Aug 14

Skid Row program aims to stem summer learning loss


School on Wheels was featured on the Southern California Public Radio, KPCC, website in an article on the issue of summer learning loss and how our program helps homeless students learn throughout the year in face of the many other transitions they experience.

View it on the SCPR website!

Aug 14

Student Talent Show

On Friday, August 14, some of our students showed off their abilities at our end of summer Talent Show. Before the students took the stage, parents and children got to enjoy delicious hot dogs and burgers for lunch, which were being grilled outside our Learning Center. Meanwhile, all of our guests enjoyed carnival games and face painting. At 1 pm, we walked over to Inner-City Arts for the main event. We had all types of performances including break dancing, singing, gymnastics, a magic show, rapping, poetry slam, piano and violin performances, and singing the ABCs (as seen in the video above).

Thanks to all of our dedicated volunteers and employees who made this day possible, and a special thank you to our incredibly talented students!

Aug 10

“Ask a Tutor” Tuesdays

Are you a current tutor looking for support and/or advice? Are you a potential tutor hoping to find out what tutoring at School on Wheels is like?

Well, we have news for you!

Beginning on August 24, School on Wheels will be running a weekly advice feature every Tuesday called Ask a Tutor Tuesday!

This blog feature will serve as the perfect opportunity to ask veteran School on Wheels tutors questions regarding their experiences and to get advice for tutoring tips and techniques.

Though all questions will receive responses from tutors or staff, the most widely-relevant questions will be publicly answered on the blog by veteran tutors. If your question is selected for publication to the blog, you may choose to include your name and region or request the use of a pseudonym to retain anonymity. It is important to note that all questions will be screened.

Now, every Tuesday you can look forward to broadening your knowledge by engaging in conversation with the many tutors and staff members who are willing to answer your questions!

If you’re interested in gaining new insight to help you perform your best as a tutor, you may submit your questions in one of the three following ways:

We look forward to hearing your questions!

Aug 1

August 2015 Newsletter

Dear Friends,

August is here and that means it’s back-to-school time. Were you excited to go back to school when you were young or did you want summer break to go on forever? Were you nervous going into a new grade? Did you worry about having the right clothes? I’ve been working with my student this summer and I see the stress he’s beginning to show as the new school year draws closer. Starting a new grade or a new school is tough for any kid, but for our students it can be painfully difficult — they may not have the new clothes their peers have, they may not have the school supplies they need, or any understanding from a new teacher. Most of them are starting from behind – typically two or three grades. What a painful situation for a kid to be in.

But school is one of the few stable, secure places in the lives of homeless children, a place where they can acquire the skills needed to escape poverty. And you, our wonderful donors and volunteers, help them understand how critical being in school and learning are. You can – and do – help close the gaps in their education. Whether you are tutoring every week or holding a backpack drive or donating funds, you are making a difference in the life of our most forgotten children. Where others don’t even acknowledge them, you reach out to help them. You validate them as the important persons they are; you encourage them to be the best students possible and most importantly, you instill hope in their young lives.

If you have any ideas and thoughts as to how we can help more of our students, please contact me at or (805) 641-1678. I would love to hear from you.

With deep appreciation,

Catherine signature
Catherine Meek
Executive Director

Click here to see more from our August Newsletter

Aug 1

Students of the Month – August 2015

By Matthew, one of the Students of the Month

Region 3 – Westside

Jonathan, School on Wheels Student of the Month

– Jonathan, 12th grade. Jonathan is 17 years old and about to enter his senior year of high school. From the first time I met him, I saw that he was a very sensitive and intelligent young man. Although he feels his talents are in science and engineering, I found that he has a deep interest in people, cultures and philosophical questions. Although we’re focusing on writing, often we end up having long conversations about the issues behind the essays. He’s finding it easier to express his thoughts and feelings, which is the foundation for being a good writer. I’m also inspired by some of his pursuits, from anime to studying Japanese. I always look forward to my time with him.

Debra Kaufman, Tutor

Region 4 – South Bay, Long Beach

Secrete, School on Wheels Student of the Month

– Secrete, 5th grade . I have been blown away this past month by Secrete’s many achievements. Her focus and determination granted her an “A” on her last math test, missing only two questions. She memorized all fifty United States states by location for her geography test (unbelievable!). And last month I had the privilege of watching her graduate from elementary school. I am so proud of this little scholar and cannot wait to see how she will amaze me next. Secrete is looking forward to fun times this summer playing four square, Connect Four, and catching up on some summer reading with her favorite author, Roald Dahl.

Lisa Utsinger, Tutor

Region 5 – Hollywood, Silver Lake, Highland Park

Lazara, School on Wheels Student of the Month

– Lazara, 1st grade. I’ve been honored to see Lazara accomplish so much since I started tutoring her. When we began tutoring, she told me that her goals were to listen better and improve in math and English. However, at the beginning of our first session, she also told me she had reservations about tutoring with a “boy tutor”. Yet, by the end of the academic year, her teacher and mother were happy to inform me that she became one of the top in her class at math, and improved greatly in reading and writing. I am so thankful that I was able to connect with Lazara. We both look forward to our sessions every week; I can’t wait to see Lazara’s continued success!

Tyler Edmonston, Tutor

Region 6 – Inland Empire

Matthew, School on Wheels Student of the Month

– Matthew, 9th grade. Matthew is a freshman who loves basketball. He loves to watch, play, and talk about basketball at any given time. As a Team LeBron fan, he looks up to role models like this phenomenal basketball star. However, for Matthew, academic work did not come as easily as shooting balls. He severely struggled in many areas such as reading, writing, and math. Considering his age, this was a big concern for tutors and staff. Therefore, School On Wheels and the facility staff worked together to create appropriate academic plans for Matthew. As a result, Matthew’s reading and math have improved noticeably. Not only that, his self-esteem grew as he gained confidence in academia. Just like any teenager undergoing puberty, Matthew has his moments. On some days he is beyond moody. But he is loving and affable when he feels safe and secure. That is why the staff and SOW truly care for Matthew and are pleased with his accomplishments. We believe that, with his hard work and consistent efforts, Matthew will be able to live his dream to become a U.S. Marshall.

Song Jeong, Tutor

Region 7 – San Fernando Valley

Arman, School on Wheels Student of the Month

– Arman, 5th Grade. Arman is a spunky, soon to be, 6th grader with an affinity for fast cars and any music by “The Weeknd.” He loves In N Out but hates his burger or fries “animal style.” He loves to play basketball at recess and wants to be a cop when he grows up. Arman, like most eleven year old boys, has a difficult time staying focused. So, between reducing fractions to simplest form and reading about how hot air balloons are able to rise, we discuss skateboards and the adventures he had the previous weekend with his “cool” older cousins. When reading is on the agenda, it doesn’t go over well… it goes over better when I let him use my iPhone to ask Siri to define words we come across that he doesn’t know. To get to know Arman and help him develop strategies to build up his confidence and learn some self-discipline has been a challenge, but it’s one that Arman has made serious strides toward. Arman doesn’t LOVE to read yet… but each week we get to work on it. And with that our journey continues…

Laura Hine, Tutor

Region 12 – North Orange County

Jeshua, School on Wheels Students of the Month

– Jeshua, 1st grade. Every Friday, when I am getting ready to tutor Jeshua, I have to be ready to face the greatest Pokemon master of them all. With his deck ready for me as soon as I get to the door, we start off our tutoring session with a quick Pokemon battle. As Jeshua unleashes his mighty Thundurus at me, we practice reading the attack moves and calculating how much damage a Pokemon takes. Besides his awesome skills as a Pokemon trainer, Jeshua is also a great reader and problem solver. From my one year of tutoring him, Jeshua has advanced from learning basic sight words to being able to read short stories with ease (even if he prefers math over reading).

Even though I am the one tutoring him, Jeshua has also taught me lessons as well. His ever-optimistic attitude makes me smile, and his confidence in his own skills has taught me to be confident as well. Thank you, Jeshua, for allowing me to tutor you. It’s been a great and rewarding ride so far.

Yuri Ceriale, Tutor

Online Tutoring

Ke’Juan, School on Wheels Student of the Month

– Ke’Juan, 7th Grade. Ke’Juan’s passion for math and science has fueled his learning and helped him achieve tremendous success. Since tutoring Ke’Juan, I’ve seen not only his learning improve but also his mentality and approach towards new challenges. He has demonstrated this, for example, in distributing and isolating variables. Also, despite his heavy involvement in basketball camp and activities during the summer, Ke’Juan put his academics ahead of other commitments and organized his schedule so that he could attend all of his online tutoring sessions with me every week. In addition, Ke’Juan’s passion and curiosity about the brain has been extremely welcoming; we have spent our time learning about growth mindset and the importance of knowing that the brain is a malleable organ that can continue to grow.

Overall, Ke’Juan’s approach to learning, his curiosity, patience, and persistence will only continue to help him achieve greater goals in life. It has been an honor and pleasure to tutor Ke’Juan and to watch him develop into a highly motivated student and lifelong learner!

Sagar Buttan, Online Tutor

Aug 1

Tutors of the Month – August 2015

Tyler, one of our Tutors of the Month

Region 5 – Hollywood, Silver Lake, Highland Park

Tyler Edmonston, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

– Tyler Edmonston. This month we would like to honor Tyler Edmonston for being an outstanding tutor to his student. Tyler not only takes the time to tutor his student, but he really does goes the extra mile to personalize his tutoring sessions to her needs. In his own words:

When I first heard of School On Wheels, I was truly in awe of the positivity the organization brings to students and the community. Yet, after learning of School On Wheels last year, I spent several months making sure that I was “ready”, so to speak, to become a tutor. When I joined in early 2015, my only regret was that I did not pursue tutoring with School On Wheels sooner! It’s been inspiring to see my student progress and to also meet the other volunteers. I’m so thankful to be part of this organization!

Lancella Hunter, Regional Coordinator

Region 3 – Westside

Debra Kaufman, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

– Debra Kaufman. Debra has been such a great help to Jonathan, and I am so glad the two of them have connected. She has especially helped him with his writing and has always been flexible with her time to make sure she meets with him each and every week. Thank you, Debra, for all you do! In her own words:

I love working with young people, especially teenagers. I had read about School on Wheels before but another mention on the radio reminded me. I attended the volunteer training and, after a couple of false starts, was matched with Jonathan. He’s a bright student who wants to improve his writing – and teaching writing is a specialty for me, since I’ve been a journalist for over 20 years. It’s a great match and I really enjoy my time with Jonathan…and with School on Wheels.

Kyle McDonough, Regional Coordinator

Region 4 – South Bay, Long Beach

Lisa Utsinger, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

– Lisa Utsinger. Lisa has been a tutor with School on Wheels since February. Because she is such a great role model for the students, Lisa is Region 4’s Tutor of the Month. Lisa joined the Army at a young age and was stationed in Germany for many years. Once she finished her tour of duty in Germany, Lisa came home and enrolled as a full-time student at Hope International University. She is now in the Army Reserves and works full time as a computer consultant at the Veteran Administration Hospital in Long Beach.

Lisa loves the outdoors, running and doing outdoor obstacle courses. She also enjoys reading and writing. With all that Lisa does, she has found time to tutor with School on Wheels. She says that it is her most enjoyable hour of the week. She also says that she feels a responsibility towards the youth of our community and that this is the best way she can help. Lisa, thank you for all you do for School on Wheels’ students and for our country.

Louis Mena, Regional Coordinator

Region 6 – Inland Empire

Song Jeong, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

– Song Jeong. Song has been a volunteer with our program since June 2014. She’s been instrumental in getting students at both of the group homes she works with to be successful. Song even helped co-facilitate an online workshop we hosted last year for all our tutors. In her words:

I first got interested in volunteering for School on Wheels because of its cause. As a graduate student at CSUF for special education, I wanted to give back to the community by doing what I know and enjoy doing the most, which is teaching. Also, I liked the fact that School On Wheels focused on helping homeless youth which was both new and a bit nerve-wracking at first. However, as I have been volunteering at the group homes for a year now, I have learned tremendously. Behavior, classroom management, and building rapport have been the biggest areas where I grew with the experiences. Yes, there are times when things get hard and my patience is tested. But my students have allowed me to mature as an educator just like red wine. Therefore, I cannot thank the students and School on Wheels enough for allowing and trusting me to be a part of the team. I am truly looking forward to what the next year with School On Wheels will look like.

Thank you Song! We are truly happy to have you be a part of our team!

Trish Arias, Regional Coordinator

Region 7 – San Fernando Valley

Laura Hine, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

– Laura Hine. Laura has been a fantastic tutor for School on Wheels since she joined the team in April of this year. She has worked hard to help Arman improve in reading and math. As a tutor, she is a great example of being flexible with the family, making tutoring fun for Arman, logging her hours, and going above and beyond in everything she does! In her words:

My journey with School on Wheels began a few months ago with an ‘Aha’ moment. I was in the checkout line at the grocery store and was saddened by the efforts of a teenage girl trying to read the cover of a tabloid magazine but with no success. While she outwardly struggled to sound out the word ‘summer,’ I experienced an inner struggle, a real crisis of consciousness. How could I give back to the community and help such a prevalent problem with our youth? Enter School on Wheels. School on Wheels has allowed me to tangibly use my English degree while giving my student the consistent one-on-one attention that is crucial for his bright future and current success in school. Although watching the educational progress of my student is unbelievably rewarding, the true reward lies in the gratitude and patience we have acquired for each other, and how elated I feel that I get to spend time with him and make a difference every week.

Brianna Grothe, Regional Coordinator

Region 12 – North Orange County

Yuri Ceriale, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

– Yuri Ceriale. Yuri has been tutoring with School On Wheels for over a year. A student of Troy High School, she dedicates every Friday night to working with Jeshua, her student of over a year. During this time, she has constantly gone above and beyond for Jeshua. She is patient and caring, all while keeping a sense of humor that is always appreciated. She has helped spread the word about School On Wheels at her school, and many other students have followed her lead.

When asked what motivated her to tutor, Yuri responded, “I am currently attending a top high school, enrolled in the most rigorous curriculum. However, I’ve realized that I am only here because of the tremendous amount of help I’ve received from others. I want to be the provider of that help in another person’s life. I want to inspire kids to aim high, too.”

Thank you for all you do, Yuri!

Laura Schickling, Regional Coordinator

Online Tutoring

Megan Barrett, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

– Megan Barrett. Over the past several years, as I’ve continued to expose myself to a greater diversity of people through volunteer work, I’ve become less interested in “being the best” and more focused on enabling others to become their very best. School on Wheels has been paramount in this transition. I find myself anxiously awaiting my next tutoring session, thinking endlessly about how I can best convey the information to my student, and smiling awkwardly to myself as I think back to the previous week when my student was finally able to solve that fraction problem on their own. School on Wheels has afforded me the ability to use education to empower a child, to help (even in some small way) provide them with the confidence necessary to take on life’s daunting tasks…and that opportunity is absolutely unparalleled! Overall, I can confidently say that tutoring has afforded me the recognition that my greatest potential, my ability to “be the best”, is realized not through personal triumph but through empowering others and through cultivating their own success.

Thank you, Megan, for the consistency, thoroughness, and passion you bring to your tutoring sessions. You make a difference! Fun fact: Megan has tutored 10 students online since joining our team!

Ian Chan, Digital Learning Coordinator