Aug 29

Students of the Month – Sept. 2019

Collin

Age 9

Collin’s interests include science, acting, and furry animals. One of Collin’s big academic challenges was learning Common Core Math, but he never gave up and learned to use the method well. This was a big success for him! Collin wants to do well in school and be successful when he grows up, maybe even becoming a famous actor or comedian someday. I have learned from Collin that you need to be courageous and brave, and you need to forgive and accept.

Elaine Gonzales, Tutor

Troy

Age 14

Troy once told me that he received a student recognition award for math at school. He was so proud! Troy is very interested in production and says he intends to pursue a successful life.

Raquel Abreu, Tutor

Lionel

Age 13

Lionel loves playing sports, especially basketball. His dream is to play in the NBA when he grows up. When it comes to academics, he is interested in science, social studies/history, and likes reading. Lionel used to just try to memorize problems and answers, but I have been teaching him to understand the concepts. It’s great to see him working so hard and really learning.

Ganesh Koka, Tutor

Aug 29

Volunteers of the Month – Sept. 2019

Elaine Gonzales

Region 6

Elaine is an incredibly dedicated tutor who has been working with Colin for a year now. When Elaine initially began tutoring Colin, he was very withdrawn, wouldn’t talk much, and was very resistant to learning math. Through consistent tutoring sessions, care, and kindness, Elaine has been able to help bring Colin out of his shell and begin working on his academics.

Stephanie Swenseid, Coordinator

I wanted to work with children and I was pleasantly surprised when I found School on Wheels on the Internet. I wanted to help children who needed help and could not afford a private tutor. Seeing my student show up for his tutoring sessions with a smile always makes me smile too, confirming that volunteering is not only helping the students but helping me be happier as well. If you choose to volunteer as a tutor, you could be providing a positive difference in a young person’s life that will last a lifetime, one that, given the circumstances, that they might not otherwise have had.

Raquel Abreu

Region 3

Raquel has tutored with us for six years! She has worked with many students and has greatly impacted each and every one of them.

Cecilia Olivas, Coordinator

I was thrilled when my student shared with me that he won a mathematics award at school. He recognized how helpful our math sessions were and he said regarding maths: “I finally get it now!!!”

I do always encourage people to become a volunteer tutor. I just tell them how one hour of our time can be so precious for these children. That hour with my student is definitely a highlight of my week. There are no words to describe how I feel… it’s so gratifying and fulfilling to know that I can have an impact on my student’s day, week, or even life

Abheerava “Ganesh” Koka

Region 8

Ganesh is an amazing young man who is dedicated to School on Wheels and to his student. He was inspired by his grandfather to become a volunteer and to give back to his community and he is dedicating this award in memory of his grandfather. Ganesh has put countless hours into preparing for tutoring each week. He believes strongly in the mission and has devoted time to creating a proposal for a School on Wheels Club at his high school.

Chris Hague, Coordinator

At the beginning of my 8th grade, I really wanted to volunteer and give back to my community. I wanted to help the underprivileged, and do something that will make an impact. I researched online for a while and finally found School on Wheels. Every time I think about underprivileged children, I think that if I were in their position, I would want the same help in order to succeed. When I first started tutoring, my 4th-grade student told me she was being teased for not being able to solve a math problem in class. After the first few weeks of tutoring, she told me she was able to solve all the problems given in class and that kids even asked her for help! If someone is considering volunteering as a tutor, I would tell them that they should try to put themselves in their student’s position and be willing to help them as much as possible. Remember that the student you are tutoring is underprivileged and does not have access to most of the resources we take for granted.

Jordan Maranto

Region 11

Jordan is consistent, engages with every student she assists, and is ALWAYS bright! She’s a light to the students she serves and the volunteers who serve with her.

Jason Wright, SRLC Instructor

I was looking into volunteer organizations that aided the homeless, and I found School on Wheels online almost immediately. It was the perfect fit! In May of 2018 I moved to downtown Los Angeles. Even though I had been living in LA for a while and was aware of how large the homeless population was, I didn’t fully understand how bad things were until I started walking to work and passed by many familiar faces on the streets throughout my day. I work at a restaurant, and it was a pretty unsettling contrast, serving high powered executives with gorgeous office buildings, surrounded by luxury apartments, then walking home and passing by countless people who were begging for change to afford their next meal. I’m a huge believer in the motto, “None of us are well until we’re all well.” I believe it applies to the homelessness crisis perfectly.

These students can be so inspiring. I once had a sweet third grader ask me to proofread her essay. The topic was the future she saw for herself. Not only was it incredibly optimistic, well thought out, and full of self-confidence, but it ended with the sentence, “Thank you very much for reading this essay!” For me, it was definitely one of those “laughing through tears” situations. This girl faced more adversity than I could even imagine, yet walks through life with such a positive outlook and unrelenting gratitude. How can you not feel hopeful after that?

Aug 29

Meet Angie & Allison

“Give the tutoring sessions time. If they feel that connecting and relating with the children is difficult at first then allow time for walls to break down. These children have endured more than we may ever understand and it takes time for them to allow new people in their life. Keep showing kindness and respect to your student and always encourage them on their studying. It is amazing what you can do for their confidence in showing them positivity with their work and letting them know you are proud of them.”

Allison, School on Wheels Tutor

Growing up school was a difficult thing for Angie. “I switched school so many times and it became very hard,” she says. “I got depressed with the constant change and eventually fell very behind in school, so I just gave up and would not show up for school.”

Angie spent a great deal of her youth staying at different foster homes. She would eventually spend six years with a family. However, Angie’s foster Dad passed. Things became complicated and she switched homes again. Her depression grew, but through this pain, she found motivation by focusing on her education and finding purpose in wanting to help others like her.

Currently, Angie is at a group home. With the school year coming to an end and graduation looming, she needed to complete her math credits quickly, a daunting task as math has long been a difficult subject for Angie. She was connected with School on Wheels and tutor Alison Ochoa who focus exclusively on Angie’s math. “My goal during our tutoring sessions was to take each math course one section at a time. We go over multiple problems and ensure that she takes her quiz and understands each individual problem, even if it meant refreshing on prior skills.” 

This practical approach worked and Angie completed her credits in time to graduate. Alison continues to explain, “she has exceeded my own expectations.” 

Angie and Allison will continue their tutoring relationship as Angie begins college this fall. Angie now has confidence in her abilities and knows that she has a great support system for her educational goals, as well as a friend, in Allison. 

Angie’s future goal is to be a social worker. After going through the foster care system herself, she understands how important it is for kids to have someone they can trust and depend on.

“Keep reaching out to find someone that can help you and that you trust,” is the wisdom Angie would like to share with other School on Wheel students. “Believe that there is someone out there for you to trust. Stay motivated and work on building up your self-esteem so you can apply that confidence with your education.” 

Already Angie is off to a great start of helping other kids.

Aug 1

School on Wheels Appoints Charles W. Evans, Jr. as New Executive Director

Longtime ED Catherine Meek to serve as Executive Advisor

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Sinead Chilton, 213 905 2777

LOS ANGELES—August 1, 2019- Ushering in its next generation of leadership during a critical time in serving children experiencing homelessness, seasoned School on Wheels executive Charles W. Evans Jr. has been appointed as the new Executive Director for School on Wheels (SOW) effective August 1, 2019. Veteran SOW Executive Director Catherine Meek, who was involved in the search committee’s process, will remain with SOW as an executive advisor continuing to work with foundations and donors. The announcement was made by the Board of Directors of School on Wheels who named Evans to his new role.

The homeless crisis in Los Angeles County now impacts over 60,000 homeless public school students, with 17,494 in LAUSD alone. School on Wheels relies on funding from individual donors, major corporations and foundations to fund programs that train and mobilize volunteer tutors to educate and mentor children in homeless situations throughout six counties in Southern California. In 2018 SOW provided tutoring services to over 3,600 children, as well as over 5,500 backpacks filled with school supplies.

Evans begins his new role effective August 1 in full partnership with Meek, who through a transition period will be actively involved in day-to-day operations. Ultimately Meek will focus solely on advising Evans and the Board on fundraising strategies and relations. Meek has worked with School on Wheels since 2000, including roles as a volunteer, regional coordinator, organization consultant, and COO before her election as Executive Director in 2009.

 “Charles has an outstanding track record working with School on Wheels to help and empower children who experience homelessness to succeed academically. He has the passion and experience building and leading teams, creating opportunities, delivering results, and leveraging his creativity to make a positive impact during a time of great urgency for our community and mission,” said Josh Fein, Board President. “We are thrilled that Catherine will continue as a trusted advisor and contributor. The partnership between Charles and Catherine will make the organization stronger and better prepared for the future.”

Stated Meek: “I could not be happier that Charles has been selected as my successor. Charles and I have worked together for more than ten years and we will continue to partner to keep School on Wheels strong, solution-oriented and striving to help as many children experiencing homelessness as possible. Charles has worked and flourished in every position he has held at School on Wheels.  As Executive Director, Charles will lead us to a new level of success in helping and giving hope to our students.  He is exactly the right person at this critical time in our history.”

Evans joined School on Wheels in 2008 as a regional coordinator in South Los Angeles, where he was born and raised. He was subsequently promoted to executive leadership positions, and prior to being named Executive Director served as SOW’s Chief Regional Officer. In this role, he oversaw 11 regions in six counties in Southern California, covering more than 3,600 students and 2,300 volunteers.  As part of the leadership team, Evans serves on the Board Strategic Planning Committee where he contributed to the development and enhancement of SOW’s student outreach program by partnering with several school districts and agencies serving homeless children. Prior to School on Wheels, Evans worked for FAME Renaissance as an Environmental Outreach Field Representative, under the leadership of Reverend Cecil “Chip” Murray.

“I am so honored to have the opportunity of being School on Wheels’ next executive director. Being able to continue to build upon the legacy of Agnes and Catherine is exciting yet humbling,” said Evans. “The last 10 and a half years have been an amazing and inspirational journey, and I look forward to leading School on Wheels into a promising future.” 

About School on Wheels

School on Wheels is a local nonprofit founded in1993 that trains and connects volunteer tutors to children living in shelters, motels, vehicles, group foster homes, and on the streets in Southern California. They are the only organization in Southern California dedicated exclusively to the educational needs of this fragile population. Last year, they tutored over 3,600 kids with the support of over 2,300 volunteers.

The heart of School on Wheels’ programs is the volunteer tutors who come from all backgrounds and professions, with a shared goal – to reach out to a child without a home to teach, to mentor, and to assist in their educational life.

Jul 26

Tutors of the Month – August 2019

Diana Peterson

Online/Region 11

Diana is a very engaging and committed online tutor. She always comes up with creative ways to reach our students. She’s also very communicative, consistently reaching out for ideas to help her students and offering suggestions to improve our program.

Emma Gerch, Coordinator

I learned about School on Wheels from a colleague I work with here at Khan Academy, who had also learned about it from another Khan employee. I was a “reading buddy” at a school nearby for many years and enjoyed it, but recently began feeling that the school had more resources than it used to, and perhaps there were other students more in need. I have huge empathy for kids experiencing homelessness and all the challenges and stress that introduces, and love connecting with kids every week — they bring real joy and also help me live in the moment!

Recently a student I was working with had an assignment to write about Stephanie Kwolek. I’d never heard of her, but together we learned that she was a Chemist at DuPont, and in 1965 invented Kevlar! It was fun to learn about her together, what set her on her career path, and for us to talk about what was most interesting to us about what we’d learned. For anyone considering becoming a volunteer tutor, I would tell them to try it! Just 1 hour 1 day a week, and you could make an impact on a child’s life.

Stephanie Gunawan Piraner

Region 4

Stephanie works so hard to help her student. She goes above & beyond by tutoring multiple days a week, and is very dedicated to her student. Stephanie is caring and compassionate, and works closely with the shelter staff and her student to make sure her student’s learning gaps get smaller & smaller. I am so lucky to have her as a tutor in region 4!

Kristina Rakosh, Coordinator

With a busy work schedule and the regular long hours, we often get caught up in the little things and issues. Volunteering reminds me about the bigger picture of life. My student and I once had several three hour sessions over the course of two weeks to complete her missing assignments, and not once did I hear her complain about having to study for so long after school, and during weekends. I am so proud of her!

I would tell anyone considering volunteering as a tutor that it is a rewarding experience. It will require a lot of patience; a lot of these children have been through difficult times at such young age, so it is important to start your first few sessions with no expectations and to focus on getting to know what drives and interests them.

Casey Hoeschler

Region 5

I nominated Casey because of her professionalism and proactive attitude toward tutoring. She is clear & communicative and took initiative in planning a group field trip to the aquarium with her student. Casey’s passion for volunteering shows in the care the she puts into her tutoring sessions!

Jesse Pasquan, Coordinator

I used to volunteer tutor independently at Richstone Center but had to stop as I moved too far away; my mom sent me a write up on SOW and I immediately signed up! Education is the key to empowerment, and children experiencing homelessness need that more than anyone. During our first session, my student looked at every question on her homework and said “I don’t know this.” Last week, she finished a worksheet without hesitation and said, “I’m super smart!” You don’t have to know everything about a subject to be a good tutor! As long as you’re curious and eager, your one-on-one attention can be so meaningful to a student.

Nima Kharrazi

Region 7

Nima is an amazing volunteer that does so much for the students he works with. We really appreciate everything he does!

Danny Rico, Coordinator

Back in February 2014 I was going to have my 1st tutoring session and didn’t know what my student looked like. She didn’t know what I looked like either, and while I was waiting a girl walked up and commented on my Marvel shirt. We chatted for about 5 minutes — who my favorite is, who hers is, and so on — until she asked, “Can YOU be my tutor?” I apologized and said I was already assigned and was just waiting for my student, Samantha. She smiled really big and said, “That’s ME!”

Volunteering as a tutor will change your life. It will also give you the opportunity to help people in ways you never imagined. Just giving someone consistency and time and attention makes such a difference. It’s easily one of the best things I’ve ever done.

Frankie Olvera

Region 1

Frankie Olvera is a great tutor and is adored by his students. He has a magnetic and a compassionate personality that makes him very popular among his students. He is also thoroughly organised and prepared for every session.

Manmeet Sodhi, Coordinator

I’ve been teaching voluntarily since my early 20’s in places from Juvenile Hall to Men’s shelters, and have concluded that education is the best way to combat homelessness. If you have had the opportunity to get a solid education, then pay it forward: fight homelessness, and educate our youth. Join School on Wheels!

Gavin Sweeney

Region 9

Gavin has been an outstanding tutor! He is absolutely amazing with his student Martin and Martin’s mom cannot seem to say enough nice things about him.

Rachael Christenson, Coordinator

I began volunteering at a time when I felt overwhelmed by my understanding of social inequality. I have found that tutoring with School on Wheels is a real, tangible thing I can do to be a force for change in my community.

Pamela Miller-Shults

Region 6

Pam has demonstrated a willingness to work hard at being the best tutor she can be for her student. She is always looking for new ways to engage and help her student overcome her resistance to certain topics. Pam has also demonstrated great care and dedication with her student and being a wonderful role model.

Stephanie Swenseid, Coordinator

I googled volunteer opportunities with children, went to an information night led by Catherine Meeks, and knew wholeheartedly this was exactly what I was looking for. It made me sad that a child could grow up in an environment of homelessness, not feeling safe, not having a roof over their head or food on the table.

Volunteer tutoring is one of the most fulfilling opportunities I’ve ever had. To witness a child learn and gain knowledge week by week creates a very rich bond. When I leave her sessions to head home I feel like all my endorphins are dancing to the music on the radio in my car!

Erin Hughes

Region 10

I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with Erin this year, and I continue to be impressed with her thoughtful attention to the students she tutors. Erin strives to engage the students by creating contextual connections to the their existing academic skill-set, through both academic and enrichment activities. I’m grateful for her support to the students and tutors, as well as her additional role as a marketing and communications ambassador.

Ana Gutierrez, Program Implementation Specialist

I’ve been tutoring students in kindergarten through fifth grade at my current site, Washington Elementary, for two of my four years with School on Wheels. As the program and our resources have grown, so too have the enthusiasm among students and the camaraderie between tutors. Having tutored in both one-on-one and group formats, I believe they are equally capable of fostering a strong sense of educational community, as long as volunteers are consistent and dedicated. My favorite moments during tutoring are when students become energized after persevering through challenging exercises and then ask to tackle even more challenging work. I hope these triumphs of self-motivation demonstrate for them (as they do for me) that education can be an ongoing source of celebration.

Jul 26

Students of the Month – August 2019

Jenny

Age 9

Jenny has a wide range of interests, including K-pop, make-up, spicy food (noodles!), dancing, singing, baking, arts and crafts, painting, relaxing and sleeping. Our challenge was to raise Jenny ’s grades as much as we could within a short amount of time, and we did it! Jenny hopes to inspire the world through music, dancing, and other forms of art.

Stephanie Gunawan Piraner, Tutor

Amir

Age 11

Amir is incredibly interested in sciences. He also likes making and watching videos, and has his own YouTube channel. Amir always finishes his homework before tutoring sessions, and, with a little nudging, is happy to take on other topics he is struggling with. Whether it be while doing school work or creating his own videos, Amir shows interest, dedication, and passion.

Brian Lee, Tutor

Aaron

Age 17

Aaron actually has a wide range of interests but the one that stands out the most is independent film making, particularly documentary. Aaron is very motivated and able to focus; rather than follow text books, we often deep-dive to learn as much about a particular topic as possible, drawing connections between different time periods in history and then testing these with a few round up questions. It was a joy working with someone who was clearly engaged and giving it their best shot. I have confidence that when he puts his mind to something, he really has the potential to achieve it.

Katie Rowley / Andy Griffin, Tutors

Giovanni

Age 6

Giovanni says the root of his happiness, whether it be his trip to the beach recently or his new toy from McDonald’s, is that he always gives himself a reason to live that day. Even during times of stress, he focuses on when the good shall come and never becomes discouraged from fighting through the day. Giovanni is always hopeful and full of purpose.

Joelle, Tutor

Giovan

Age 16

Gio is a fun loving, bright student, with some of the best handwriting I have seen. We have been making great developments by playing the card game Math Wars and reading aloud. One of the special times we have during our sessions is when Gio teaches me a few words of sign language to add to my vocabulary, an experience I will treasure and use all my life!

Sasana Kachirsky, Tutor

Martin

Age 11

Since the first session we had together I’ve gotten glimpses into the challenges Martin has experienced in his young life, and they aren’t small. Still, he is ready to laugh with other students and catches onto subjects quickly. Martin has reminded me of the importance of laughter in learning; I feel lucky I get to work with him.

Gavin Sweeney , Tutor

Samantha

Age 17

Sam loves math, chemistry, and working with animals. She wants to work with kids or animals (or both), and she also wants to run a restaurant where they serve comfort food and where people can go to feel happy and full for a reasonable price. She really enjoys people, and is very open minded and sweet. She has a big heart and always wants to help in any situation.

Nima Kharrazi, Tutor

Adrianne

Age 8

Adrianne loves dogs, art, gymnastics, musical comedy, puzzles, making friends, and playing outdoors on her bicycle. She loves all animals and dreams of one day becoming a veterinarian. I have learned a greater depth of unconditional love and commitment from Sam, as well as how important it is to keep a promise and how to laugh and open my heart more fully.

Pamela Miller-Shults, Tutor