Sep 27

September 2021 Volunteers of the Month

Adrianne Rippinger

Adrianne is an experienced educator and is tutoring three elementary school students! We are so lucky to have her.
-Alexander Toutant, Volunteer Support Coordinator

As a former educator, and especially after witnessing a year of online education, I knew the best way I could give back to my community was by tutoring students. I also know from experience that well-off parents will always find a way to give their children an edge in school. Sadly and perhaps irreversibly, it is those less fortunate who lost the most educational progress this past year, further widening the gap in educational advantage. So it was to those less fortunate whom I turned to offer my time and educational skill set.

Kelly Bauer

Kelly is incredibly dedicated; he and his student have been working so hard together. He really enjoys working with his student and they have a really special bond. Kelly has so much care and compassion and it’s clear that he only wants to see his student succeed and have all of the opportunities to do so. He has made such a big impact in the four months he has been tutoring!
-Kristina Rakosh, Regional Coordinator

Last year I worked with my own children as they worked from home due to COVID. I saw how hard they were working and knew that it must be so challenging for other kids. I looked for organizations that I could support using my background in education and found School on Wheels. I loved their mission so I signed up.

I think the most rewarding part has been seeing my student grow. He is up against so many challenges and still is able to show up each week and learn. I can already see him getting stronger in Math and Writing. This summer, we worked on a five-paragraph essay as part of a School on Wheels scholarship he’ll be applying for this fall. He learned the whole process, created an outline and drafts of his essay. He was motivated and persistent the whole way through.

No matter what challenges you may be up against in your life, being kind, positive, and responsible can take you a long way. Every bit of energy you put into tutoring you receive back in multitudes from the joy and satisfaction of working with students.

Mohammad Fidaali

Mohammad is an incredible role model, mentor, and tutor for his student, Benjamin. When Mohammad first joined us, he had a huge desire to help, but he was uncertain if he had what it took to be a tutor. From the moment Mohammad started tutoring, he was a natural! He not only possesses a natural ability to teach, but he does a great job of finding ways to connect with his student. When Mohammad joined SOW, he had just made an important transition in his life, leaving a corporate job behind and moving back in with his family to pursue medical school. He’s a great example of what you can do with a positive mindset and determination. Mohammad has always been more than qualified to work with our students and is making a wonderful difference in the life of his student. It’s been a pleasure to watch him grow as a tutor.
-Stephanie Swenseid, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I have always enjoyed working with kids but hadn’t done so in quite some time. I found myself with some extra time on my hands recently and decided I wanted to spend a portion of it tutoring. I started talking to people who also tutor and one of them mentioned School on Wheels specifically. The mission at School on Wheels is genuine, which is why I decided to reach out and see if I can volunteer.

Working with Benjamin has given me an immense perspective on how people develop. I think I was like him in a lot of ways when I was in third grade. Quick, wanting, not wishing to struggle through to potentially greater outcomes. So seeing that, and now working with him at this stage in my life, is humbling. He has taught me patience and the virtue of practicing what we preach. I was blown away at his ability to process the information, retain, recall, and give really sound, creative thoughts on abstract ideas like where he thinks the story will progress. These were things I wasn’t expecting. What I realized then is that he can actually read very well, it’s just sometimes he might get flustered or give an incorrect answer in the moment. In actuality, with time and strong effort put towards the question or problem, he can get an accurate answer. He does have the ability to excel!

Jessica Spake 

Jess is truly an amazing volunteer! The two students she tutors speak three languages, with English being their newest language. Jess has been able to tutor them in both English and in French. She brings excitement about space, animals, and academic achievements to the table.
-Jesse Pasquan, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I learned about School on Wheels from a friend. I believe that kids experiencing homelessness deserve the resources necessary to succeed in school. My student Amy has taught me that we all need big checkmarks for every achievement we make. I would tell anyone thinking about becoming a tutor, “do not hesitate. Getting to know my students, and seeing them bravely face up to academic challenges has been an utter privilege.”

Aug 23

Students of the Summer (2021)

Anthony C, Age 9

Anthony has been working on reading comprehension and multiplication. He would like to be a police officer when he grows up. Anthony has a positive attitude and a willingness to learn!

Maximillian, Age 8

Max is equal parts silly and animated. He makes the sessions light by always cracking hilarious jokes or doing impersonations. His energy and liveliness during sessions would give even the Energizer bunny a run for its money! Max is an avid gamer and would love to explore the field of game testing and development. One of his current favorite games is Minecraft.

Our sessions focus primarily on language arts, specifically phonics and reading comprehension skills. Sometimes we learn new things and Max has a difficult time working through the process of mastering a new skill. He automatically deems new things as hard, difficult, or unnecessary. Yet by the second time he is exposed to the material, he has had a chance to process the steps and is no longer protesting the material. Sometimes it’s difficult for him to see the “end goal” but we try to work through these mental blocks through encouragement and pulling in real-world applications of the material. I greatly appreciate having the support from his parents as well! It’s nice to have a backup on your side when debating with an 8-year old 🙂

Luna, Age 9

Luna is super creative and silly. We’re writing a story based on two characters she came up with: Barney, a grumpy farmer, and Dino, his “legendary blue dinosaur”. She comes up with the funniest storylines and details at the drop of a hat. Luna is a great student and a hard worker. Her main challenge is that she often goes too fast, and ends up making small mistakes or mispronouncing words that she knows. We’ve worked on being more aware of it and taking deep breaths to help us slow down. She’s often able to do it on her own now!

When Luna grows up she says she wants to be an art teacher and to “help dogs in need”, which really speaks to her big heart. I’ve learned a lot from Luna about patience. She never gets angry or frustrated when the work is hard; she’ll push through until she understands the concept. I’m always so impressed with her perseverance.

Amy, Age 12

Amy’s positive attitude and willingness to learn makes her a very fun student to work with! A big challenge for Amy was remembering all of the different rules for adding and subtracting fractions vs. multiplying and dividing them, which can be tricky. However, Amy was able to master this skill through practicing each week.

Amy dreams of becoming a photographer in the future. Working with Amy has taught me a lot about patience and perseverance. Solidifying new concepts in math takes a lot of practice and can be frustrating, but Amy never gives up.

Alex, Age 6

The thing that makes Alex special is his energy and positive attitude. Everytime we have our weekly sessions, he always seems to have a smile on his face and has some fun stories to tell about his weekend. He is always eager to learn and try different subjects or topics each week. Something that Alex has found a little challenging is reading. We have worked on it by always doing some sort of reading or short spelling activity every week along with our math and art activities.

Alex is really enthusiastic about multiple things such as Legos and drawing. He has a really creative mind and has a lot of ideas whenever we have time to do some drawing activities.

Anthony M., Age 17

What makes Anthony so special is how friendly he is. Meeting teens for the first time can be stressful but the first time I met him I instantly felt comfortable talking to him. Anthony is planning on attending college and getting a part-time job in the near future. He is also considering a career as an animator since he loves art. Anthony has been through some hard experiences in life and he still has a positive attitude about his future and life in general. I find that very inspiring!

Freddy, Age 17

Freddy worked diligently over quarantine and was able to end the year with straight A’s while also growing his side business using the budgeting tools he gained through the BUS Program! Certain classes have been challenging because the concepts aren’t explained very clearly, so we’ve worked together to learn how to problem solve and find information on our own! I think these will be extremely helpful skills for him to have in both college and the entrepreneurial world.

Freddy definitely has a great mind for business, and currently he plans to study that area in college. I’ve learned all about his side business of reselling shoes! He’s very knowledgeable and has put so much work into growing the business efficiently, including managing the budgeting, organizing inventory, shipping, and even marketing using social media.

Sergio, Age 11

Sergio wants to become both a professional boxer and the first in his family to get a college degree. I think that boxing has taught him to work hard, and I have seen this translate to his schoolwork. Whenever I go over a challenging concept with him, he does not usually get it the first, second, or even third time. He keeps going and striving to understand the concept. His perseverance often amazes me, and I believe this will take him very far and allow him to reach his dreams.

I first noticed in his writing that there were many run-on sentences and a lack of punctuation and capitalization. Through the many writing assignments he had, we worked on using periods and commas as well as capitalizing the word “I” and the first letter of every sentence. There have also been weeks when we met more than once to work on his writing. By helping him practice as often as possible and letting him know about his improvements, he has become a better writer. Sometimes, he is able to tap into his creative side and let his thoughts out without my help.

Aug 23

Volunteers of the Summer (2021)

Anya Alag

Anya has an incredibly warm and nurturing spirit. She is particularly great about identifying her students’ interests and incorporating them into her lessons. Anya is always quick to go above and beyond her duties as a volunteer, and we are lucky to have her in the School on Wheels family!

Emma Gerch, Digital Learning Specialist

I always enjoyed working with children—they are so bright, brilliant, imaginative, and curious. I also was in awe of School on Wheels’ mission, to provide resources to children who need them most, and I wanted to be a part of that! Seeing one of my students get excited about something I’m teaching them is the best feeling—I appreciate their passion and enthusiasm, and feel like they are making strides in their educational journey. 

One of my students and I baked cornbread together, and also discussed the science of baking, and the history of cornbread. I enjoyed creating an interdisciplinary lesson for my student that combined multiple subjects and delicious food! To someone considering volunteering, I would say absolutely do it! It is such a fun experience, and just as much as your student will learn from you, you will learn a lot from them. And be creative with your lessons if you can! Putting in the effort can make tutoring a lot more exciting for both the tutor and the student. 

Jaslyn Wong

Jaslyn is a blessing! She is extremely patient, fun, and innovative. She is also enthusiastic and always ready to take on a challenge. Despite the challenges, she creatively engages her student and helps them flourish. She has fostered a deep and warm relationship not just with her student but also with the family. I am grateful to have Jaslyn on my team.

Manmeet Sodhi, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I’ve always loved learning, teaching, and kids! I thought I would combine some of my interests and give back to the community by sharing what (little) knowledge and skills I do have. My first-ever job in high school was tutoring young kids from ages 4 to 14. I remember using all of my paychecks to buy popsicles/snacks and activity books for the kids just because I truly found joy in enriching their lives!

The “breakthrough” moments are always so, so rewarding! This is especially true for the moments that required some grit, tough love, and hard work to achieve. But, by far, my favorite moments are the day-to-day interactions that I get to have with the students. Whether it’s a bonding moment over a hip new video or finding similarities in our humanness, I feel so very honored to be able to interact with and inspire the younger generation. (You would be surprised to know how many students get awestruck when they find out that their teacher/tutor also enjoys eating pizza or visiting the local fast food joint or taking part in a viral TikTok food trend!) 

I think any time we are working on “tough stuff” is when I find tutoring to be the most memorable. It’s always a magical process to see Max transform from having a super hesitant and skeptical attitude to having more of an “oh this isn’t as bad as I initially thought” attitude. I remember one time we were working on some visual spelling techniques with the word “which”. He was arguing with me that I was using the wrong “which”. (He thought that was how you spell “witch”.) After trying different methods of explaining it to him, we found a saying that helped him remember which was which! The saying was “Which ‘h’ is your favorite in ‘which’?” 

If someone is considering tutoring, do it! You might think you’re not qualified to be a teacher or you might be apprehensive about not getting along with your tutee, but I promise you that you will find something in common. There has never been an encounter or session where I regretted showing up. I always feel rejuvenated and full of life after a tutoring session! Being a tutor is more than just teaching; it’s being a friend/mentor/role model for your tutee! The impact you can have is always so humbling. 

Chloe Wells

I nominated Chloe because she is dedicated and committed to her student’s education and personal growth. She helps instill confidence and determination in her student. Chloe’s passion for School on Wheels is evident and is demonstrated each and every time she meets with her student. 

Maxine Faustino, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I have spent many years working as a piano teacher and organic chemistry tutor. I love helping people nail challenging concepts and have so much fun working with students. School on Wheels presented a perfect opportunity for me to follow this passion while contributing to a super awesome cause! Everything I teach has been something that I struggled to learn at one point in my life. I find fulfillment in being able to help people through the same struggles that I faced when I was in their position. 

There is nothing more satisfying than seeing your student excel at something that they once struggled with. Amy and I have been working on building a strong foundation by practicing with fractions. After a few weeks of practice she has improved significantly and seems a lot more confident! 

Aarij Gora 

I decided to nominate Aarij because not only does he have a great relationship with his student, Alex, but he is also one of my tutor coordinators! Aarij is always willing to go the extra mile for our students and tutors. He does a great job of making his fellow tutors feel supported and can always be counted on!

Aeriell Woodhams, Volunteer Support Coordinator 

The reason I joined School on Wheels was actually my younger brother. I saw how hard online school was for him as a special needs teen and I really enjoyed helping him out with his homework and classroom activities. It helped me realize that I really enjoy spending time with kids and helping them out in different activities. The aspect of tutoring I have found most memorable is knowing that I am doing this for someone else. Not only have I developed a relationship with Alex, but also with his mom and his younger brother. Tutoring has allowed me to develop a relationship and connection with a whole family, which I think is really great and rewarding.

A memorable experience I had when tutoring was when Alex and I were playing a math game. It was amazing to see how much he progressed just during the middle of the game. He picked up on the patterns and the trends of the game very quickly to the point where he was sometimes saying the answer before I even read him the question! He has improved a lot in recognizing patterns and doing addition problems quickly. For someone who wants to volunteer as a tutor, definitely do it and stick with it! It is a once-in-a-lifetime type of experience where you can develop a relationship with a student and even their family. You may even make a new friend for life in the process. 

Julie Martel

Julie is an incredible tutor who has a gift for working with all students, and teenagers in particular. She possesses a beautiful ability to connect instantly with her students, helping them recognize their talents and abilities and how they can share them in the world. Students love working with Julie because she is fun, but also because she listens to them. Her students always know that she has their best interests in mind and cares for them. Julie is such a wonderful and caring person and makes a big difference with her students.

Stephanie Swenseid, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I wanted to be a tutor because as an older person I have learned much from living all these years and I wanted to use my knowledge to hopefully make the life of a young person better. The most rewarding aspect of tutoring is the friendly relationship that has developed between Anthony and I. I also love watching his self-confidence grow through the tutoring process. A memorable experience was when Anthony was moving to a different home and he asked me if I would keep tutoring him. It made me feel like he really appreciates me and the help I have been giving him. Helping young people is very rewarding. I know it is a cliche but you get as much as you give.

Geneva Tripp 

Geneva is a consistent, reliable, and resourceful tutor. She has been tutoring Freddy long-term and they have a great relationship. They have worked together on Freddy’s shoe business and she helped him win a School on Wheels scholarship. She wants the best for Freddy and is a truly positive role model for him. 

Yesenia Ontiveros, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I wanted to be a School on Wheels tutor to give students the opportunity to succeed at school and beyond, and to help them feel supported and confident in whatever passions they choose to follow. It’s very rewarding to see the progress my student has made over time: becoming motivated and passionate about their path, taking initiative, managing multiple classes and assignments on their own, and improving their grades. I loved seeing my student use the skills they learned from the BUS Program—budgeting and managing finances—for their business! I can see how it gave my student direction and motivated them to work hard in that area of life. It’s a great thing to be able to pass on whatever skills or knowledge you have to kids in the younger generation to help them recognize their potential.

John Pham

I nominated John for his dedication to his student, Sergio. I have seen John log tutoring sessions that exceed the required 1 hour a week and feel that he has gone above and beyond for Sergio! John is also a part of region 9’s CASA Youth virtual group tutoring team and also assists our region with delivery drop-offs. I am so thankful for the time and dedication that John has given to School on Wheels! 

Genesis Torres, Volunteer Support Coordinator

In the past, I had a great experience as a tutor at my local library. I later came across School on Wheels and read about its mission of improving education for students experiencing homelessness. The tremendous educational barriers that these students face made me want to help them. With my interest in the mission and joy for tutoring, I became a School on Wheels tutor. It has been very fulfilling to see how confident my student has grown in his academic abilities after working with him over the school year. I remember when he used to get discouraged doing mathematics. While accurately plotting points on a coordinate plane one session, he joyfully told me that he was starting to like this subject a little more. 

One day, my student suddenly told me that he wanted to learn how to count money. I taught him the value of a penny, nickel, dime, and quarter. He was already familiar with the different dollar bills. I remember taking objects from my room, putting a price on each item, and having him tell me the combination of coins and dollar bills he planned on using to pay. Though it was difficult doing all this virtually, we both had fun and he was able to give me the exact amount for each item. 

For those who are considering volunteering as a tutor, I would say that this is a meaningful and worthwhile experience. As their tutor and mentor, you will be helping students overcome tremendous educational barriers so that they can better pursue their dreams.

Jul 27

“To The Letter” Wins First Place In The CBS Leadership Pipeline Challenge

The first-place prize includes a $10,000 donation to School on Wheels

School on Wheels has announced its animated short film TO THE LETTER has won first place in the CBS Leadership Pipeline Challenge, which includes a $10,000 donation to School on Wheels. The animated short film is now streaming on Youtube and

TO THE LETTER follows a young unhoused student as she attempts to learn how to read. Letters and words escape her into the cloudy darkness of her frustration until her tutor breaks through and braves the storm with her. The film is inspired by the School on Wheels ABC Literacy Program, which is designed to help unhoused students in kindergarten through third-grade catch up to their grade level in literacy and develop a love of reading.

“School on Wheels was thrilled to be chosen as a beneficiary of the Pipeline Challenge. Our team was able to navigate the experience of being a young student facing homelessness with compassion and empathy and really got to the heart of our program,” said Sinead Chilton, Chief Development & Marketing Officer of School on Wheels. “We are thrilled to have won first place and will use the prize money to provide tutoring services to even more kids like Mia, whose education is being impacted negatively due to their homelessness.”

The CBS Leadership Pipeline Challenge was judged by a group of 37 showrunners, directors, agents, managers, and production company executives. The participating films were evaluated using a scoring points scale from 1-10 in each of the following categories: script/writing, direction, casting, acting, cinematography, sound design, production value/design, hair/makeup, alignment with the mission of the non-profit and editing.
“I’m blown away by the talent among our inaugural participants, and beyond proud of the cross-company and cross-industry effort that made it possible to empower storytellers at the beginning of their careers and to uplift these important causes,” said Lori Erickson, Vice President of Casting at CBS Studios and Founder of the CBS Leadership Pipeline Challenge. “Congrats to Maya Alvarez and Team School on Wheels on their beautiful film, along with all of the incredible storytellers who accepted the challenge. If this is the future of entertainment, we’re in the best of hands.”
“With a team of seven animators across the world, we were able to come together virtually amidst the racial, political and health pandemics in our world and create a story with passion and social impact to honor the students of School on Wheels,” said Nirav Bhakta, Director of TO THE LETTER. “We are so proud that our vision was recognized and we were able to win such a generous donation for School on Wheels.”
TO THE LETTER is directed/written by Nirav Bhakta, co-written by David Aguilar, composed by Dhruv Goel, edited by Mario Torres Torres, and produced by Lauren Robinson, Rachel Hanley, and Bhavani Rao, with casting by Maddalena Zuppetta. Maya Alvarez serves as the Executive Producer and Team Lead. The film is animated by Carlos Velez, Megan Lucas, Chris Culpepper, Nguyet Nghi Duong, Rakshit Srivastava, and Chantal Paz. The animation team is led by award-winning animator and VFX artist Chun Chun Chang.

The CBS Leadership Pipeline Challenge was founded by Lori Erickson, Vice President of Casting at CBS Studios. Casting coordinator Lindsey Edge serves as Program Manager.

About the CBS Leadership Pipeline Challenge
The CBS Leadership Pipeline Challenge is a social impact-focused short film competition aimed at empowering assistants to step into creative leadership positions. Junior-level employees within CBS Studios and CBS joined forces with early-career storytellers nominated by Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment, National Hispanic Media Coalition, Easterseals Disability Film Challenge and Casting Society Cares Training & Education to create three short films that align with the missions of local nonprofits School on Wheels, SafeBAE and Homeboy Industries in an effort to win donations towards the nonprofits.
To learn more about the CBS Leadership Pipeline Challenge, visit

About School on Wheels
School on Wheels, Inc. is a nonprofit organization founded in 1993 by Agnes Stevens, a retired teacher. Today, hundreds of volunteers work one-on-one with children whose homelessness prevents them from receiving the academic stability and help they desperately need. The mission of School on Wheels is to enhance educational opportunities for homeless children from kindergarten through twelfth grade. The goal is to shrink the gaps in their education and provide them with the highest level of education possible. The program spans six counties in Southern California, including Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Santa Barbara and Ventura, as well as a learning center in Skid Row.

School on Wheels Contact:
Sinead Chilton

To The Letter Press Contact:
Maya Alvarez

Jul 16

Get on The Bus College Club Contest 2021

Students experiencing homelessness will be returning to school this year with major learning losses. Help us recruit new tutors and spread the word so these students can get back on track with the support of a School on Wheels tutor.

Interested in becoming a School on Wheels volunteer online tutor?
Click here to get started!

Enter our Get on the Bus contest and start making a difference today! Earn points by completing the different options below. The more points you earn, the more likely you and your college club are to win!

WordPress Contests by Rewards Fuel

School on Wheels is supported by college clubs across Southern California. With our Get on the Bus contest, these clubs can kick off the school year with some friendly competition and help us recruit new tutors. Make sure you answered the question above regarding which college you are supporting so we can give them credit for your entry.

If you are a college student but not currently part of a School on Wheels college club and would like to join one, please contact If you are a friend or family member of a college student, welcome! We are so glad to have your support.


  • The winning college club will receive a Starbucks gift card with a value of $10 per club member that participated.
  • The individual winner will receive a School on Wheels swag box.
  • The contest ends on August 27th, 12:00 pm.
  • We are only accepting tutors who are current California residents; if you live out-of-state, please enter the contest using one or more of the other options!
  • The individual winner and the winning college club will be featured in our newsletter and on our social media platforms.
  • The winning college club will also have bragging rights!


Please only use one email address per person to participate in the contest. Questions, contact