Nov 27

2019 Fall & Winter Student Artwork Contest

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Thanks to all our artists who participated in this year’s contest! We loved seeing all your amazing submissions and hope you will continue to create art year-round.

The winners of 2019 School on Wheels Holiday Art Contest are Mia and Keiley! Congratulations to all the artists, it was a very difficult decision and we know you all worked very hard! In addition to posting on our website, we will also be posting on our Facebook page next week. You can enjoy all the students’ contributions by scrolling through the gallery above.

Nov 21

The impact of the digital “homework gap” on our students

Computer and internet access is increasingly becoming a requirement for success in school, according to this article from the Atlantic. 70% of American teachers assign homework that requires an internet connection, and nearly half of American students say they must do online homework daily. Common Sense Media reports that the number of teens and tweens who use computers for homework every day has more than doubled in the last four years, and that nearly a third of teachers think that not having access to a computer or internet would limit their students’ learning.

Where does this leave students whose families can’t afford computers or internet access? Research shows that 1/3 of households making below $30,000 per year lack internet access, and 17% of teens can’t complete homework due to lack of access to technology. In California, 52% of low-income households don’t have a computer that connects to the internet. In South LA, the percentage of school-age children who live in internet-connected in households fell from 76% to 71% between 2013 and 2015. These students experience the “homework gap” – they’re unable to complete assignments and fall behind in school due to circumstances out of their control. 

The families we serve at School on Wheels experience extreme poverty, and can rarely afford computers. Many homeless shelters do not have internet access or computer labs. Some of our families live in vehicles. As a result, students often complete their homework on phones, or not at all. 

That is why we have made it a priority to connect our students to the digital tools they need to succeed. We’ve installed 15 Digital Learning Centers at shelters and schools, where every student has access to the internet and a laptop at least once per week. We’ve given nearly 300 laptops, tablets, and other devices to students to use for schoolwork. We train our volunteer tutors to use Digital Learning programs when working with our students, including adaptive programs that help students catch up in math and reading and coding and typing programs that teach essential digital literacy skills. We’ve also partnered with local organizations like Walnut Robotics to lead STEM workshops. 

We also provide technology to students for online tutoring. Our online tutors work with students remotely over audio/video chat on a variety of devices. This allows us to reach students in areas where we are not able to send in-person tutors, and provide specialized instruction to students who need extra help.

This year, Bel Air Internet generously provided free high-speed internet access to three shelters and our Skid Row Learning Center. This is huge for hundreds of our students, who would otherwise have to stay after school, go to a library, or buy something at a coffee shop just to get access to online assignments. We are excited to grow our partnership with Bel Air Internet to bridge the digital divide for our students.

There’s still a lot of work to be done to close the digital “homework gap” for students like ours. You can support a student experiencing homelessness by volunteering, donating, and spreading the word to your friends about School on Wheels.

Nov 18

The Most Rewarding Volunteer Work You’ve Never Heard Of

Guest post by School on Wheels Ambassador Victor Maldonado

There are enough children without homes in Los Angeles to fill Dodger Stadium. Yet, when we think of homelessness, children aren’t who we typically imagine. With over 65,000 students without homes in Los Angeles County alone, why does child homelessness go so grossly unnoticed? The answer is simple: out of sight, out of mind. These are children who are living in shelters, motels, group foster homes, vehicles, and on the streets. The common thread that connects these children is a lack of consistent education. 

I am proud to volunteer with an organization that bridges these gaps in education, giving children experiencing homelessness a fighting chance at a stable life—School on Wheels. Their approach may seem modest: tutor a child for one hour per week. However, the impact on that child’s life is incalculable—it provides these children with the structure and consistency they need. That hour reiterates to them that they aren’t forgotten, that they do matter, and that they can change their circumstances.

And once a child believes in themselves, the hope and optimism they carry is truly inspirational. In January 2018 a student of mine was struck in the crossfire of a drive-by. In the weeks following, I recall trying to be sympathetic to his condition by telling him we could just play games until he felt better. Knowing he had the SATs coming up, he responded, “Games won’t get me into college. We’ll work on math sections.” To contextualize things, this was a student who, not even a year prior, would constantly vocalize that he might as well “pick out a box to live in now” because he felt he had no chance of attending college. It was at that precise moment that I realized how much of an impact that hour a week can have on the self-esteem of a child in need.

School on Wheels is the only non-profit organization in Southern California that focuses on the education of children experiencing homelessness. As such, its’ success, as well as the success of the children it serves, is directly related to its number of volunteers. Sadly, that number is often limited by people’s misconceptions on whether they’re “qualified” to volunteer. In reality, the only obstacle is a person’s willingness to volunteer. 

Regardless of your age, background or level of education, your mere presence in a child’s life can be transformative. They will never forget that someone cared enough to show up once a week during the most turbulent time of their lives. Get started today.

Nov 12

Meet Adam, Yalda, and Naz

Guest post by School on Wheels volunteer ambassador Stacey Millett.


Recently Yalda published a book of her poetry to raise funds for School on Wheels. It includes drawings from School on Wheels students as well! You can buy the book here and on November 16th, 2019 there will be a public book launch party in Ventura


Adam, 16 years old, started with School On Wheels in March 2018. He describes his experience with his tutors as being “positive and helpful in creating a template to reach his goals.”

When Adam came to School On Wheels his main aspiration was to work on increasing his SAT score. Adam’s current goal is to score within the top 1 percent of students on the PSAT, which will make him eligible for the National Merit Scholarship Program. He would like to attend USC and study biology and design. 

School On Wheels worked to facilitate a personal relationship that would support Adam in achieving his goals. Yalda,16, and her mother Naz tutored Adam together. Adam says, “they are both very helpful and have different points of view. Perspectives from both the mother and daughter help in different areas and provides a balance in learning.” 

The three met each week, and sometimes their sessions lasted over two hours. If they were unable to meet in person they did Skype sessions on the computer. Adam was very grateful to School On Wheels for providing a computer so that his learning has no boundaries.  

Adam and Yalda are the same age. Yalda has benefited from the tutor sessions as well, as she was studying to take her SAT test soon. Typically, when one of them answered a problem incorrectly, the other will have answered correctly, and vice versa. Naz, in a truly parental fashion, made sure they took breaks outside of the library: getting fresh air and even going for a quick jog around the building. 

This unique tutoring template they have created “worked working wonderfully,” Naz explained. When Adam began his School on Wheels tutoring sessions with Naz and Yalda, his score was 1170. He’s now at 1450! “This was a big turning point”, Naz continued, “when Adam scored so high, it made all three realize their hard work and dedication was really showing results and it gave them all more trust in each other and the process.”

Adam’s advice to other School On Wheel students is this: “Find a goal and dedicate yourself to your goal. If you are struggling to find something to focus on, ask others what they think you are good at, see if that is a good fit, and keep your head down and work hard. If things get hard along the way, believe that it will get better.” 

Adam adds that “when he achieves his success he will have three to credit: Yalda, Naz and School On Wheels for helping him get there.” Yalda believes 100% in this possibility, saying “Adam has a bright future ahead of him and can do anything he commits to.”

Nov 6

Students of the Month – Nov. 2019

DeAndre

Age 16

DeAndre would like to be a software engineer. He loves Fortnite, all things Marvel (especially Spider-Man), YouTube, and math. We have studied together for a big World War II history test, practiced getting ahead in his math classes using a Geometry workbook, and had informative lessons about earning credit, minimum wages, resume building, salary negotiations, and other applicable skills.

Christina Schoellkoph, Tutor

Kyla

Age 7

Kyla loves to draw–mainly animals–and enjoys science. Her love for science is sparked by discovering new things like fossils and dinosaurs. She also loves ice cream! She struggles a bit to stay focus but has greatly improved each time I have been with her. When she grows up she wants to become an artist, doctor, scientist, a famous dancer or singer. Oh, and she wants a peacock for a pet. Kyla has taught me that an interest in school can help you dream big. The perseverance that she has shown tells me that she has a bright future ahead.

Nathalie Martinez, Tutor

Anthony

Age 13

Anthony wants to go to college and to work on solving global warming. Math is an academic challenge that we have worked on together. Working with Anthony has taught me that being humble is one of the best personality traits someone can have, and also how important it is to always be open to learning new things.

Eden Ettenger, Tutor

Azekial

Age 8

Azekial is very interested in video games and drawing, and enjoys cartoons like Teen Titans Go. I think that one of the biggest challenges we have faced was trying to get him familiar with the way time is represented on a clock. At first, he couldn’t identify the times in the pictures, but now he has made much progress. Azekial isn’t yet sure what he would like to do in the future, but is a very bright student so I’m sure he will make it far.

Nivitha Kandula, Tutor

Jacob

Age 14

Jacob likes to ride his bike and skateboard, and to practice tricks on them. He is also enjoys video games and watching YouTube. At school, PE is his favorite subject. His dream job would be a professional BMX rider. On weekends, Jacob sometimes helps out a family member with handyman jobs which allows him to learn how to fix things. This gives him the opportunity to discover if there is a trade that he would be interested in pursuing when he finishes high school.

Chris Smith, Tutor

Nov 6

Volunteers of the Month – Nov. 2019

Christina Schoellkopf

Region 4

Christina is a dedicated tutor! She tutors one-on-one at the same time and place as several other School On Wheels tutors. I have received a lot of feedback about her from those other tutors and it is all incredibly positive. She does a great job and has made such an impact with her student.

Kristina Rakosh, Coordinator

As a journalist, I had been overwhelmed by the hate and misconduct I had been reporting. When the #MeToo movement reached a tipping point in 2018, I realized I couldn’t control how other people treated members of their community. But I felt compelled to do more to add goodness to mine. So, I started researching ways I could give back and help people. I think what’s special about School on Wheels is that we are more than tutors, we have the power to be advocates.

For example, I learned that my student DeAndre wanted to earn his driver’s license, but didn’t know where to start. I contacted his social worker and asked how he could start this process and if there was a way I could help, and when I relayed back to DeAndre about it, he said something like, “Wow, you really care,” and this meant a lot to me! The one hour a week I give of my time brightens my entire week. We may be called tutors, but we do a lot of learning on this end, too.

Shreya Mardia

Region 9

Shreya is an absolute rock star of a tutor! She comes to group tutoring every single week with a huge smile on her face and a passion for the students she works with. She is pure joy and sunshine and the students love working with her.

Rachael Christenson, Coordinator

Initially I was volunteering at my local library to help my community, but I wanted to help out where it was most needed. When I found School on Wheels online, it seemed like a perfect fit, as I had prior experience working as a tutor.

Not long ago, I was working with a very young student who was trying to learn how to write his name. After I helped him learn how to write the letters and he was able to write his name all by himself, he was so excited and proud about this accomplishment. He even turned to another tutor and showed it to them, saying that I had taught him how to write his name correctly. It made me happy that I was able to make such a difference in someone’s life just by spending little of my time every week. I’m truly glad that I was able to be a part of its wonderful volunteer program. If you are thinking about volunteering, definitely become a volunteer tutor for School on Wheels. It’s only an hour a week and you could change someone’s life for the better!

Eden Ettenger

Region 8

I had a chance to get to know Eden at an Advanced Tutor Training and I was so impressed with her dedication, her enthusiasm and her commitment to her student, Anthony. She followed up that training with a wonderful email asking how she could become more involved and now she is taking on a new program at Transition House as a Tutor Coordinator! We are so lucky to have her in Region 8!

Chris Walsh, Coordinator

I am actually from the same town as Agnes Stevens, the founder of School on Wheels. My mom knew her and I remember doing volunteer events for School on Wheels when I was younger. The organization has stayed in my mind ever since. Homelessness and education are the two social issues that are of most importance to me. I have always loved School on Wheels’ mission and I think it addresses an issue that is too often neglected: the effects homelessness has on one’s educational experience. I feel very lucky to be a part of School on Wheels’ work. Whenever I do science experiments with my student, I love seeing how curious he is to learn more; he is incredibly intelligent, and seeing our work together pull that out of him is a very special experience. For anyone considering becoming a volunteer tutor, I would say definitely do it! It is nothing short of a life-changing experience.

Nivitha Kandula

Online

Nivitha is an incredibly consistent and positive influence on her student. She is always thinking about the best ways to support him.

Emma Gerch, Coordinator

I learned about Schools of Wheels through personal online research. I was interested in trying to be a part of something new and help others even when I may not necessarily be in the same location. I think that knowledge is something that everyone should have, and I wanted to take a small part in spreading it, one step at a time.

It always makes me smile when my student and I compete against each other in games. He’s usually better than me at some of the games, and it makes me laugh when he wins. It’s a very rewarding experience and you can form a bond with your student. You can also learn new things or reinforce topics. There is always a new experience to come and new things to try, so to anyone considering becoming a tutor, I say go for it.

Chris Smith

Region 10

Chris prioritized his student, Jacob, and his success from the second he started his first session. Chris’s positive attitude is infectious, not only for his student, but for his fellow tutors. He has a way of making everyone feel comfortable and welcome and it truly impacts everyone around him. From making sure his student is set up for success to planning additional sessions to helping with extra School on Wheels events, Chris has been so reliable and impactful, and I am so grateful for him!

Katie Philipson, Coordinator

I am grateful to the people who helped me during my early years and found School On Wheels while looking for an opportunity to give back. My student Jacob helps out his mom by getting his younger brother Jaay ready every morning. Jacob and his brother both came to the Halloween party, and it was great to see Jacob in his role as responsible big brother, making sure that his young sibling had fun and stayed in line. It’s so rewarding to give a helping hand to a young person in a difficult situation. It doesn’t take much time and it’s fun.