Aug 5

Students of the Month – August 2020

Dominic

Age 15

Dominic enjoys football, writing, history, and graphic design, and has been academically challenged by math. We have worked on it in the past, and we are continuing to work on it. He puts in a lot of effort during our sessions to really understand the material. He continually shows improvement and always asks for help or clarification when he doesn’t understand a math problem. Dominic’s biggest dream is to play college football and eventually play for the NFL. One thing that really inspires me is his curiosity and willingness to always ask questions. When he doesn’t understand something or has a question about anything, he always asks and is always looking to learn more. It is something that I admire about him, and it has pushed me to also be more curious in my day to day life. It has taught me how important it is to recognize when you are unfamiliar with something and be able to comfortably ask questions to learn more.

Jannah Jakvani, Tutor

Joselina

Age 7

Joselina loves watching Sonic the Hedgehog. He is her favorite character! She also loves to play, eat hot dogs, and her favorite subject in school is math. A big academic challenge my student has faced is reading. When I started tutoring her, she was reading below grade level. We have been working really hard on improving her reading skills and helping her feel confident and comfortable with grade-level books. Joselina loves being a kid. She still doesn’t know what she wants to do when she grows up. For now, she says she just loves to play. I learned that Joselina is a very intelligent child who just needs some help in recognizing her potential.

Ingrid Hoyos, Tutor

Sophia

Age 5

What I love about Sophia is her positive attitude. She’s constantly excited about the world and has a strong sense of exploration and curiosity. She’s mentioned her love of music and wants to be a singer one day. She also loves doodling and sketching, especially her favorite animals like lions, leopards, and cats. Sophia has taught me a lot about patience and trust. I know that in our past month or so of remote sessions, there have been technical difficulties, especially considering she cannot read a lot of the words on the website and isn’t very familiar with working a computer on her own. I also slip up sometimes and ask her to read some big words (oops!), but she is never frustrated or flustered. She lets me know her needs (for example, that I need to read words aloud to her) and if I apologize, she tells me it’s okay! Her continued active participation in the tutoring process lets me know just how committed she is to the work and how much she trusts me while we navigate sessions together.

Mel Sakurada, Tutor

Julissa

Age 5

Some of Julissa’s interests include animals, shapes, painting/coloring, reading books about animals, and playing with her two-year-old brother. Julissa’s hope for the future is being able to read to her brother. She also looks forward to being able to play with friends in the future after COVID. I have learned so much from Julissa; she has taught me to slow down and really get into the details of learning rather than just the basic building blocks. In addition, she has taught me that practice really does make perfect as I have seen her improve in just the short amount of time that we have been working together.

Liat Smener , Tutor

Nathalie

Age 7

Nathalie enjoys reading, drawing, and math and reads all kinds of books and articles on her own, often bringing them to our sessions to share and discuss. One article she read to me explained how tapirs are needed for trees to grow in the rainforest. We haven’t encountered any really big academic challenges, but poor Internet connections on some days have been a huge obstacle. Nathalie is always patient, good natured, and resourceful. When she couldn’t hear a video I was trying to play for her on Messenger, she asked me the name of the video, did a search for it herself, and watched it in a separate window. When asked about her dreams for the future, Nathalie says she wants to explore the jungle and someday work at the zoo. One of the great qualities Nathalie brings to our sessions is her sense of fun. We might be talking about verbs or how many tens are in a given number, with Nathalie fully involved in the conversation, and I’ll glance up at her image on the screen and see that she’s put on a filter to give herself ears like a rabbit or stars for eyes or a cake full of burning candles in front of her face!

Moira Nelson , Tutor

Aug 5

Volunteers of the Month – August 2020

Liat Smener

Region 3

Liat is an incredible tutor, and has been volunteering with School On Wheels since she was in high school! Liat now attends UCLA, and in addition to volunteering as a tutor, she has been instrumental in helping us relaunch a School On Wheels at UCLA club!

Alex Toutant, Coordinator

I started volunteering to help students become motivated and hopeful of pursuing higher education than they thought possible. One experience with a student that makes me smile is when I taught the five-year-old I am tutoring how to spell the words “apple” and “lizard.” Seeing their faces light up when they finally understand something melts my heart.

Jannah Jakvani

Region 6

Jannah is an amazing and dedicated tutor. From the first day I met her, she demonstrated a very natural ability to understand and connect with her student, Dominic. Jannah is very upbeat and encouraging with her student and is always such an incredible champion for him… she’s his biggest cheerleader! Jannah’s love for helping others shines bright when she’s tutoring. I had the pleasure of sitting in on her first session and was so impressed to see how quickly she connected with her student and the two became a really great team. I’m so grateful for what she does. Jannah is a shining star indeed!

Stephanie Swenseid, Coordinator

I started volunteering with School on Wheels because education has always played a huge part in my life. I believe every student should have access to educational resources to excel in school. This is why I am pursuing a career in education. I recognize the privilege I had growing up of having access to tutoring and other educational opportunities that often require financial means that not everyone has. School on Wheels recognizes the importance of providing the educational support that a lot of students need and often are unable to receive. I love volunteering with School on Wheels because of the values it stands for and the mission it is accomplishing.

During a recent tutoring session, my student Dominic and I were discussing empathy and going over scenarios in which we would express empathy to another individual. In the scenario we were dealing with, a girl was sad about not being able to go to prom because she did not have the money to buy a ticket and a dress. Dominic’s immediate response to the scenario was to help the girl out by contributing to buying her dress and ticket. This experience stayed with me because it showed how big Dominic’s heart is and really speaks to his character and personality. As a tutor, your responsibility is to provide support to your student and help them with their school work. However, more often than not, I find myself learning something new from the student I tutor every single session.

Ingrid Hoyos

Region 5

Ingrid & her student have faced many obstacles in tutoring online since COVID began. Her resilience and continued efforts made it possible for her student to catch up with homework over the summer!

Jesse Pasquan, Coordinator

I was looking for volunteer opportunities in my community and when I came across School on Wheels, I was surprised to learn that so many children in Southern California do not have a home. I found that to be so heartbreaking and unacceptable. I started to inform myself on all of the work School on Wheels does to help break the homelessness cycle for these kids and I wanted to be a part of that. Children are the future of our world and I really do believe it is our responsibility, as members of this community, to help them forge a better future. They cannot be left behind. When I work with my student, I can see just how intelligent and perceptive she is. Her math skills are outstanding but she has a bit of trouble with reading – it is her least favorite subject.

One time, we were reading at the library during our tutoring session. The hour was up and I told her I would see her the following week to read some more. To my surprise, she didn’t put the book down! I was very happy about that because she had not shown much interest in reading before. As I was leaving, I saw that she was actually trying to read the book to her mom. That really put a smile on my face; I am a writer, so stories are super important to me. I am so hopeful that my student will discover just how magical books are and I know it’s only a matter of time before the stories she reads really start to come to life in her imagination and reading will no longer feel like hard work. Being a tutor feels so rewarding. It is remarkable when you start to see that the hour you dedicate to your student each week, as little as it seems, can actually make a big difference in their lives. They can go from feeling completely lost or uninterested in school to feeling confident and motivated to keep moving forward.

Mel Sakurada

Region 2

I knew Mel was going to be an amazing tutor the day I met them! They displayed true dedication and commitment to their student from the beginning. From working on arts and crafts to creating an additional homework packet, Mel has always gone the extra mile for their student. I can always count on Mel to be consistent and advocate for their student.

Carlie Whittaker, Coordinator

I was specifically looking for ways I could use my past experiences working as a Literacy Mentor and spending weekends with friends distributing resources to displaced communities in the Bay Area. I found a listing for School on Wheels & thought it’d be a great match, and I was absolutely right! I’ve always wanted to continue bolstering my repertoire of experience to follow a long-time dream of curating positive, self-affirming spaces and opportunities for systematically disenfranchised populations. I had this one excellent student — my first after joining School on Wheels — who had difficulty adjusting to weekly sessions because he would be tired after a full day of school.

During one session, I noticed his attention was more difficult to maintain than usual. I decided to spend less time on curricular activities and focus more time on figuring out what subjects actually piqued his interest. That session was the first time I had seen him light up. He told me about all these things he loved doing but never got around to (most of which I was entirely unfamiliar with). He loved video games, science, chemistry, space, physics, finger boarding — the list went on and on! After that session, I completely changed the way I divided up our time and prepared for our sessions. A combination of Ivan feeling heard and seen mixed with taking risks as a tutor completely revolutionized not only our tutor-student relationship but also the way I saw what tutoring could look like and how learning could be made accessible to the student’s needs.

Moira Nelson

Region 4

Moira is one of the kindest, sweetest, and most gentle souls I have ever encountered during my time at School on Wheels. Every time I talk with her about tutoring her student, she brings nothing but excitement, positivity, and enthusiasm! Moira is a breath of fresh air and I love having her as a volunteer. She and her student have a special bond and I am so happy that these two have each other.

Kristina Rakosh, Coordinator

Just a year ago, a friend of mine who knew that I had recently retired and was thinking about volunteering as a tutor invited me to a School on Wheels presentation at the Hermosa Beach Rotary Club. I had already been volunteering as a Rolling Reader at a local grammar school, and I thought tutoring with School on Wheels would be a good way to build on what for me is a great source of satisfaction. Before retirement, I worked for over 30 years as a developmental editor of college science textbooks. I am a learning junkie and love especially to explore the world through the eyes of young people who are just beginning to get acquainted with it. A picture my student Nathalie recently drew makes me smile — the sweet expression, arms reaching toward two butterflies, and the upward tilt of the feet are all perfect representations of Nathalie’s spirited, upbeat personality.

Jul 29

Our 2019 Annual Report is OUT!

The School on Wheels 2019 Annual Report is available now for you to read in full on our website. Check out the photo slideshow—you might see a familiar face or two!

The way we serve our students may look a little different this year; still, our mission is the same. Watch Executive Director Charles Evans and President of the Board Josh Fein talk about 2019 and the changes 2020 has brought and read messages from our students, parents, and volunteers. Your work as a tutor, donor, cheerleader, and advocate for kids devastated by homelessness is more important now than ever. Please read about the impact you have made in our annual report,

Jul 23

Mesa Water District, IT firm donate computers to children’s charities impacted by pandemic

In late June, 40 desktop models were wiped of their data, sanitized, boxed up and sent to Children’s Bureau, a Los Angeles-area nonprofit that supports at-risk children and their parents. Another 30 laptops went to School on Wheels, which provides free tutoring and mentoring services for homeless children in six counties, including Orange County.

School on Wheels Executive Director Charles Evans said homeless students have been particularly hard hit during the pandemic, as the shift toward distance learning has removed personal connections and made technology ownership essential.

“A lot of our students are already behind as it is,” Evans said. “When they don’t have access to a teacher or to resources, it makes it a lot easier for them to fall even further behind.”

Since shelter-in-place restrictions began, School on Wheels has had to find creative ways to rebuild its erstwhile in-person tutoring model into a virtual one. The organization is actively seeking funds and hardware to accommodate students living in and learning from motels, shelters and vehicles.

Full story on Daily Pilot. Additional coverage in The Orange County Register, citybizlist, and Stu News Newport.

Jul 8

Students of the Month – July 2020

Ariana

Age 12

Ariana’s interests are sketching, skateboarding, and animating. Ariana’s big academic challenge was math and that is where we spend most of our time. Her hopes and dreams for the future are to be in the film industry, maybe a big time producer or a voice actor. She also wants to start a makeup/beauty line. Ariana has helped me conquer my own fears and doubts. Math is my worst and least favorite subject, so when I initially heard she needed help on math, I definitely panicked a bit! But together we took it one day at a time, and it forced me to get out of my own comfort zone. Teaching is the best way to really learn something, and I have been doing a lot of that lately. I hope to have my own kids one day, sooner than later, so I have Ariana to thank for giving me a glimpse into what to expect!

This artwork (at left) is something Ariana created.

Robin Vanneman, Tutor

Crystal

Age 17

During the group sessions I lead, it is sometimes hard to keep students on track and make sure they are progressing. For Crystal though, this weekly task isn’t as hard because she is serious about learning. She is very serious, even avid, about doing classwork, and you can tell she wants to take it seriously and be taken seriously. Currently, her dream is to graduate from high school this summer and attend Los Angeles City College in the fall. She also wants to get a job and move out on her own. She wants to start building her career before she gets married and has kids. Professionally, she wants to become an agent at the DEA or a registered nurse. Crystal loves cosmetology and is extremely good at doing makeup, and in her free time, she wants to attend cosmetology school to obtain a license so she can do side work. 

Charles Fogel, Tutor

Jasmin

Age 14

Jasmin loves Spanish poetry, speech, soccer, and cheerleading. During our time together, I’ve seen her become more confident in math and math-related skills. As Jasmin moves on to high school, one goal is to make the high school soccer team and become successful in her classes, especially math. Her long term goal is to become a Forensic Pathologist and work in Juárez, Mexico. She would like to make a big difference in the world through her career. I have learned a lot about perseverance and confidence from Jasmin. If she does not fully understand a topic, she does not hesitate to ask for clarification and if she gets a question incorrect the first time, Jasmin will go back and try until she gets it correct. Jasmin puts so much effort into producing the highest quality of work she can.

Anisha Singh, Tutor

Selena

Age 11

My student, Selena, loves the subject of language arts and loves art. She loves to draw, color, and make all kinds of crafts and projects. A big challenge that both Selena and I had to face was her struggle with math. She specifically had trouble with fractions, but now she is completely comfortable with them and the subject overall. Selena hopes to be successful and wishes to meet some of her idols that she has loved for a long time. I have learned a lot from Selena about never giving up. Although there were many tough times where some subjects seemed difficult, Selena never gave up and worked hard in order to understand in the end.

Andrew Chung , Tutor