Before the pandemic, we had already tutored more than 1,600 students experiencing homelessness with 1,250 volunteer tutors this year alone. We were well on our way to achieving—or even exceeding—our goal of tutoring 3,700 students. Our new improved literacy and digital learning programs were in full swing, fostering a love of reading and narrowing the digital divide for our students. Then, suddenly, normal life ceased and our reality transformed. Many people adapted. Meanwhile, our most vulnerable children face increased challenges in receiving a quality education. We at School on Wheels are determined more than ever to ensure our students get the help that they desperately need and deserve.
Today, we are focused on making sure that our students have access to a tutor, the internet, and technology so that they too can get online and access their classes. We are collaborating with our shelter partners, school districts, charter schools and other nonprofit partners to maximize our impact.
With your continued support, here is our most recent progress:
Conducted outreach to shelters, families and our volunteer tutors to gather information on their greatest needs and issues.
Strategized with LAUSD, LAHSA, LACOE and Mayor Garcetti’s team on ways to best support our students.
Partnered with several organizations and other nonprofits to distribute over 3,000 books, school supplies, Chromebooks, Wi-fi hotspots, tablets, kindles, hygiene kits, activity and science kits, and educational games and toys.
Re-trained our active volunteer base to tutor online and revamped our advanced training to address the new social and emotional needs caused by the pandemic.
Currently, more than 350 volunteer tutors—with the support of our staff—are regularly meeting with their students. That number continues to increase as more and more students are referred to our program.
We recognize that this pandemic will impact the world long-term, and while our lives will hopefully return to some semblance of normalcy, we expect online tutoring to become increasingly important for our students’ success over time. Our resource center is open for deliveries, but our staff is still working from home. As summer approaches, we need your support now more than ever, so that our kids don’t fall behind even further and have fun activities (albeit online) to keep them learning all summer long.
Julian loves football and art, and is very creative. His math assessment score was low but he doubled it after six months. Trying to stay focused was a challenge; part of it was that in the beginning we had our tutoring sessions at McDonald’s, and there was a lot of distraction. Julian has had a tough life to date. His family has moved a lot, so he’s attended many schools. This kid, with all the trials and tribulations life throws at him, maintains a great attitude.
Steve Tiso, Tutor
H’s favorite subjects are drawing, reading and PE. She dreams of one day becoming a surgeon or engineer. H has been through a lot in her short life, but she never gives up; I attribute this to her Mom. My time with her has made me realize that even in the worst of times, children can be fostered to have a positive attitude.
Lynn Johnson, Tutor
Jimmy & Ricky
Age 11 & 13
Both Jimmy and Ricky love playing sports! Also, Jimmy loves Captain Underpants and Ricky loves playing Fortnite. Jimmy and Ricky both struggled with reading, initially, but they have learned to read slower, enunciate clearer, understand passages better, and ultimately enjoy reading more. Jimmy wants to get better at soccer and be a soldier when he grows up. Ricky wants to either become a police officer, firefighter, or soldier. Jimmy and Ricky teach me to be more optimistic in my own life! These boys have reminded me how inherently optimistic children are. They all want to become somebody in the future and deserve to have the chance to do so.
Phillip Chung, Tutor
Bryan likes drawing and coloring (he drew this picture of the Coronavirus!) and would really like to have a dog one day. He even has a type of dog he would like to have; it’s a mix of pit bull and husky and it’s actually called a pitsky! We looked it up. We are making BIG steps towards learning the times table & that’s a very big deal. Bryan hopes to have a good future and do well in school. I am learning from Bryan to be patient and not ask him questions while he draws. I admire his persistence during our meetings, as well. He’s always on time and is very willing to learn new things.
I nominated Lynn because she is not only dedicated to helping School on Wheels in any way she can, but she is incredibly dedicated to her student, as well. Lynn is a one of our volunteer ambassadors and she has gone above and beyond to help us transition to online tutoring. As a retired educator, she has reached out to school districts in her area to spread the word about School on Wheels and get information about their distance learning programs. But her main focus is her student and the connection they have made together. She is an incredible volunteer!
Chris Walsh, Coordinator
My neighbor is a CASA volunteer and she recommended School on Wheels to me. Being a retired educator I wanted to continue contributing. One memory that stands out is when I took my student and her mother on a field trip to a CLU Women’s Volleyball game. Her excitement grew as we walked into the gymnasium and grew even more so as she watched the girls play! Her smile never left her face, she looked around so often with her eyes wide open and joined in with the cheering! As a tutor, I benefit from this relationship as much as my student. This experience is so very rewarding!
Rami is simply the best volunteer. She is also one of our ambassadors for Region 4. Rami goes above and beyond to help her student and SOW; she jumps right in there, helping with everything from tabling events to admin support. I can always count on her.
Kristina Rakosh, Coordinator
I was doing research online about a charity organization to volunteer with and after a ton of research came across School on Wheels. I was hooked from the start. I was not happy with the state of inaction at national and state level about basic issues such as homelessness, education and health. The ramifications of these issues are so huge that no society can afford to not deal with them. So I got tired of waiting and started acting on it at a personal level. One day when I was tutoring my student in the library, classmates of my students stopped by to say hi and he very proudly introduced me to them: “This is MY Tutor”! If you are looking for a volunteer opportunity with a far-reaching impact, this is it. The child you tutor is going to carry this good will for all of his/her life, and most probably pay it forward.
Phillip recently became a Tutor Coordinator in the region. All the students love Phillip! He has an incredible ability to relate to any student he encounters and pours his attention and dedication into all that he does at School on Wheels. I’m incredibly grateful for Phillip and all that he gives of himself to his students and to School on Wheels.
Stephanie Swenseid, Coordinator
I was raised with a strong emphasis on education, so I believe it is my duty to leverage this background to help these students reach their highest potential. One student I have been tutoring struggled to read and avoided every chance to do so. I would incorporate math and reading lessons into every session, along with a wild-card lesson of his choice. Without fail, he chose non-reading lessons for his wild-card — but I noticed he was gradually improving. In a recent session, I was overjoyed when he opted to read for his wild-card lesson! It showed how he’d become more confident in his abilities, willing to take challenges. If you have a passion to serve, I think you will find School on Wheels incredibly fun and rewarding. If you don’t have any teaching experience, that’s okay! Your passion and intuition will kick in to guide the way as you grow alongside these incredible students.
I nominated Dana because she is an AMAZING advocate for her student and his family. She is constantly looking to enhance her tutoring sessions with fun and diverse activities to help her student look forward to learning. Dana is creative and immensely passionate about ensuring that her student succeeds. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, her resourcefulness, kindness, and patience have stood as a consistent and reliable component in her student’s life.
Maxine Faustino, Coordinator
I started volunteering with School on Wheels because I love to read…it’s an escape into an imaginary world. I wanted to help kids enjoy reading (and school)! My student and I sometimes make faces over our video call screens. He can make really funny faces! Thinking of that makes me smile. I would tell any person who is considering volunteering with kids to recall how they were as a child, what they thought of school, homework, math etc., and with that in mind, go for it! Bring some peace and joy to someone else who REALLY needs it.
Welcome to tutoring in the time of Coronavirus. As School on Wheels tutors move online in droves, we rounded up some of our most experienced online tutors to share their stories and give advice to those transitioning.
Online tutor Mara Miyashiro gives us a look into her experience transitioning to online tutoring with her 6-year-old student. Mara talks about reading, patience, and Magic Schoolbus viewing parties, among other things.
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