Nov 10

Students of the Month – Nov. 2020

Lily

Age 11

Lily loves to dance and draw in her free time and is interested in taking dance or art classes in the future. She is also interested in history and learning about different cultures.

Certain areas of math have presented a challenge, so we have focused on solidifying her foundation. I am constantly inspired by her positive attitude and willingness to try new things, even when they are challenging.

Eliana McIlvery, Tutor

Emmanuel

Age 9

Emmanuel wants to become a doctor. He loves drawing everything and anything, and also enjoys piano and likes classical music. He has been taking lessons since he was 6 years old, and is currently learning the piece “Sunflower.”


One thing we focus on is slowing down to read instructions so we can avoid making careless mistakes. Learning to tutor and adjusting to my student’s needs remind me to listen to understand instead of listening to respond. It is helping me think outside of the box as I need to explain/teach in ways he understands instead of how I learned it.

Meng Liev, Tutor

Karen

Age 8

Karen wants to be a police officer, teacher, and doctor. She loves mermaids, making slime, making her own squishies, and playing with her baby doll.


When we first started working together Karen told me that her biggest challenge is math, so when she told me she got an A+ on her math test, I was so proud! Karen also helps me practice my Spanish and teaches me new words.

Therese Auza, Tutor

Milo

Age 8

Milo is very talented and has a defined goal to become an architect. He loves to draw and sketch just about anything that comes to his mind, and also likes to play football.


Milo is very eager to learn and gives his all to everything we work on; there haven’t been many challenges. As an architect, Milo would like to someday help create a special community center just for families.


Family is important to him; he dreams of the day when he’ll get to play football and have fun being part of a big family. It makes me so happy to work with someone who loves to learn as much as I love to teach. Spending time with Milo always makes me smile.

Myrna Sanpascual, Tutor
Nov 10

Volunteers of the Month – Nov. 2020

Meng Liev

Region 9

Meng has been amazing during COVID-19; she has helped multiple students as we have been online. She was an amazing in-person Tutor Coordinator, and has been great as a virtual one as well, taking a leadership role in tutoring her students when they need it most!

Genesis Torres, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I have two favorite memories of volunteering as a tutor. Once, I brought oranges from my mom’s tree to share with the students. They immediately peeled and finished them off, with some students asking for extra oranges to take home to share with family. Sharing is caring!

Another time, a 3rd grader in class rested his head on my arm and told me I feel nice like his mom. I had been working with him and his best friends to get them to focus and not distract each other, and it felt so nice to be appreciated like that.

Volunteering as a tutor is a great way to feel young, to remember our youth, and to grow and be surprised with oneself.

Eliana McIlvery

Region 7

I nominated Eliana because she is so compassionate and understanding. Her gentle and open demeanor means she always lends a listening ear to her student. She motivates, encourages, and always makes sure that her student feels heard and validated. She’s the best!

Maxine Faustino, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I have always wanted to do more for my community, and I strongly believe that everyone deserves a good education. I am passionate about school and teaching so I knew School on Wheels would be a great fit.

During our breaks, I always ask my student questions about her interests or fun moments with her friends. Listening to her describe her favorite shows and talk about all these happy memories always makes me smile.

I would tell any prospective tutor to just go for it, even if they think it might be challenging. The best part of School on Wheels is that you learn right along with your student.

Therese Auza

Region 8

Therese is a dedicated, positive, and enthusiastic tutor who always shows up with a warm smile for her students. She met with her first student in a small room at a crowded emergency shelter and now meets with her second student online. Despite the challenges, she is always ready with fun and engaging lessons and makes her student feel like they are an important part of a learning team. I am so grateful for caring tutors like Therese!

Chris Walsh, Regional Coordinator

Education is so valuable. Mentorship played a large role in my ability to pursue higher education, and it makes me so happy to dedicate my time to helping another student succeed.

I always smile when I think back to when my student called me her friend! I can see the difference it makes in my student’s academic success to have consistent tutoring through School on Wheels, especially at this time, with online learning.

If you’re thinking about tutoring, do it; it’s definitely worth it!

Myrna Sanpascual

Region 6

Myrna’s love for children and teaching inspires me deeply. She is wonderful with each student she tutors and they all love her! Myrna creates wonderful PowerPoint presentations for each of her online sessions that are fun, colorful, and exciting for her students. She is also sure to include each parent in their child’s progress. I wish she was my teacher when I was younger!

Stephanie Swenseid, Regional Coordinator

It’s always been my dream to help my community through teaching, so one month into retirement as a public school teacher I signed up to be a volunteer tutor with School on Wheels.

My student Milo and I took a quick liking to each other the moment we connected on Big Blue Button. It soon became obvious that we both needed each other; I needed him to continue my love for teaching, and he needed me to have that special one to one time to focus on his education. Milo works hard and is always excited for our time together. It’s really special for the both of us.

For those who are thinking of volunteering as a tutor, I say seize the day and let these kids show you what they’re capable of when someone takes time to show they care and care enough to show them how to do great things.

Yale Wang

Region 1

Yale is a great tutor who is always eager to connect with his students and mentor them. He always there for his students, and both students and location staff absolutely love him!

Manmeet Sodhi, Regional Coordinator

I was looking for a meaningful volunteering opportunity that aligns with my passion and fortunately I found School on Wheels just in time. Coming from an under-resourced community, I realized how uneven the playing field really is. With a stable household, I am blessed with the opportunity to change my life trajectory with the power of education, but children of the homeless community aren’t often given the same opportunity.

One of the first students that I worked with had trouble with mathematics. I used one of the toy sets in the room to help him figure out the arithmetic and understand the concept in a different way. We quickly bonded. When he exited the program upon moving to another city, he gave me a big hug and that was a moment that I will never forget.

One of the best parts of being a volunteer at School on Wheels is that you know you’re doing meaningful work. During my school year, I had to travel 40 minutes every week to my volunteering location, but it didn’t matter, because I know that I am helping children desperately in need of someone to be there for them.

Catherine Kieu

Region 1

Catherine is always keen to help and builds a rapport with her students in no time. She is very creative and inspires her students to spread their wings.

Manmeet Sodhi, Regional Coordinator

It has always been a goal of mine to be a hero to others. I saw this as an opportunity to inspire these kids to be heroes to others as well.

One of my students was hard of hearing. She was shy and sweet, and I encouraged her to teach me sign language as a way to build up her self-confidence. After the tutoring session, the coordinator at the shelter texted me that she was so happy and confident after the online tutoring. She was even chatting and showing people sign language. I was really proud of her and of myself as a tutor.

If you are considering becoming a volunteer tutor, don’t hesitate! Trust me, this experience is so valuable, you will cherish it for the rest of your life.

Oct 8

Students of the Month – Oct. 2020

Elijah

Age 12

Elijah loves the cosmos! He is even learning a bit of Russian because NASA Astronauts must speak Russian to work in the ISS (International Space Station). Elijah also really likes his new theatre class and we have a lot of fun reading aloud from a book School on Wheels sent us, The Lost Property Office.

Each time we meet, Elijah gets better and better at reading and using different inflections for the various characters. He is quite theatrically inclined!

Elijah is also beginning remote schooling at a NEW school this year, but takes it in stride and remains very positive. He reminds me of the brilliance and possibility of youth. Whether it’s learning Russian, being consistent with his lessons, or just saying YES to every lesson plan I proposed, Elijah has a faith in himself that is both innocent and infectious. I want to be more like Elijah!

Marisol Sacramento, Tutor

Steven

Age 8

Steven loves Spiderman, comics, tik-tok, beatboxing, and dancing. Though he sometimes struggles with staying focused, Steven wants to be a good reader.

It’s important to bookend each lesson with fun, no pressure activities, and some of the most fun I have working with Steven is when he uses this time to share some of his favorite dance moves with me!

Lihi Shadmi & Aviv Wilder, Tutor

Daniel

Age 17

On his free days, Daniel loves to skateboard. He picked it up as a hobby last December and hasn’t put it down since, averaging 2-3 hours a day of practice. It’s a great outlet for him, not only as exercise but mentally, learning to perform complex tricks. He has also been playing soccer ever since he was 6 years old and loves the sciences.

One of the biggest academic hurdles Daniel recently faced is transferring to a new school mid-year. Having to catch up on assignments the teacher had already provided other students in addition to all newly assigned homework, tests, and quizzes has been difficult to juggle all at once.

Daniel dreams of living the American dream of graduating college, having a family of his own, and owning a house one day. Daniel has taught me perseverance and that with yourself being the main motivator, every goal is achievable. I have learned that even when things get rough, the only way past all the hurdles in life is through them.

Jennyfer Han, Tutor

Hernan

Age 17

Hernan loves spending time with his family, doing community service through his school, participating in sports, and occasionally playing video games.

When I first met Hernan, he was struggling with poor grades and an overall lack of interest in school as a freshman. His grade point average at the end of freshman year was 1.42 due to a lack of motivation. Now, as he enters his final year of high school, his GPA is 3.4; he earned a GPA of 4.15 in his junior year!

Hernan would like to pursue a career in medicine and possibly become a surgeon. He has been motivated by some of the science related to the COVID-19 pandemic and he would like to pursue immunology or molecular biology as a major in College.

The ultimate lesson I have learned from Hernan is that we all have the potential to be successful. This is even more important for young students of Southern California in underserved communities. I am motivated to be a lifelong tutor and mentor to these students and I will encourage them to do so as well.

Tolulope Popoola , Tutor
Oct 8

Volunteers of the Month – Oct. 2020

Stephanie Luong

Region 1

Stephanie is an amazing tutor. She has been tutoring from Singapore since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak. Stephanie is currently tutoring three students, and despite the 15 hour time difference, she has never missed a session or logged late. Her persistence and enthusiasm to help her students are so inspiring.

Manmeet Sodhi, Coordinator

I learned about School on Wheels through my school counselor. I started volunteering because I love working with kids and thought it would be meaningful to provide them with the support every child needs.

During the last session with one of my students, he said that I was the reason he passed math that year. I could not have been prouder or happier!

If you’re thinking about volunteering, go in with an open mind, and have patience. Whether you know it or not, you are making a difference in a person’s life.

Jennyfer Han

Online

Jennyfer is a dedicated and proactive tutor. She goes out of her way to make sure her students have the best tutoring experience possible and are excelling in their schoolwork. I’m so glad Jennyfer is part of the School on Wheels family!

Emma Gerch, Coordinator

I volunteer because I want to give back to my community as much as I can. I really believe that a strong education increases the odds of a more fulfilling life. By helping those who are less fortunate than I was growing up, I am able to help them get a step closer to achieving their life goals.

I feel happiest during my time tutoring when my student Daniel really understands the harder topics we work on. It means I was able to convey difficult concepts in a way that he was able to comprehend and absorb. Tutoring allows me to hone my own skills in establishing a social connection with another person.

For those who are interested in becoming a tutor, it is worth your time and effort to try helping those in need, especially during these times. We need these students to learn, now more than ever, the worth that each person holds and the difference that each person is able to make in the world. I believe that it is our job as American citizens to help educate the newer generation in generosity, civility, and the value that another person holds in the world.

Lihi Shadmi & Aviv Wilder

Region 5

I nominated Lihi & Aviv because of their dedication to their student! They did in-person tutoring last year & quickly made the switch to support Steven online. They are always cheerful & eager to learn better ways to support their student.

Jesse Pasquan, Coordinator

Finding School on Wheels was such a gift! My son was approaching the age where I wanted to instill in him the importance of giving back to his community. Being volunteer tutors fills this need perfectly, and provides so many memorable days.

Once, instead of the lesson we had planned, our student Steven told us he wanted to read a book that I had given him for his birthday. As it turned out we had two copies at home, so all 3 of us were able to take turns reading from the same book. It was great!

If you’re considering volunteering with School on Wheels, do it!

Tolulope Popoola

Region 2

Tee is a dedicated and creative tutor who consistently goes the extra mile for his student. Since Day 1, he has helped his student grow emotionally and academically. Tee has done so much in motivating and inspiring his student to accomplish his goals. I genuinely appreciate his devotion to education and School on Wheels!

Carlie Whittaker, Coordinator

I began volunteering with School on Wheels several years ago, in part due to my belief that my community will only improve when I become involved and take action.

One experience that always makes me smile is when the student I am tutoring is able to correct me in an error as we work through school assignments. Since I am usually in the position of correcting them, they take such great joy in pointing out my errors! While it can be embarrassing, it also makes me proud and brings me joy, as it shows they are paying attention and understanding the material.

Working as a volunteer tutor is a great way to leave a positive footprint in the life of a child. For some students, these tutoring sessions are a rare opportunity to connect with a role model figure and it is quite evident to me that this can have a profound effect on their development, both in academics and their personal lives.

Oct 7

Working to Bridge the Digital Divide for Our Students

The lack of access to digital and technology resources is not a new phenomenon facing school-aged children of color and children experiencing poverty. A recent study found that, nationally, around 17% of children are unable to complete their homework due to limited internet access. This “digital divide” and resulting “homework gap” mirrors trends in California, where about 1 in 6 school-aged children lack access to the internet at home. These numbers grow for the state’s most vulnerable children: students of color, low-income students, English Learnersstudents with disabilities, and homeless youth.  

The Education Trust West

The data is stark when it comes to the digital divide for our students, as these recent headlines illustrate:

This week is Digital Inclusion Week. Digital Inclusion Week is an online event held October 5-9, 2020 to raise awareness of solutions addressing home internet access, personal devices, and local technology training and support programs. Visit the official website to learn more and get involved. To celebrate this event we are spotlighting some of our recent efforts and partnerships as we work to bridge the digital divide for our students as part of our digital learning initiative.

Online Tutoring for All Students

In 2014, School on Wheels established its online tutoring program as a response to reach students that were geographically difficult to reach in Southern California. Our online tutoring program provides a live online classroom in which students and tutors interact synchronously through audio, video, and a shared whiteboard. From 2014 to 2020, School on Wheels has served close to 2,000 students in hard-to-reach areas such as Apple Valley, Lancaster, and San Diego with the help of hundreds of online tutors from 26 states across the country. We would not have been able to serve many of these students through our in-person tutoring programs.

Prior to the onset of COVID-19 in March of 2020, School on Wheels provided 90% in-person tutoring and 10% online tutoring. As a response to the circumstances surrounding the pandemic, we have transitioned 100% of our tutoring online, and we have reached almost 900 students since March. While BigBlueButton is our main online tutoring software, students without robust internet and/or technology utilize other tools such as FaceTime and Google Duo to connect with their tutors. School on Wheels students and tutors are meeting exclusively online for the foreseeable future.

Summer Rewards Program

Our Summer Rewards Program was a massive hit! Any student who completed at least 5 full tutoring sessions between July 1st and August 17th qualified for a free device. Most qualifying K-3 students received Amazon Kindles or Amazon Fires (Kids Edition), students in grades 4-8 received Android tablets, and students in grades 9-12 received Chromebooks. 303 students qualified, participating in 2,878 hours of tutoring over the summer (thanks to the help and support of our amazing volunteer tutors)!

Technology access is crucial to students’ success during this time and we are so thankful to be able to provide devices that our students can keep and utilize to attend school and engage in learning.

Bel Air Internet Partnership

School on Wheels and Bel Air Internet are working together to bridge the digital divide and provide free high-speed Internet access for children experiencing homelessness in Southern California. Since January of 2019, BAI has provided its services to 6 of our sites. As a result, over 400 of our students have regular access to the Internet that they would otherwise not have. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Bel Air Internet has installed high-speed internet/WiFi at 3 of our sites (with others in the works): Orange County Rescue Mission (Village of Hope) in Tustin, Motorcycle Riders in South Los Angeles, and HomeAid Family Care Center in Orange.

We are incredibly lucky to have such a great partner who helps us grow our impact and provide learning opportunities to more students.

Technology Donors

We have been able to purchase many tablets, Chromebooks, and other necessary hardware for our students with donated funds. In addition, we have had many generous technology donors, including Microsoft, AT&T, T2 Tech Group, and PBSSoCal.

Sep 16

Students of the Month – September 2020

Leon Jr.

Age 13

Leon is interested in deconstructing cars and reassembling them to increase their speed, specifically the Ford Mustang, Shelby Cobra, GT, and Ford Fox. Leon also loves to foster cats and host YouTube streams. Although he says he doesn’t like math, Leon is great at it! We have been working on his Algebra skills and I can see his fear slowly subsiding. By working methodically when approaching algebraic equations, he has gotten much more comfortable with seeing variables and solving for them!

Leon has taught me so much about cars! From the very first session, it became very evident that he has a strong understanding of different car models and how to reconfigure engines to increase their speed. Some of Leon’s dreams include racing a Shelby Cobra while listening to The Beach Boys or 70’s music, becoming a carpenter, and of course being a car mechanic.


Kristy Nguyen, Tutor

Miracle

Age 9

My student Miracle has had more than her share of challenges, including having to attend multiple schools, each with new kids, new teachers, and unfamiliar new programs — all without the benefit of a home as a place of refuge and comfort. When we first started working together, Miracle found reading a challenge and it was a struggle for us. Now, however, her reading skills are excellent! In addition to understanding the material, she asks questions and wants to learn more.

Miracle likes painting and doing math, and also helping other kids. Whenever she sees a little boy or girl who seems sad or might be having a problem, she goes over and asks if they’re okay and tries to make them feel better. The inspiration for the picture Miracle drew (above left) is her dream to be a doctor. She wants to take care of people, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen her do exactly that for other children. I know how smart and determined Miracle is, so if she wants to become a doctor, I know one day she will.


Betsy Borns, Tutor

Paola

Age 6

Paola loves ballet, makeup, nail polish, unicorns, and learning about Paris. She would love to travel and see a ballet in Paris one day.

Paola missed half of her kindergarten classes during the spring semester due to COVID and moving. On top of all the craziness, Paola is also an ESL student, so she is learning a new language! This has not been an easy time for her, but she is always excited to learn something new and wants to do well. She has reminded me about the resiliency of a child. She’s got more grit than most adults I know, and I am so proud of her. She has also taught me about the importance of silliness, especially on tough days. Laughter is our trick for a more productive tutoring session!


Leticia Ortiz, Tutor

Kieley

Age 13

Kieley is interested in writing, reading, and creating her own works of art. She also loves pumpkins, art, the sea, and animals — especially dolphins and her dogs. Kieley is also obsessed with all things Harry Potter! She is currently reading the series aloud with one of her other tutors and greatly admires the actress Emma Watson, who plays Hermione Granger in the films.

Kieley has struggled with reading in the past but has made considerable improvement through her consistent efforts. She’s a bright girl with strong opinions, and that also makes constructing paragraphs easier. Recently, Kieley finished reading the first Harry Potter book completely on her own. As she kept on progressing through the book, she began building her confidence in sounding out words and relating events of the book to her own life.

Kieley is a very sociable person and her infectious joy translates well into our sessions. For the immediate future, Kieley has told us that she is eager to “catch up” with her middle school peers in terms of her academic skills. We have no doubt she will achieve this goal because she is focused, determined, and eager to learn. Kieley has overcome so much, and she taught us that perseverance and a positive attitude are key to accomplishing previously impossible tasks. She is unfailingly positive, gracious, and grateful for the education she receives from her various tutors and family.


Suzanne Rizzolo , Tutor