Sep 16

Volunteers of the Month – Sept. 2020

Gregory Demirjian

Online

Gregory is incredibly thorough and committed in his tutoring. He has created an amazing bond with his student Ethan and does everything he can to make Ethan’s tutoring experience exceptional. Gregory is very experienced as both an in-person and online tutor with School on Wheels. We’re glad to have him as part of the School on Wheels family!


Emma Gerch, Coordinator

I first learned about School on Wheels through social media. I noticed on a friend’s Facebook profile that they volunteered as a tutor, did some research to see what the organization was all about, and was convinced.

I have been lucky in many ways to get to where I am now, so I make it part of my life to dedicate my time to those that need help in the face of obstacles. I want community outreach and volunteering to be a part of what I do for the rest of my life.

The student I tutor struggles with math, so for one of our sessions I taught him a trick that made him say, “whoa, that’s really cool actually!” I could see the light in his eye, that I had taught him something he can take with him for the rest of his life. It was extremely gratifying and I smile every time I remember that day.

Tutoring with School on Wheels is the highlight of my week. My student not only learns from me, but I have learned so much from my student. Tutoring with School on Wheels continues to be a humbling and rewarding experience.

Leticia Ortiz

Region 8

Leticia is a dedicated and caring tutor who always goes the extra mile to support her student and their family! She began tutoring her current student just after we transitioned to online tutoring. Leticia began meeting online with Paola 3 times a week to help her catch up with schoolwork and learn English. She also will frequently check in with me to find community resources that can help the family. Leticia is a wonderful example of the dedication of School on Wheels volunteers!


Chris Walsh, Coordinator

After moving for a new job I wanted to do some volunteer work in the area, and School on Wheels’ mission stood out to me. So much so that despite feeling insecure about my tutoring skills I signed up anyway, determined to be the best tutor I could be. My love of learning has brought me a lot of happiness, opportunities, and financial stability; I want this for these kids and always do what I can to encourage a love for learning.

One special memory I have is when I was tutoring a 4th grader, a girl who generally had a very serious demeanor. One day we were working on some homework and she pointed to a math problem she couldn’t understand. But when I looked, instead of her finger pointing to the problem, what I saw was a ridiculously tiny, plastic hand reaching out of her sleeve! I turned to face my very serious student and we both exploded with laughter. It was so out of character for her and that little hand was so weird… I still think back and laugh about it.

Betsy Borns

Region 7

Betsy is an amazing tutor and person. She has exhibited empathy, compassion, and kindness to not only her student, but to her student’s whole family. She makes learning fun and engaging and has developed a genuine connection with her student and her family. In addition to providing academic support, Betsy also encourages her student Miracle to be confident in herself and her abilities, so she can aspire to be and do anything that she wants!


Maxine Faustino, Coordinator

As a human being who has had the good fortune of having a family and career that I love, a stable home, and a community to live in, I believe it is my responsibility and duty to help others who haven’t had the same good fortune. I also believe that if you want your children to be compassionate and giving human beings, it’s important to model that behavior instead of just talking about it.

One of my most powerful tutoring experiences was when my student Miracle broke through her fear of failure. We had been working for many sessions on getting her to try reading and one day I could see her push her fear aside and go for it. I’ll never forget the smile on her face when she realized she was much better at it than she thought! What a beautiful experience.

I’ve spoken to many people about becoming a volunteer tutor and I always say the same thing: “It will change your life.” If you think volunteering is going to be a sacrifice, you’re wrong. Yes, it can be challenging and frustrating, but you always get much more than you give. Rather than being a sacrifice, it’s actually an honor — a gift you give yourself as well as another person. In addition to helping a student learn, you’re creating a beautiful bond of friendship that will last forever.

Kristy Nguyen

Region 9

Kristy has been working with students during the COVID-19 shutdown and has gone the extra mile to aid in all technology-related issues. She arranged tutoring sessions on different platforms, etc., and was still able to help her student get a summer incentive prize!


Genesis Torres, Coordinator

I volunteer with School on Wheels because I want to help address educational opportunity gaps faced by students with housing instability. I want to help make access to education more equitable by using my own experiences to assist the academic journeys of others.

My student Leon and I always have a great time! One of the best moments was when he helped lead me in answering his hypothetical question on what a given car would be like if he changed certain parameters. I knew absolutely nothing about cars, so this was a big deal! Leon was able to translate automobile jargon into everyday language and give me enough background so that I could arrive at an answer. Ultimately, he successfully did what great tutors do!

Aug 26

Scruffy and the Egg

From creator John Dowd’s Instagram:

Today I’m happy to share a short video I made about an extraordinary LA artist named Angela Sanchez. Angela is the author of a children’s book series called “Scruffy and Egg”. The series is based on stories that Angela and her father would tell each other as they experienced homeless together while Angela was still in high school. Angela’s stories reach children and adults alike and place dignity and empathy at the forefront of the conversation on homelessness. I’m truly grateful to Angela for being so open with me and for allowing me to tell a small part of her story.

John would like to encourage anyone who is moved by this video to donate to support our work for students like Angela.

Aug 18

2020 Student Artwork Contest

A huge thank you and congratulations to all the students who participated in this year’s contest! There were so many amazing entries and we really were in awe of the talent on display.

Congratulations to our winners: 

  • Nicholas
  • Shirin
  • Madeline
  • Mateo
  • Syria
  • Jesus
  • Kieley
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Aug 11

Become a Monthly Donor in 2020

Our students living in shelters, motels, group homes, and on the streets of Southern California are about to start what will be one of the most challenging school years of their young lives and the odds not stacked in their favor.

Join us to help these students overcome the many obstacles they are facing. By becoming a monthly donor and sponsoring a school year for a student in this critical time, you can be part of the solution

All donors who give $25 or more a month will also receive a School on Wheels limited edition t-shirt as seen below. Become a monthly donor today!

Aug 5

Students of the Month – August 2020

Dominic

Age 15

Dominic enjoys football, writing, history, and graphic design, and has been academically challenged by math. We have worked on it in the past, and we are continuing to work on it. He puts in a lot of effort during our sessions to really understand the material. He continually shows improvement and always asks for help or clarification when he doesn’t understand a math problem. Dominic’s biggest dream is to play college football and eventually play for the NFL. One thing that really inspires me is his curiosity and willingness to always ask questions. When he doesn’t understand something or has a question about anything, he always asks and is always looking to learn more. It is something that I admire about him, and it has pushed me to also be more curious in my day to day life. It has taught me how important it is to recognize when you are unfamiliar with something and be able to comfortably ask questions to learn more.

Jannah Jakvani, Tutor

Joselina

Age 7

Joselina loves watching Sonic the Hedgehog. He is her favorite character! She also loves to play, eat hot dogs, and her favorite subject in school is math. A big academic challenge my student has faced is reading. When I started tutoring her, she was reading below grade level. We have been working really hard on improving her reading skills and helping her feel confident and comfortable with grade-level books. Joselina loves being a kid. She still doesn’t know what she wants to do when she grows up. For now, she says she just loves to play. I learned that Joselina is a very intelligent child who just needs some help in recognizing her potential.

Ingrid Hoyos, Tutor

Sophia

Age 5

What I love about Sophia is her positive attitude. She’s constantly excited about the world and has a strong sense of exploration and curiosity. She’s mentioned her love of music and wants to be a singer one day. She also loves doodling and sketching, especially her favorite animals like lions, leopards, and cats. Sophia has taught me a lot about patience and trust. I know that in our past month or so of remote sessions, there have been technical difficulties, especially considering she cannot read a lot of the words on the website and isn’t very familiar with working a computer on her own. I also slip up sometimes and ask her to read some big words (oops!), but she is never frustrated or flustered. She lets me know her needs (for example, that I need to read words aloud to her) and if I apologize, she tells me it’s okay! Her continued active participation in the tutoring process lets me know just how committed she is to the work and how much she trusts me while we navigate sessions together.

Mel Sakurada, Tutor

Julissa

Age 5

Some of Julissa’s interests include animals, shapes, painting/coloring, reading books about animals, and playing with her two-year-old brother. Julissa’s hope for the future is being able to read to her brother. She also looks forward to being able to play with friends in the future after COVID. I have learned so much from Julissa; she has taught me to slow down and really get into the details of learning rather than just the basic building blocks. In addition, she has taught me that practice really does make perfect as I have seen her improve in just the short amount of time that we have been working together.

Liat Smener , Tutor

Nathalie

Age 7

Nathalie enjoys reading, drawing, and math and reads all kinds of books and articles on her own, often bringing them to our sessions to share and discuss. One article she read to me explained how tapirs are needed for trees to grow in the rainforest. We haven’t encountered any really big academic challenges, but poor Internet connections on some days have been a huge obstacle. Nathalie is always patient, good-natured, and resourceful. When she couldn’t hear a video I was trying to play for her on Messenger, she asked me the name of the video, did a search for it herself, and watched it in a separate window. When asked about her dreams for the future, Nathalie says she wants to explore the jungle and someday work at the zoo. One of the great qualities Nathalie brings to our sessions is her sense of fun. We might be talking about verbs or how many tens are in a given number, with Nathalie fully involved in the conversation, and I’ll glance up at her image on the screen and see that she’s put on a filter to give herself ears like a rabbit or stars for eyes or a cake full of burning candles in front of her face!

Moira Nelson , Tutor

Aug 5

Volunteers of the Month – August 2020

Liat Smener

Region 3

Liat is an incredible tutor, and has been volunteering with School On Wheels since she was in high school! Liat now attends UCLA, and in addition to volunteering as a tutor, she has been instrumental in helping us relaunch a School On Wheels at UCLA club!

Alex Toutant, Coordinator

I started volunteering to help students become motivated and hopeful of pursuing higher education than they thought possible. One experience with a student that makes me smile is when I taught the five-year-old I am tutoring how to spell the words “apple” and “lizard.” Seeing their faces light up when they finally understand something melts my heart.

Jannah Jakvani

Region 6

Jannah is an amazing and dedicated tutor. From the first day I met her, she demonstrated a very natural ability to understand and connect with her student, Dominic. Jannah is very upbeat and encouraging with her student and is always such an incredible champion for him… she’s his biggest cheerleader! Jannah’s love for helping others shines bright when she’s tutoring. I had the pleasure of sitting in on her first session and was so impressed to see how quickly she connected with her student and the two became a really great team. I’m so grateful for what she does. Jannah is a shining star indeed!

Stephanie Swenseid, Coordinator

I started volunteering with School on Wheels because education has always played a huge part in my life. I believe every student should have access to educational resources to excel in school. This is why I am pursuing a career in education. I recognize the privilege I had growing up of having access to tutoring and other educational opportunities that often require financial means that not everyone has. School on Wheels recognizes the importance of providing the educational support that a lot of students need and often are unable to receive. I love volunteering with School on Wheels because of the values it stands for and the mission it is accomplishing.

During a recent tutoring session, my student Dominic and I were discussing empathy and going over scenarios in which we would express empathy to another individual. In the scenario we were dealing with, a girl was sad about not being able to go to prom because she did not have the money to buy a ticket and a dress. Dominic’s immediate response to the scenario was to help the girl out by contributing to buying her dress and ticket. This experience stayed with me because it showed how big Dominic’s heart is and really speaks to his character and personality. As a tutor, your responsibility is to provide support to your student and help them with their school work. However, more often than not, I find myself learning something new from the student I tutor every single session.

Ingrid Hoyos

Region 5

Ingrid & her student have faced many obstacles in tutoring online since COVID began. Her resilience and continued efforts made it possible for her student to catch up with homework over the summer!

Jesse Pasquan, Coordinator

I was looking for volunteer opportunities in my community and when I came across School on Wheels, I was surprised to learn that so many children in Southern California do not have a home. I found that to be so heartbreaking and unacceptable. I started to inform myself on all of the work School on Wheels does to help break the homelessness cycle for these kids and I wanted to be a part of that. Children are the future of our world and I really do believe it is our responsibility, as members of this community, to help them forge a better future. They cannot be left behind. When I work with my student, I can see just how intelligent and perceptive she is. Her math skills are outstanding but she has a bit of trouble with reading – it is her least favorite subject.

One time, we were reading at the library during our tutoring session. The hour was up and I told her I would see her the following week to read some more. To my surprise, she didn’t put the book down! I was very happy about that because she had not shown much interest in reading before. As I was leaving, I saw that she was actually trying to read the book to her mom. That really put a smile on my face; I am a writer, so stories are super important to me. I am so hopeful that my student will discover just how magical books are and I know it’s only a matter of time before the stories she reads really start to come to life in her imagination and reading will no longer feel like hard work. Being a tutor feels so rewarding. It is remarkable when you start to see that the hour you dedicate to your student each week, as little as it seems, can actually make a big difference in their lives. They can go from feeling completely lost or uninterested in school to feeling confident and motivated to keep moving forward.

Mel Sakurada

Region 2

I knew Mel was going to be an amazing tutor the day I met them! They displayed true dedication and commitment to their student from the beginning. From working on arts and crafts to creating an additional homework packet, Mel has always gone the extra mile for their student. I can always count on Mel to be consistent and advocate for their student.

Carlie Whittaker, Coordinator

I was specifically looking for ways I could use my past experiences working as a Literacy Mentor and spending weekends with friends distributing resources to displaced communities in the Bay Area. I found a listing for School on Wheels & thought it’d be a great match, and I was absolutely right! I’ve always wanted to continue bolstering my repertoire of experience to follow a long-time dream of curating positive, self-affirming spaces and opportunities for systematically disenfranchised populations. I had this one excellent student — my first after joining School on Wheels — who had difficulty adjusting to weekly sessions because he would be tired after a full day of school.

During one session, I noticed his attention was more difficult to maintain than usual. I decided to spend less time on curricular activities and focus more time on figuring out what subjects actually piqued his interest. That session was the first time I had seen him light up. He told me about all these things he loved doing but never got around to (most of which I was entirely unfamiliar with). He loved video games, science, chemistry, space, physics, finger boarding — the list went on and on! After that session, I completely changed the way I divided up our time and prepared for our sessions. A combination of Ivan feeling heard and seen mixed with taking risks as a tutor completely revolutionized not only our tutor-student relationship but also the way I saw what tutoring could look like and how learning could be made accessible to the student’s needs.

Moira Nelson

Region 4

Moira is one of the kindest, sweetest, and most gentle souls I have ever encountered during my time at School on Wheels. Every time I talk with her about tutoring her student, she brings nothing but excitement, positivity, and enthusiasm! Moira is a breath of fresh air and I love having her as a volunteer. She and her student have a special bond and I am so happy that these two have each other.

Kristina Rakosh, Coordinator

Just a year ago, a friend of mine who knew that I had recently retired and was thinking about volunteering as a tutor invited me to a School on Wheels presentation at the Hermosa Beach Rotary Club. I had already been volunteering as a Rolling Reader at a local grammar school, and I thought tutoring with School on Wheels would be a good way to build on what for me is a great source of satisfaction. Before retirement, I worked for over 30 years as a developmental editor of college science textbooks. I am a learning junkie and love especially to explore the world through the eyes of young people who are just beginning to get acquainted with it. A picture my student Nathalie recently drew makes me smile — the sweet expression, arms reaching toward two butterflies, and the upward tilt of the feet are all perfect representations of Nathalie’s spirited, upbeat personality.