Author: Victor Bornia

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.

Nov 10

Students of the Month – Nov. 2020

Lily

Age 11

Lily loves to dance and draw in her free time and is interested in taking dance or art classes in the future. She is also interested in history and learning about different cultures.

Certain areas of math have presented a challenge, so we have focused on solidifying her foundation. I am constantly inspired by her positive attitude and willingness to try new things, even when they are challenging.

Eliana McIlvery, Tutor

Emmanuel

Age 9

Emmanuel wants to become a doctor. He loves drawing everything and anything, and also enjoys piano and likes classical music. He has been taking lessons since he was 6 years old, and is currently learning the piece “Sunflower.”


One thing we focus on is slowing down to read instructions so we can avoid making careless mistakes. Learning to tutor and adjusting to my student’s needs remind me to listen to understand instead of listening to respond. It is helping me think outside of the box as I need to explain/teach in ways he understands instead of how I learned it.

Meng Liev, Tutor

Karen

Age 8

Karen wants to be a police officer, teacher, and doctor. She loves mermaids, making slime, making her own squishies, and playing with her baby doll.


When we first started working together Karen told me that her biggest challenge is math, so when she told me she got an A+ on her math test, I was so proud! Karen also helps me practice my Spanish and teaches me new words.

Therese Auza, Tutor

Milo

Age 8

Milo is very talented and has a defined goal to become an architect. He loves to draw and sketch just about anything that comes to his mind, and also likes to play football.


Milo is very eager to learn and gives his all to everything we work on; there haven’t been many challenges. As an architect, Milo would like to someday help create a special community center just for families.


Family is important to him; he dreams of the day when he’ll get to play football and have fun being part of a big family. It makes me so happy to work with someone who loves to learn as much as I love to teach. Spending time with Milo always makes me smile.

Myrna Sanpascual, Tutor
Nov 10

Volunteers of the Month – Nov. 2020

Meng Liev

Region 9

Meng has been amazing during COVID-19; she has helped multiple students as we have been online. She was an amazing in-person Tutor Coordinator, and has been great as a virtual one as well, taking a leadership role in tutoring her students when they need it most!

Genesis Torres, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I have two favorite memories of volunteering as a tutor. Once, I brought oranges from my mom’s tree to share with the students. They immediately peeled and finished them off, with some students asking for extra oranges to take home to share with family. Sharing is caring!

Another time, a 3rd grader in class rested his head on my arm and told me I feel nice like his mom. I had been working with him and his best friends to get them to focus and not distract each other, and it felt so nice to be appreciated like that.

Volunteering as a tutor is a great way to feel young, to remember our youth, and to grow and be surprised with oneself.

Eliana McIlvery

Region 7

I nominated Eliana because she is so compassionate and understanding. Her gentle and open demeanor means she always lends a listening ear to her student. She motivates, encourages, and always makes sure that her student feels heard and validated. She’s the best!

Maxine Faustino, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I have always wanted to do more for my community, and I strongly believe that everyone deserves a good education. I am passionate about school and teaching so I knew School on Wheels would be a great fit.

During our breaks, I always ask my student questions about her interests or fun moments with her friends. Listening to her describe her favorite shows and talk about all these happy memories always makes me smile.

I would tell any prospective tutor to just go for it, even if they think it might be challenging. The best part of School on Wheels is that you learn right along with your student.

Therese Auza

Region 8

Therese is a dedicated, positive, and enthusiastic tutor who always shows up with a warm smile for her students. She met with her first student in a small room at a crowded emergency shelter and now meets with her second student online. Despite the challenges, she is always ready with fun and engaging lessons and makes her student feel like they are an important part of a learning team. I am so grateful for caring tutors like Therese!

Chris Walsh, Regional Coordinator

Education is so valuable. Mentorship played a large role in my ability to pursue higher education, and it makes me so happy to dedicate my time to helping another student succeed.

I always smile when I think back to when my student called me her friend! I can see the difference it makes in my student’s academic success to have consistent tutoring through School on Wheels, especially at this time, with online learning.

If you’re thinking about tutoring, do it; it’s definitely worth it!

Myrna Sanpascual

Region 6

Myrna’s love for children and teaching inspires me deeply. She is wonderful with each student she tutors and they all love her! Myrna creates wonderful PowerPoint presentations for each of her online sessions that are fun, colorful, and exciting for her students. She is also sure to include each parent in their child’s progress. I wish she was my teacher when I was younger!

Stephanie Swenseid, Regional Coordinator

It’s always been my dream to help my community through teaching, so one month into retirement as a public school teacher I signed up to be a volunteer tutor with School on Wheels.

My student Milo and I took a quick liking to each other the moment we connected on Big Blue Button. It soon became obvious that we both needed each other; I needed him to continue my love for teaching, and he needed me to have that special one to one time to focus on his education. Milo works hard and is always excited for our time together. It’s really special for the both of us.

For those who are thinking of volunteering as a tutor, I say seize the day and let these kids show you what they’re capable of when someone takes time to show they care and care enough to show them how to do great things.

Yale Wang

Region 1

Yale is a great tutor who is always eager to connect with his students and mentor them. He always there for his students, and both students and location staff absolutely love him!

Manmeet Sodhi, Regional Coordinator

I was looking for a meaningful volunteering opportunity that aligns with my passion and fortunately I found School on Wheels just in time. Coming from an under-resourced community, I realized how uneven the playing field really is. With a stable household, I am blessed with the opportunity to change my life trajectory with the power of education, but children of the homeless community aren’t often given the same opportunity.

One of the first students that I worked with had trouble with mathematics. I used one of the toy sets in the room to help him figure out the arithmetic and understand the concept in a different way. We quickly bonded. When he exited the program upon moving to another city, he gave me a big hug and that was a moment that I will never forget.

One of the best parts of being a volunteer at School on Wheels is that you know you’re doing meaningful work. During my school year, I had to travel 40 minutes every week to my volunteering location, but it didn’t matter, because I know that I am helping children desperately in need of someone to be there for them.

Catherine Kieu

Region 1

Catherine is always keen to help and builds a rapport with her students in no time. She is very creative and inspires her students to spread their wings.

Manmeet Sodhi, Regional Coordinator

It has always been a goal of mine to be a hero to others. I saw this as an opportunity to inspire these kids to be heroes to others as well.

One of my students was hard of hearing. She was shy and sweet, and I encouraged her to teach me sign language as a way to build up her self-confidence. After the tutoring session, the coordinator at the shelter texted me that she was so happy and confident after the online tutoring. She was even chatting and showing people sign language. I was really proud of her and of myself as a tutor.

If you are considering becoming a volunteer tutor, don’t hesitate! Trust me, this experience is so valuable, you will cherish it for the rest of your life.