is set up for success to planning additional sessions to helping with extra School on Wheels events, Chris has been so reliable and impactful, and I am so grateful for him!

Katie Philipson, Coordinator

I am grateful to the people who helped me during my early years and found School On Wheels while looking for an opportunity to give back. My student Jacob helps out his mom by getting his younger brother Jaay ready every morning. Jacob and his brother both came to the Halloween party, and it was great to see Jacob in his role as responsible big brother, making sure that his young sibling had fun and stayed in line. It’s so rewarding to give a helping hand to a young person in a difficult situation. It doesn’t take much time and it’s fun.

Oct 10

School On Wheels’ own Angela Sanchez featured on NBC

In a segment titled, “Ex-Homeless Woman Writes Children’s Books That Break Stigma of Homelessness,” former School on Wheels student (and now Board Member) Angela Sanchez discusses her journey, her work, and her wonderful children’s books.

Here is a short excerpt:

“For a kid who is homeless, having more advocates in your corner, having more people behind you, that’s the best thing that could happen to you,” Sanchez said.

It’s a lesson she learned when she needed help with AP Calculus and reached out to School on Wheels, a nonprofit that provides free tutoring and school supplies for homeless children.

“School on Wheels delivered. They didn’t just find me a tutor; they found me an astrophysicist from CalTech. And so, I literally had a rocket scientist helping me with my homework,” Sanchez said.

Watch the full segment here.