Apr 2

An Update on COVID-19 and School on Wheels

As we continue to monitor developments regarding COVID-19, we wanted to update you regarding School on Wheels and the steps we are taking to support our students, volunteers, partners, and team. The situation is still very fluid, continually evolving, and impacting our communities in many ways.

As we always do, we are keeping children experiencing homelessness front and center. While we have suspended all on-site tutoring, closed our Skid Row Learning Center, and canceled all planned events, our staff is working remotely and still in close contact with families, partners, and volunteers to ensure that our students are supported. We recognize that our ability to work from home is a privilege and we are so grateful to all those who have no choice but to go to work so that the rest of us are taken care of.

Our major priority at the moment is to identify and fulfill the most critical needs of our students, their families, and the shelter staff who are on the front lines. This is what we have done in the past two weeks:

  • Conducted outreach to over 250 shelters and school districts we work with to identify their major needs; surveyed them as to internet access and hardware available for students.
  • Created a webpage dedicated to essential resources for parents and community partners and created an online wishlist to ship activity kits directly to shelters.
  • Contacted all active volunteer tutors and encouraged them to stay in touch with their students via phone, Facetime or other communication methods.
  • Trained our staff members to administer remote tutoring so they can, in turn, train our volunteers.
  • Expanded our use of important alternatives to in-person tutoring, such as online tutoring and digital classrooms.
  • Provided books, school supplies, laptops, tablets, and worksheets to shelters so that our students can continue to learn.
  • Created a digital classroom at a large shelter in Skid Row for the many children isolated there. 

Here’s how you can support School on Wheels students during these difficult times:

Please continue to support our work with a financial contribution.
Provide activity kits for students in shelters.

Follow us on social media (FacebookInstagramTwitter) where we share inspiring stories, learning resources, important petitions, and news related to the issues our students and families are facing.

Dedicated resources for families from our community partners.

Visit our partners at VolunteerMatch.org or California Volunteers

Let’s work together and do what we can to stay safe during this crisis, making sure our most vulnerable kids–those without a home–have the support they need to grow up healthy and get the education they need to survive and thrive. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Mar 17

COVID-19 and Its Impact on Our Students

Community Resources During COVID-19 Pandemic – click here for information on essential services in your area.

At School on Wheels, our top priority is always the safety and well-being of our students, volunteers, staff, partners, and communities.

Effective immediately, we have suspended all in-person tutoring services to our students and have canceled all events. We will put all new applications and student/volunteer matches on hold. Our Skid Row Learning Center will also be closed for the time being.

For most of our students, school is their only safety net, offering food, education, physical and mental health services, caring adults, and a safe place to be during the day. Schools and after school programs offer stability and safety. We will help our students by offering alternatives to in-person tutoring during this time. We are working directly with our active tutors to implement this as quickly as possible. 

If you would like to help and are not already in our existing volunteer tutor community the best thing you can do at this time to support our work is to donate funds for us to purchase tablets, laptops, school supplies, and books and help to raise awareness in your virtual community about the challenges our students are facing during this time. Please follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for ongoing updates on our work. Starting a Facebook Fundraiser is also a great option to support our students.  

We are collaborating with our staff and board, as well as external educators and other partners, to find creative ways to support our students and community during this time. We know this situation will have a huge impact on our most vulnerable populations and we are committed to our mission of serving children experiencing homelessness.

Mar 3

Volunteers of the Month – March 2020

Suzanne Rizzolo


Suzanne is an absolutely incredible online tutor. She uses all the tools available to her to expertly meet the needs of her students — even putting together her own lesson plans and presentations. As a professional educator, she brings invaluable expertise to our program. She has such a nurturing spirit, and is great at making our students feel seen and appreciated.

Emma Gerch, Coordinator

I was a middle and high school English teacher for many years. Since I am no longer in the classroom, I found that I was missing the kids. Also, I thought that working with School on Wheels would be particularly rewarding at this stage in my career as an educator. One evening when I happened to mention the strategic use of repetition (the rhetorical device “anaphora”) in regard to something we were reading, my student Zyarre said, “You mean like when Martin Luther King, Jr. keeps repeating the phrase “I have a dream”? Zyarre had read the speech in school and very perceptively applied the new term I was introducing. I would tell any potential volunteer that working with a School on Wheels student will brighten your day and enrich your life.

Phillip DeSautell

Region 7

Mr. Phillip goes above and beyond to help the students at the SRLC. Phillip volunteers multiple times a week and works efficiently and effectively. The students look forward to receiving his help every week!

Jason Wright, Coordinator

My wife told me about volunteering opportunities she had seen in the monthly AARP Magazine, and School on Wheels was one of the ones listed. It appealed to me, because it was for children with a background somewhat like mine. I had a teacher that took special interest in me and helped “boost” me along in the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Grades. Sometimes kids just need a little “boost” to get them on the right learning track. I want to be that boost for one, or some, of these kids if I can be. One memory that stands out for me so far is when I questioned the ability of a student to read at her grade level. She looked me straight in the eyes and said “No I can’t, but I can learn.” That simple sentence will be with me for the remainder of my life, and it makes me smile for what ALL of us tutors do for these kids. Bringing tutoring help to these students will add far more value to your life than you can ever add to theirs! It is an honor.

Tony Estrada

Region 1

Tony has been with us since 2012 and is always going above and beyond for the kids he tutors. In 2019 he transitioned from one-on-one tutoring sessions to group tutoring, starting with one group session a week. Now Tony hosts three sessions every week to help as many kids he can. He is extremely patient, non-judgmental, and friendly but firm with his students. It is a treat to observe his sessions.

Manmeet Sodhi, Coordinator

A few years ago I was at Comic Con and found myself thinking about what it took to be a “real super hero.” A week later, I was listening to a podcast and an actress was talking about how great it was to be tutoring for School On Wheels. When I thought about it, I realized that helping kids in need was a way to actually make an impact. I remember when I was helping a little girl who was literally years behind in school. She had a bit of an attitude. She was very tough and sassy with me. We doubled my hours, PLUS we had another tutor helping, and gradually, her Fs and Ds became As, Bs and Cs. On the last day of tutoring, I thought she was going to be sassy with me like usual, but instead she thanked me for helping her succeed in a way she never thought she could. Her mom sent me the nicest text I have ever received. It was all so touching that I still get teary eyed about it after all these years. Helping these kids has literally made me a better and happier person.

Mar 3

Students of the Month – March 2020


Age 12

Zyarre and I did a fun “values” quiz together, and I think he found it illuminating. The quiz revealed that while recognition (being noticed, feeling significant in the world) is important to him, he is deeply interested in justice and helping others. He told me a story about how he welcomed a shy new student to his school, helping the other boy feel more confident. In the future, Zyarre hopes to build a meaningful and secure life that will likely involve some sort of service to others, and I find his attitude inspiring.

Suzanne Rizollo, Tutor


Age 8

Moises is 8 years old, in 2nd grade. He is a great reader, a studious learner, and approaches all the new things that come his way with determination and concentration. When he grows up Moises would like to work with lizards; he is the biggest Jurassic Park and Godzilla fan that I have met yet! For our reading time, we always set out an audience: Cat in the Hat and a stuffed dinosaur or two! I have learned from Moises that when you need to learn something new that seems difficult, approaching with a calm and studious outlook is the best way to conquer and learn! Here the dinosaurs and Cat and the Hat are helping Moises conquer double digit subtraction!

Sasana Kachirsky, Tutor


Age 11

Rachel likes ice skating, anime, math, and making friends. She has taught me that it’s okay to be unique and comfortable with your own goofy self; she is never judgmental and always has a great attitude. Rachel enjoys talking and getting to know people, so its easy for her to drift away from her work. We’ve managed this by separating ourselves from the rest of the group during distracting times. Rachel hopes to become a psychologist because she doesn’t want kids to feel the same way she did when she was sad. If that doesn’t work out she would like to be a veterinarian.

Carlos, Tutor

Feb 25

The School on Wheels Podcast Episode 2: Digital Learning

In the second episode of our new podcast, Katie Brennecke interviews two members of our programs team about digital learning, digital literacy, and technology at School on Wheels. Ian Chan, Program Administrator and original digital learning champion, discusses our students’ access to digital learning has developed over time. Emma Gerch, Online Tutoring Coordinator, walks Katie through online tutoring, virtual field trips, and the newly developed digital literacy program.

If you want to learn more about the various digital learning programs available to you and your student, please visit our our tutor resources page. While you’re there, you can also find more information about our digital literacy program and watch Emma’s webinar.

Antidepresseur by [friendzoned] | https://soundcloud.com/friendzonedbeats
Music promoted by https://www.free-stock-music.com
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported

The River by Rolemusic | http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Rolemusic
Copyright: Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 
United States: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/us/

Feb 14

Digital Learning Day Contest

Did you know? February 27th is Digital Learning Day! All month long, we’re celebrating innovative technology practices in education and raising awareness about how we can intentionally bring digital tools into tutoring sessions.

Our students overwhelmingly lack access to the tech devices and education they need to succeed in school and beyond. As a tutor, you can bridge the digital divide for your student by thoughtfully using technology to fill educational gaps.

In celebration of Digital Learning Day, we want to see your students use Scratch – a program we love that teaches kids creative coding. All participating students will be entered to win a $25 gift card for Target.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Create a Scratch account (it’s free!)
  2. Have your student complete the Animate a Name tutorial on Scratch. We recommend downloading and printing these Coding Cards for easy instruction.
  3. Creativity is encouraged! Instead of a name, your student can animate “School on Wheels,” or an inspirational word like “Learn,” “Grow,” or “Think.” Or they can animate their own name (first names only please). Sample project here.
  4. Enter the contest below by sharing your project file or the link to your project!
    • To download the project, click File – Save to your computer.
    • To find the link to your project, click ‘Share,’ then ‘Copy Link’.

Note: This project requires a laptop. If wifi is a problem at your tutoring site, you can download the app here for offline use.

Contact egerch@schoolonwheels.org with questions.