Feb 2

Students of the Month (2/21)

Nayven

Age 17

Nayven is very special. He has a wonderful family that loves him so much. He is a very happy and intelligent person who enjoys so much and consumes whatever I give him. He has a thirst for knowledge and enjoys making those around him happy.

Nima Kharrazi, Tutor

Nayven wants to be a world-renowned painter, or a mechanic and an auto painter, where he can still express himself artistically. Working on fractions, we went step-by-step, thinking outside the box, and got out of our comfort zones. We looked at it from different angles and allowed time for it to make sense.

I’ve learned about time management with Nayven. It’s easy for us to get lost in conversation, so we’ve budgeted the last 10 minutes of our hour for debate, during which time I’ve learned a lot about about DC vs. Marvel, wolves vs. tigers, and more.

Vinh

Age 7

Vinh enjoys using his iPad, playing video games, and spending time with his friends.

Ava Tran, Tutor

Currently, we’re working on reading comprehension and phonics. Vinh wants to be a doctor because he’s worried about his family and wants to be able to save people.
I’ve learned a lot from Vinh’s process of learning English and seeing him improve every time I meet with him.

Laura

Age 10

There are plenty of reasons that Laura is special, but I would say that the most amazing thing to me is her attitude.

Mia Kenworthy, Tutor

Distance learning has been tough on everyone, especially students who are facing additional challenges in their lives. Despite this, Laura tunes in to tutoring every Wednesday with a big smile on her face, ready to tell me about her week and then get to work.

Laura and I once spent an entire session practicing spelling words for an upcoming spelling bee. Because of our practice, Laura did an awesome job in the competition! Laura thinks that she might want to be a chef, possibly even a pastry chef so she can sell pastries (and the batter). If being a chef doesn’t work out, she might want to work at a spa. If she doesn’t become a chef or work at a spa, she might want to clean houses, because she loves to clean (except for her own room!).

Laura has taught me to laugh more, and to not take myself too seriously. She showed me how funny and clever children can be, catching me off guard with her witty jokes. She has also taught me to celebrate the small wins that come over time with tutoring. I feel so lucky to be Laura’s tutor.

Francisco (Bubba)

Age 9

Bubba’s disposition and fun-loving nature make him a joy to be around. He is an extremely gifted artist and hopes to one day make art his career.

Kyra Rude, Tutor

Academically, I’ve got to say my student is a rock star! He excels in every subject. We’ve been working a little extra on his multiplication tables, but I wouldn’t really call them a challenge for him.

Working with Bubba, I’ve learned how important it is just to be fully present with a student. I have learned that academics are important, but some of our most memorable tutoring sessions happen when we’re watching a video together or playing a game.

Feb 2

Volunteers of the Month (2/21)

Nima Kharrazi

Region 7

Nima radiates compassion and generosity to everyone he comes across – his student, their family, and other tutors. He constantly strives to be a better tutor and mentor every day. Nima’s kindness and dedication has impacted so many students and he continues to foster a desire to learn in his current student!

Maxine Faustino, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I started volunteering because I wanted to give back and School on Wheels was the closest organization to my heart. There is one main thing that has kept me volunteering for almost 8 years now: I love seeing the look on a student’s face when they finally understand the thing they’ve been struggling with. It’s like they have discovered a new way to approach any problem, and will use that knowledge for the rest of their lives.

I remember one day my student Nayven and I were done with his math and were discussing dragons (of course). He shared some pictures of dragons with me, and I showed him how to set the correct ratio for his dragon’s head, based it on some simple Algebraic principles. He really enjoyed learning how to draw a better and more realistic dragon, and I got to sneak in some more math for him.

If being a volunteer tutor sounds interesting at all, give it a try. It will honestly change the way you feel, the way you see things, and the way you approach life. It seems like a big reward for 1-hour a week, but it’s true. My only regret is that I didn’t start this sooner.

Mia Kenworthy

Region 6

Mia is a gifted tutor, mentor and role model. She has a beautiful ability to show deep empathy and compassion for every student she tutors. She makes learning fun and her students adore her. I’m so fortunate to have her as a volunteer and her students are so lucky to have her as their tutor.

Stephanie Swenseid, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I started volunteering because I think it’s important to use my education and the opportunities that I’ve had to help kids and teenagers who have not had the same advantages. On top of that, I love working with kids and find it rewarding to watch my students grow, both academically and as people.

My student has taught me to laugh more and to not take myself too seriously. She showed me how funny and clever children can be, catching me off guard with her witty jokes. She has also taught me to celebrate the small wins that come over time with tutoring. I feel so lucky to be Laura’s tutor!

Before COVID-19 hit, I was tutoring at a boys’ group home in Pomona. One day, a couple of the students were asking the tutors about ourselves, and eventually asked us how much we get paid for tutoring them. We explained that we’re volunteers, and we tutor because we enjoy it. After that encounter, several of the students acted more warmly towards us, knowing that we come to tutor them each week for nothing in return. That is one of my favorite memories from my time at School on Wheels.

I cannot recommend School on Wheels highly enough! Working with our students can be challenging, but it is also very rewarding. It takes so little of your time but makes such a lasting impact on your student. School on Wheels has been a transformative experience for me, and I recommend it to anyone looking to help out in their community and make a difference in the life of a child experiencing homelessness.

Kyra Rude

Region 8

Kyra is an incredible volunteer who is always willing to lend a helping hand, whether it is stuffing backpacks or helping at a holiday party at the shelter. On top of that, she is a fantastic tutor who has built a wonderful relationship with her student and is his greatest champion and cheerleader. Kyra not only has a positive influence on her student, she also inspires me with her joyful dedication and outlook!

Chris Walsh, Regional Coordinator

I was looking for a volunteer opportunity and a way to spend more time with children, and School on Wheels is the perfect fit! I love being around children; their energy and excitement is definitely the most rewarding part for me. It really makes me feel special when my student wants to show me his latest artwork.

If you’re considering volunteering with School on Wheels, don’t think about it any longer, just do it! It is so rewarding to interact with these young people and exciting to watch them progress. The time commitment is surprisingly small for the impact that it makes in these students’ lives.

Jan 14

General and Special Education Rights of Foster Youth and Youth Experiencing Homelessness

Learn about the education rights of foster youth and youth experiencing homelessness, and how to advocate for these rights during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in light of nationwide school closures.

Materials referenced in this presentation:

About the Presenter: Jill Rowland is the Education Program Director at the Alliance for Children’s Rights. Jill is an expert in every area of education impacting foster youth, including early intervention, special education, general education, school discipline, and interrupting the school-to-prison pipeline. Jill has grown the Alliance’s Education Program in response to client needs: from pioneering legal representation for early intervention services to addressing the unique trauma-related education needs of foster youth. Her approach led to the creation of the Foster Youth Education Toolkit and its Court Companion, the training of thousands of school district and foster/probation system personnel (including social workers, probation officers, attorneys, and judges), and multiple school districts adopting improved foster youth policies. Jill is passionate about providing foster and probation youth with an equitable education so they can succeed in life. She earned her JD at UCLA School of Law, specializing in Critical Race Studies. She majored in Communications and Sociology at UCSB.

Dec 22

Students of the Month – 1/21

Celia

Age 13

Celia enjoys scary things, Harry Potter, Tik Tok, and eating chocolate candy. We work on Celia’s reading skills, and her favorite book series is Harry Potter. She loved listening to the audiobooks, but School on Wheels got her an actual book for her to keep and she was thrilled!

Celia wants to go into the military, then become a “YouTuber” after she is discharged. Working with Celia has given me a chance to learn about the video-making process, especially for YouTube. I also learned about some scary, haunted places!

My Nguyen, Tutor

America

Age 8

America likes animals, drawing, Beanie Boos, and Shopkins. She is also interested in learning how to sew. When we get together, we mostly focus on sentence structure, parts of speech, and multiplication tables. America wants to be a marine biologist one day! Having a great attitude is a real asset.

Darren Sepanek, Tutor

Annika

Age 10

Annika loves to draw. We end each Big Blue Button session with her drawing on the whiteboard as I read from a novel.

Annika is a great student and a hard worker who takes pride in her work. She has the attitude of “not knowing something—YET!” Long division and fractions are more work than they should be, but she is working hard to learn her multiplication tables and would like to go to college. I am in awe of her perseverance!

We never miss a session. Once, during the summer, she was unable to get an internet connection at her shelter, but Annika didn’t give up! She used her mother’s cell phone and worked from the back seat of her parked car (seat belt on!) until she got too hot.

Mary Ann Mailloux, Tutor

Chaitanya

Age 11

Chaitanya is interested in coding, drawing, and gaming—especially Sonic.

Working with Chaitanya, I’ve learned how different each student is with their learning styles, behaviors and personalities, despite being in similar situations, and how to adapt based on those variances. I’ve also just learned a lot about Sonic!

Ava Tran, Tutor
Dec 22

Volunteers of the Month – 1/21

My Nguyen

Region 1

My is a very dedicated tutor who takes her work seriously. She is reliable, kind, patient, and always there for her students. My comes prepared for every single session and bonds with her students effortlessly. She has been matched with multiple students throughout the year and greatly impacted each and every one of them.

Manmeet Sodhi, Regional Coordinator

After graduating from college I was looking for a volunteer opportunity. I had worked as a tutor for a few years and really enjoyed that experience, so I thought School on Wheels would be a perfect place for me.

It’s been great! I always feel so happy when working with my students, especially when they actively engage in the learning process and creatively answer my questions.

For anyone considering becoming a volunteer tutor, I would say, “Go for it!” You will have chances to gain a lot of valuable experiences and to become a better version of yourself.

Darren Sepanek

Region 2

Darren is an incredible and dedicated volunteer. She always goes the extra mile for her student and always has a positive attitude. Despite the pandemic, Darren has remained committed to her student and the mission of School on Wheels. We are so grateful to have her on our team.

Carlie Whittaker, Student Support Coordinator

I learned about School on Wheels 6 years ago through a friend. At first I volunteered simply because I love children, but I quickly came to love working with and meeting so many amazing kids and their families.

Sometimes tutoring takes a bit of creativity. I once tutored a very bright high school senior who was taking an AP math class, and since math is not my strong suit, there wasn’t a lot I could help him with. We would watch lessons on Kahn Academy together and I’d have him teach me what he learned. This helped to some extent, but when it came to the really hard stuff, we would call my daughter, a math wiz who happened to be living in Australia at the time! Sometimes you just have to call in the right resources, no matter where they are!

If you are considering volunteering as a tutor, don’t worry about being a great teacher/tutor; that’s only one part of what you can bring to these kids. If you love working with children, it is an extremely rewarding and fun opportunity to make a real difference.

Claudia Bloch

Region 3

Claudia is a superstar volunteer and tutors two students! She is committed to providing her students with high-quality academic support and is a tremendous education advocate.

Alex Toutant, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I started volunteering because I wanted to make a difference in a child’s academic life. One experience I had that made me smile is when my student and I did jumping jacks between assignments. Gandhi once said that there is nothing more satisfying than losing yourself to the service of others.

Mary Ann Mailloux

Region 4

Mary Ann has been a dedicated tutor for a few years now. She loves tutoring and she has made meaningful connections with all of the students she’s worked with. Her students love her and look forward to meeting with her every week! She is consistent, caring, passionate, and loves what she does!

Kristina Rakosh, Regional Coordinator

After I retired from working as a teacher a school librarian in 2015, I looked around for some volunteer opportunities and found School on Wheels. It’s been a great fit.

I completed training and met with my first student in April of 2016. Since then I have worked with lots of wonderful students and alongside inspiring volunteers. I have tutored in three different shelters in Long Beach, and now I am working with kids online. I prefer in-person tutoring, but we can still share jokes, lessons, and help with homework.

School on Wheels has given me lots of resources and lessons to use with my students. I never arrive empty handed!

Ava Tran

Region 7

Ava has been a tutor with School on Wheels for over a year and a half, and is an amazing tutor! She works with three different students and has built such a strong rapport with each of them. When the transition to online learning became overwhelming, she stepped in and helped her students get back on track.

Jesse Pasquan, Volunteer Support Coordinator

My middle school required a small amount of community service each year, and to fill the hours, I worked as a referee for fencing tournaments at my fencing club. I realized it was really fun to work with kids, and I wanted to do more outreach with the time I had. With a bit of research I found School on Wheels, which turned out to be a great fit. I really like their mission and what they are doing.

One time I was with my student and we decided to play Connect 4 online. We played game after game, and he beat me every single time. I kept on insisting on playing another game, but it was hopeless. Even though I lost, thinking back on that always makes me laugh.

If you’re thinking about volunteering as a tutor, do it! It’s extremely fulfilling and super fun. It sometimes requires a lot of patience, but it always ends up being a blast.

Dec 8

Pandemic Intensifies Economic Disparities for Neediest Students

Distance learning has been a challenge for all students and their families, but for the estimated one out of 20 children in California experiencing homelessness, the challenges can seem insurmountable.

The pandemic has intensified the economic disparities, putting the neediest students at a further disadvantage.

“I am very scared and terrified for our families and our students,” said Charles Evans, the executive director of School on Wheels. “They’ve had to overcome so much with being homeless and then you add that other layer of distance learning.”

Coverage from NBC Los Angeles

Pandemic Intensifies Economic Disparities for Neediest Students
Homeless Students Get Help With Online Learning
Distance Learning Presents Extra Challenges to Homeless Families

Coverage from LA Times