Oct 29

Tickets for Soiree – November 12th

Please join us on November 12th for an evening of celebration with art, dinner, drinks, and dancing.

This will be an indoor/outdoor event benefitting School on Wheels.

Click here to purchase tickets.

For the safety of our guests, we respectfully ask that all attendees provide proof of vaccination. In addition, the event will be held in accordance with all statewide regulations concerning Covid-19.

Oct 29

Camp On Wheels

Camp On Wheels, a summer camp-inspired project, was created to invite School on Wheels students to dive into the arts this past August.

It was conceived by Volunteer Support Coordinator, Stephanie Swenseid, who then shared the idea with volunteer tutor, Sheryl Meyerson, who had a background in the arts.  Together, along with the help of Student Support Coordinator, Cheyenne Parker and Volunteer Support Coordinator, Manmeet Sodhi, Camp on Wheels came to life.

“Learning should be fun and I was determined to create something fun for the student and tutors in my region”, Stephanie said.

Meyerson, with the help of School on Wheels Student Support Coordinator Cheyenne Parker, enlisted some truly inspiring artists to establish an experience for students outside of the realm of academics. Nine professional musicians, 4 professional dancers, and a handful of School on Wheels employees and volunteers met online for an hour every Saturday morning in August with students ranging from K-12. The team encouraged partners to share the program with any students who might be interested in the experience. It worked—a new student attended and subsequently joined School on Wheels! This was not only a way to build community and deeper connections between students and tutors, it helped to inspire a love of music and dance. 

Some of THE most talented musicians and dancers in Southern California showed up to share their gifts. They created songs and raps and showed everyone a few dance moves. Students got to learn about the origins of certain styles of music and dance. By the end of the month, several students expressed intent to apply to our scholarship program, which encourages artistic pursuits like learning how to play an instrument or taking dance lessons.

The impact and importance of the arts in a young person’s education can’t be overstated. Art instruction helps children with the development of motor skills, language skills, social skills, decision-making skills, and inventiveness. It boosts critical thinking and teaches creative problem-solving skills. A study of Missouri public schools in 2010 found that greater arts education led to fewer disciplinary infractions and higher attendance, graduation rates, and test scores. Integrating art with other disciplines engages students who might not otherwise be interested in classwork. It connects students with their own culture as well as with the wider world.

None of this would have been possible without the talent and time of the incredibly generous artists who showed up week after week. School on Wheels would like to give a huge thank you to David Ellis and Tom Zehdner from McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica; the wondrous voices of the Mixtape Quartet, Misha Vayman, Michael Siess, Juan-Salvador Carrasco, and Nathan Ben-Yehuda; the delightful people of MUSE/IQUE, Marc “Mojo” Joseph, Corey Williams, and Heather Lipson-Bell; as well as amazing dancers, Devin Dixon, Eunique Browder, Malik Stanford, and Caylon White. 


DAVID ELLIS

David Ellis earned both his Bachelor and Master of Music degrees at USC. He has been a guitar instructor at McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica for the past “thirty-something” years. His students have been accepted into music programs at USC, UCLA, UC Irvine, Cal State Long Beach, and the Berklee College of Music.

TOM ZEHNDER

Tom Zehnder is a versatile musician—a songwriter, singer, and guitar player. He enjoys engaging students at all levels and is proud to be part of the accomplished team of music teachers at McCabe’s Guitar Shop.

MIXTAPE QUARTET

MISHA VAYMAN

Misha Vayman is a professional violinist, educator, and dog lover. He’s a faculty member of the Pascale Music Institute and the Downey Foundation for Educational Opportunities, where he runs the online violin program.

MICHAEL SIESS

Violinist Michael Siess began his musical studies at the age of four in Portland, OR. He holds a Bachelor of Music in violin performance from the Cleveland Institute of Music and a Master of Music from USC Thornton School of Music. 

JUAN-SALVADOR CARRASCO

As a Los Angeles Orchestra fellow, cellist Juan-Salvador performs with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, mentors the young talents at Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles, and studies with Ralph Kirshbaum at USC. 

NATHAN BEN-YEHUDA

Nathan Ben-Yehuda has been studying piano since he was four years old. He completed his undergraduate study at the Royal Academy of Music in London and his Master’s degree at the Juilliard School. Joining Mixtape in the summer of 2020, he is now co-artistic director. 

MUSE/IQUE

MUSE/IQUE is a member-supported nonprofit performing arts organization making radically engaging live music experiences accessible for all. Their mission is to build empathy and expand imaginations through transformative live events and strong partnerships with fellow nonprofit organizations in Pasadena and the greater Los Angeles area.

MARC “MOJO” JOSEPH 

A lifelong drummer and New Orleans native, Marc is a recent inductee into the New Orleans Music Westside Hall of Fame. He also conducts private music lessons and public music clinics for adults and kids of all ages. 

COREY WILLIAMS 

Corey Williams, aka Thelonius Kryptonite, is a musician, songwriter, producer, and radio host. A new wave-modern hip hop artist, he currently hosts the first hip hop show on WWOZ 90.7 FM in New Orleans.

HEATHER LIPSON-BELL: artistic producer at MUSE/IQUE

Performer, choreographer, and educator Heather Lipson Bell works nationally and abroad on stage and screen, in both the classroom and the community. Currently, she is co-artistic director of Teatro Filarmonico; founder and creative director of Performing Arts For All; assistant director and co-choreographer with Los Angeles Opera Education Department; and a Wharton Performance Certified Flexibility Technician. Her work with special needs individuals is featured in the short dance documentary FREEZE! Try Again.

PROFESSIONAL DANCERS

DEVIN DIXON

Based in Atlanta, Devin has been dancing for 10+ years and has experience choreographing, teaching, and performing. He’s also served as president of the collegiate hip-hop dance crew “Physical Graffeeti”. 

EUNIQUE BROWDER

High school teacher by day, dance instructor by afternoon, and Netflix binge-watcher by night! Eunique currently teaches English courses and advises the dance team at Vernon Malone College and Career Academy. 

MALIK STANFORD

Malik is a Los Angeles resident working in health care IT as a project manager. He has a background in hip hop dance and served as president of the dance crew “Physical Graffeeti” while in college. Malik also taught cardio dance for 5 years.

CAYLON WHITE

Caylon is based in Los Angeles and currently works at UCLA as a senior administrative officer. Caylon has been dancing for the past 6 years and his favorite styles of dance are hip-hop, vogue, and waacking. He’s a firm believer that anyone can dance if they have enough confidence and attitude.

Oct 27

As students suffer during pandemic, an Irvine resident steps in – LA Times

Katherine Dang, 21, is hoping to help narrow the learning gap by providing tutoring services to students experiencing homelessness in Orange County. Dang, who is from Irvine and attends UC Santa Barbara, started a university chapter of the nonprofit School on Wheels during the last spring quarter.

“A lot of the kids that we work with have experienced a lot of trauma and a lot of movement in their lives,” said Sinéad Chilton, chief development and marketing officer with School on Wheels. “They might have lived in several places, they might have missed school because of that. And typically, they’re behind their peers when it comes to academics.”

“Katherine is just a testament to the willingness of our volunteers to create more advocacy and awareness around students experiencing homelessness,” said Charles Evans, executive director of School on Wheels. “Homeless students are often invisible. Anytime you hear homelessness being talked about, children experiencing homelessness are often left out, which just perpetuates the cycle of homelessness.”

Chilton said the nonprofit currently serves about 1,400 students, including more than 120 in Orange County. They are hoping to serve 2,000 by the end of the year. Read more…

Oct 25

October 2021 Volunteers of the Month

Elyse Stelford

Elyse really goes above and beyond with her tutoring sessions and finds useful tools to help her during tutoring. She has shared many great resources with me and she also advocates for her student and her student’s mother. She ensures that Khalil is getting the appropriate resources at school and has great communication with both him and his mother. Elyse is patient and kind and makes her sessions fun and engaging. She is great at listening and makes sure Khalil feels heard and valued. 

-Yesenia Ontiveros, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I was a general education classroom teacher for 6 years, so getting to use my teacher skills to help my student understand a concept (and potentially even have some fun while doing so) is very rewarding. I also just truly love getting to spend time with our kids. They are all so funny and sweet! They get so excited to share their day or about something they read or a show they are loving. Grown ups don’t have that same enthusiasm. Working with kids is the best! 

Recently, I saw that Khalil was struggling with his multiplication facts. So I decided to go back to basics and use more concrete visual aids to help him. Usually we start our sessions with some drawing time and we will take drawing breaks throughout the session. We were working on multiplication using the visual aids and Khalil was CRUSHING it. When I asked him if he wanted to take a drawing break, he said no. I was stunned. I asked him, do you want to keep going because you’re doing such a great job and you’re good at this? He said yes. It made my heart so happy that he felt confident and didn’t even want to stop to draw! 

What would you tell someone who is thinking about becoming a volunteer tutor?

If someone is considering being a volunteer tutor, I would tell them to do it! Don’t hesitate! Sign up today! You do not need to be a teacher. Anyone can help! Everyone has something special they can bring to the table to help enrich the life of an incredible School on Wheels kid!

Sai Rithvik Kotla

I decided to nominate Rithvik for his incredible desire to give back to others and help give the gift of education. He is always willing to tutor multiple students while being a student himself! It has been great to see Rithvik grow and build relationships with his students. 

-Genesis Torres, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I always felt that education is the most important thing in life. When people are educated they can contribute significantly to a stable and stimulating community. I wanted to help people in need and School on Wheels had a perfect combination of my interest and my passion. By volunteering with School on Wheels, I’m not only helping people who are in need, but I’m also helping them learn. I feel rewarded when my students finally make a breakthrough and understand something they’ve been struggling with and I’m able to have a direct impact on their work.  

My most memorable experience was when one of my students, who was struggling with math when I first began tutoring, told me that they started feeling comfortable doing math as our tutoring sessions went by and were able to ace a test in school.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about becoming a volunteer tutor?

You have the chance to make a real difference in the life of a child and ultimately, the greater community. Volunteer tutoring is easy and fun, and you get to experience your student’s positive responses and growth.

Amanda Zaumeyer

Amanda’s immense kindness and advocacy for her student has inspired me during such an uneasy and unpredictable time in the pandemic. Her ability to think on her feet and create innovative ways to help her student constantly amazes me! I am very thankful for all of her persistence and empathy. 

-Maxine Faustino, Volunteer Support Coordinator

The personal connection—I’ve been working with Lexi now for a year and a half—and the satisfaction of helping her through high school algebra and other tough subjects is so gratifying. Plus I really enjoy my time with her. We love chatting about life, our dogs, our taste in TV and music, etc. She’s so positive and has such a great laugh. Last month Lexi had studied for hours for an algebra test, but she still wasn’t feeling 100% confident, so she asked me to make her a whole new practice test to go through. I was so impressed by her determination to keep working until she “got it,” even though she had already put so many hours in. 

What would you tell someone who is thinking about becoming a volunteer tutor?

Do it! You’ll get more out of it than you put in. 

Tim Bonds

Tim is a fantastic and dedicated tutor who gives up extra family time so he can tutor his student online on the weekends. He spends extra hours ahead of time finding resources and reviewing his student’s assignments so he is more than prepared for each session. Tim is such a fantastic asset to the School on Wheels program!

-Chris Walsh, Regional Coordinator

My first year of college I found that I was unprepared for the level and pace of my math classes. It was only through the help of friends that I was able to succeed. I have always wanted to pay it forward to others as the best way to repay that kindness. It is most rewarding to partner with families and students that put a high value on education, set challenging goals, and work hard at achieving them.
I have been very impressed with the progress that Mariam has made. Each week she attempts a new set of challenging math problems, and we go over those that are most difficult in our tutoring sessions. The very next week I will quiz her on similar problems—and she can solve them without my help!

What would you tell someone who is thinking about becoming a volunteer tutor?

One should consider all of the instances in one’s own life in which we have been helped by others. What was the impact of each gift? How did it change our immediate situation and our lives into the future? In what ways can we offer the same things to others?

Erika Lin

Erika is compassionate, patient and understanding. She effortlessly connects with her students; always going an extra mile for them and advocating for them. It is inspiring to see how much her student Haze trusts her and leans on her for support. Erika is currently tutoring two students. I admire her dedication and flexibility for her students. I am grateful to have her on my team.

-Manmeet Sodhi, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I have always loved working with children and adolescents of all ages. Most of my experiences are from summer camp counseling or in a hospital setting, but never in education. I realized this past year at work, I enjoy teaching and mentoring. Moreover, I was ready to be challenged in a different arena. Luckily, my good friend told me about School on Wheels and when I learned more about the mission of this organization and target population—I knew it would be a rewarding experience. 

One of the most rewarding aspects of tutoring is hearing a student say “this was really helpful.” I love watching my students improve and gain clarity where there is a potential learning gap. As a tutor, I have also improved in the way I explain concepts that I can personalize to the student’s learning style; I have learned to think about multiple approaches to a concept so that I can cover all the important details. Lastly, I am humbled by how hard these students work despite their life circumstances. At times, they can transition between multiple schools within a month. Their willingness to continue to learn, show up for tutoring, and bring positive energy is incredible. 

What would you tell someone who is thinking about becoming a volunteer tutor?
Do it. You will not regret it! It is a simple yet incredibly rewarding commitment each week with the potential to make a life-long impact on a student. Even if you feel like working with kids may not be something for you or you have no experience with teaching, the numerous resources and support at School on Wheels will definitely prepare you. Also, we have all been students at some point in our lives, so relating to these students might be easier than you think.

Sara Williams

Sara exemplifies a dedicated, passionate volunteer tutor! Not only was she the first tutor I ever matched at School on Wheels, but she has gone above and beyond to tutor both in-person and online. 

-Jesse Pasquan, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I first learned about School on Wheels (SOW) when I worked at Girl Scouts—a troop was raising money for the organization, kids helping other kids. It touched me so much that I looked into the organization, and was really drawn to the mission and program. It also felt like a wonderful opportunity to make a tangible difference in someone’s life. I’ve loved being part of SOW ever since.

There are so many reasons why I continue to tutor with SOW, and why I’ve found the experience incredibly rewarding. Yet what I’ve found most rewarding is creating a connection with my students like Serena—letting them know there’s another adult cheerleader in their lives, encouraging them to keep going, and inspiring them to do their best. The students have so much pressure to deal with; through tutoring, I strive to provide a respite and safe space for students like Serena to learn, grow, and have fun.

There have been so many great, memorable experiences with Serena, but I’d say the most memorable was our Shakespeare project. During summer break, I looked through SOW’s suggested activities, and came across a site with virtual tours of cultural institutions. I shared that list with Serena , and she wanted to check out the Globe in London.We decided it’d be fun to spend the next few weeks working on a brochure about Shakespeare’s life, works, and legacy. Serena got to flex her impressive graphic design skills! It’s a project I’ll always fondly remember, and hope Serena will as well, especially when she studies Shakespeare later in school!

What would you tell someone who is thinking about becoming a volunteer tutor?

For me, tutoring is the best part of my week and can easily transform my day from bad to good. Even if you don’t have a background in education, SOW makes tutoring easy with great resources and enthusiastic (and accessible) staff. The whole volunteering experience has been incredibly positive and rewarding, and I recommend it to anyone interested in working with youth and/or helping unhoused folks. By committing an hour each week to tutoring, you’re doing wonders for the community, for today’s youth, and for yourself. 

Janet Adams

Janet is an incredible role model and mentor. She goes above and beyond for her student Hailey every single week. Janet comes prepared for every session. There are slides, books, pictures, and personalized activities waiting for her student in every session, both academic and non-academic. Her kindness, dedication, and commitment to Hailey and her family are inspiring. I am grateful to have her on my team.

-Manmeet Sodhi, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I meet with two incredible educators every six weeks. We are retired and one of them mentioned that her daughter found out about School on Wheels and shared the information with me. I applied right away. I wanted to continue to give to others my love of education, teaching, curriculum, and technology.  

School on Wheels provides a systematic platform that is incredibly easy to use and learn. The training, the resources, and the coordinators have made my induction a joy. My weekly opportunity with Hailey is not taken lightly. I think about our conversations, her academic position, and Hailey’s emotional health after every session. I examine my conversation and teaching strategies when we leave the session. How can I make the next session better? What am I missing? I really am not looking for my own personal rewards. I am here to serve Hailey and her mother.  

I love the moments when Hailey makes connections. Recently she was reading a book in Epic and the subject matter brought up a personal connection. As she was reading about minerals and their names, she lit up, showing me her bracelet and necklace. The mineral name she was reading was the same mineral that was in her jewelry. 

What would you tell someone who is thinking about becoming a volunteer tutor?

The time spent with a student is giving back moments of learning and life lessons that may bring that student a foundation that they will build on from time to time. Your experiences are tried and tested and many of us have gone through fires that refine us into amazing human beings. With grit and determination, why not become a School on Wheels tutor?

Margie Johnson

I nominated Margie because she always goes above and beyond for her students. Even when her students are going through tough times, Margie always shows up ready to help them learn. Margie is always the first one to respond about helping with events and recruitment. She always has a positive attitude! 

-Aeriell Woodhams, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I was a teacher and wanted to work with children again, and I liked the idea of working with students who needed help with school work. I have worked with School on Wheels for about 10 years—mostly in person at Esqueda in Santa Ana. It is a great opportunity to help a student improve their academic skills as well as their self-esteem. Needless to say, I feel great satisfaction about what I am doing.

Batool Hussain

Batool brings the utmost patience, kindness, and care to her tutoring. She meets challenges with grace and persistence and is always thinking of ways to improve her students’ tutoring experience.

-Emma Gerch, Digital Learning Specialist

As a teacher, I’ve seen the disparity in the quality of education available to different populations. I’m going in a different direction with my career now, but I still wanted to use my teaching skills to help fill in some gaps. The first time my student got through an unfamiliar book pretty smoothly, I was so proud!

What would you tell someone who is thinking about becoming a volunteer tutor?

Prepare more things than you know you’ll have time for… you’re constantly going to have to adapt to the mood or technology problems or your activity just not going the way you thought!

Oct 21

October 2021 Students of the Month

Lily, Age 7

Lily is very special because she is enthusiastic and wants to learn new things.

When doing an assessment the example “compound word” came up. After I explained what that was and she came up with examples we now look in the reading to find compound words. She seemed interested in learning about money. We had fun with it, acting out buying and getting change. She worked hard on finding the right change and wouldn’t give up until she did.
-Margie Johnson, Volunteer Tutor

Serena, Age 11

Serena’s boundless curiosity is a marvel to behold! She’s always seeking to expand her knowledge on new and familiar topics, from astronomy to creative writing, math to interior design. It’s such a joy to witness her enthusiasm for learning.

Serena is such a fast and voracious learner—not to mention incredibly smart—that she’s found it challenging to be challenged! We’ve worked together to find advanced learning programs that meet her needs. We’ve also had fun exploring subjects that are new and interesting to her, like Shakespeare’s plays. For me, the goal is to encourage Serena to stay curious and interested in learning—the opportunities are endless for her!
-Sara Williams, Volunteer Tutor

Khalil, Age 9

Khalil is so special because he is such a warm person and sweet soul. He loves to learn and loves to share interesting facts about things he is passionate about! He loves learning about different places and sharing information about the places he reads about. He’s also an incredible artist!!

Khalil LOVES animals and wants to work with them in some capacity. I also hope he travels the world and gets to see all the places he loves to read about. I also definitely think art will play a role in his future.
-Elyse Stelford, Volunteer Tutor

Mariam, Age 12

Mariam says “My main dream for the future is to try to help to make the world a better place and to help as many people as I can. One of many hopes of which I have is to become a nurse. By doing so, I can nourish and care for the children who are the next generation. And if the next generation of people are loving, caring, and helpful, then everyone can strive for a better tomorrow.”
-Tim Bonds, Volunteer Tutor

Breenah, Age 15

Breenah is very sincere with her work. She is very determined and never gives up. She is very attentive and always strives to do her best.

Breenah was having problems with reading comprehension, so we focused on reading books in her free time. During our sessions, she started reading passages slowly and giving attention to details. Slowly she improved and now her reading comprehension has improved drastically.

Breenah loves animals and wants to become a veterinarian to help rescue dogs and animals.
-Rithvik Kotla, Volunteer Tutor

Haze, Age 12

Haze is such a positive, kind, patient, and easy-going individual. She is incredibly hardworking and demonstrates a strong desire to learn. She is never afraid to ask questions if she is struggling with a concept. I admire that she strives to be the best version of herself, work hard, and produce high-quality work. In addition, she is a talented artist, singer, and dancer! 
Haze would like to be a professional artist—whether it is art, dance, or music. I am excited for Haze to further explore her interests as she continues to explore these avenues.
-Erika Lin, Volunteer Tutor

Lexi, Age 15

Lexi has the most beautiful smile, a great sense of humor, and an amazing work ethic. She frequently spends hours with me working on difficult concepts, and she is very determined to do well in school!

The pandemic was hard on Lexi, as she was often sharing a device and/or spotty Wifi with her siblings, but she is amazingly resilient and determined, and she is doing great this year at in-person school. 
-Amanda Zaumeyer, Volunteer Tutor

Hailey, Age 13

Mariam is determined to learn mathematics far above her grade level and is succeeding!

Hailey shows kindness and patience when we are in our sessions. She waits for me to move presentations, images, videos when uploading may take a few moments. When family or friends are near, she speaks to them softly. Hailey has a beautiful smile which invites me into her life when the video/camera is on. Hailey lights up when she shares her school life. Hailey’s friends are important to her and she smiles when she chats about seeing them during class breaks and lunch. 
-Janet Adams, Volunteer Tutor

Oct 20

USC’s CHIP Brings Health and Science Experiments to the Community

September 30, 2021 – When the pandemic hit, the students in USC’s Community Health Involvement Program (CHIP), like everyone else in the world, had to pivot. CHIP was created with the intention of bringing health justice to the residents of South Los Angeles, and one of its goals is to provide childhood health educational services. 

Due to restrictions, in-person volunteering became impossible. They had to get creative. CHIP members came across School On Wheel’s Instagram page and reached out to figure out how they could help. 

School On Wheels’s mission is to bridge the educational gap that unhoused students experience—a gap that has been exacerbated by the pandemic. CHIP members set out to develop a series of interactive experiments to help our students learn more about health and science. They created kits to send through the mail for students to conduct with their tutors. 

“The main goal of CHIP’s experiment program is to increase young students’ exposure to diverse health topics,” says Rachel Liu, the USC CHIP Head of Experiments. “For each experiment, our CHIP members assembled interactive science kits for each individual student alongside an informational worksheet. We also developed lesson plans and Zoom video recordings to aid the School On Wheels tutors,” she said. 

For 2021, CHIP’s experiment program chose four different aspects of health to focus on: oral hygiene, the immune system, heart health, and lung health. “We develop experiments that will teach these important lessons in a fun and interactive way,” Liu said. School On Wheels tutors agree it’s working. 

“The students were a lot more engaged because they had something physically in front of them that they could work with,” said Nhi Ha, a tutor who started volunteering with School On Wheels a few years ago. “The lesson plans and instructions were straightforward and clear,” she said. 

Nhi reports the younger students liked the worksheets and playing with the supplies while the older students (middle school and above) enjoyed the whole process. “The students felt good having objectives they could focus on and complete in a short period of time,” she added. 

One of the stand-out favorites was an interactive kidney experiment. With the help of plastic cups, coffee filters, chalk, and water, the students were able to build a model that demonstrates how the kidneys filter blood to remove toxins. “[It] was a unique way to introduce the function of kidneys to younger students, many of whom probably hadn’t learned about it during their regular classes,” Liu said. 

Despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, CHIP is looking forward to the future. “Starting this experiment program during the pandemic definitely put a limit on the amount of “manpower” we could use for assembling and shipping our kits. We’re so excited to continue this partnership with School On Wheels with the help of our general members now that we’re back on campus,” Liu said. 

Our students can’t wait to see what new experiments and lesson plans they have in store. School On Wheels is looking forward to continuing this relationship with CHIP and the amazingly creative students who are a part of it.