Jul 2

Students of the Month – July 2015

Joseph, School on Wheels Student of the Month
Joseph, School on Wheels Student of the Month

Region 1 – East LA to Pasadena

Lariell, School on Wheels Student of the Month

– Lariell, 11th Grade. Lariell is everything I could ask for in a star student. He is eager to learn, brave when he has questions, and tenacious in finding answers. Since I met him only a few months ago, he has raised his grades enough to play sports. He dreams one day of owning his own business which I know he can do, given his great drive and attitude. I can’t say enough good things about him. Keep up the great work, Lariell!

Liz Reznak, Tutor

Region 2 – South Los Angeles

Beautiful, School on Wheels Student of the Month

– Beautiful, 1st grade. Beautiful is a six-year-old student with a huge desire to learn. She has a very shy demeanor yet is quick to participate in every learning activity presented to her. Beautiful enjoys reading short stories, especially ones with Disney princesses. She is always eager to assist her siblings with school related work when she notices them struggling. Beautiful deserves to be Student of the Month because she displays an aspiration to learn and works earnestly as part of that desire. Beautiful is such a pleasure to have in group. With her gentle enthusiasm, I know she will be a great pleasure to her community.

Raquel Munoz, Tutor Coordinator

Region 3 – Westside

Joseph, School on Wheels Student of the Month

– Joseph, 1st Grade. There is no single word I could use to describe Joseph that would adequately portray his character. He is thoughtful, always ready to share with his younger brother and other students. He is committed, always completing his homework before our sessions. He is brilliant; one time he corrected me on an exercise and I loved it! But beyond this, Joseph is an incredibly talented student bursting with joy, and I am so lucky to be his tutor. Among students, Joseph is respectful and soft-spoken; he is a natural leader. Joseph loves to draw so we try to incorporate it into every learning activity. In preparation for this summer, we are completing an “ABC Book” in which Joseph chooses a noun for each letter of the alphabet and then draws that object. Joseph is a passionate learner. I can’t wait to continue working with him as he enters the first grade.

Mahsaw Motlagh, Tutor

Region 8 – Ventura County

Rhianna, School on Wheels Student of the Month

– Rhianna, 3rd Grade. I am a new volunteer with School on Wheels, and was lucky enough to be paired with my student Rhianna. She is a delightful eight year old girl who just finished second grade. Bright and cheerful, Rhianna is a good student, but math is not her strong suit. We are going to work to change that this summer!

Using School on Wheels’ pre-assessment tool and numerous website resources, Rhianna and I are going to work to improve her math skills. Our specific goal is for her to master her multiplication tables. We’re starting with skip counting by fives, using computer games and flashcards. I’ll strive to keep it entertaining.

Jennifer Moore, Tutor

Region 10 – South Orange County

Chase, School on Wheels Student of the Month

– Chase, Kindergarten. I tutored a kindergartener for a few months and faced more challenges than I had anticipated. As we spent more time together, I realized how to help my student. What he needed was a fun-based approach with games, incentives, and the occasional big challenge of cracking a beginner reader book. It took me many attempts and readjustments to match his learning style with my teaching style, but the end result was his reading confidence and my pride at his progress.

The tutors for the four brothers, all members of the School on Wheels at UCI Club, managed to make reading gains with their students by playing games and working with manipulatives, which I made at home. I grew to be quite fond of Chase. During the last few sessions with him, he was visibly proud to be able to read basic sentences and eager to tackle new challenges. He grew to be motivated not by the tangible incentives I gave him of snacks, high fives, and praise, but by the sense of accomplishment he felt after reading a word correctly without any help. His toothy and excited grin, in turn, encouraged me to keep working to find other learning strategies suitable to his age and personality. Unfortunately, my tutoring sessions with Chase and his family have since ended, but I now recognize my struggles in working with him as learning opportunities for the future.

Kylie Toy, Tutor

Region 12 – North Orange County

Mark, School on Wheels Students of the Month

– Mark, Grade 8. It has been an amazing opportunity to tutor Mark because I truly enjoy watching him learn and grow. Mark and I have focused our time on studying mathematics and reading. At first, I was doubtful how spending one hour a week could help with his academics, but Mark has proven me wrong. After a few months of tutoring, Mark’s report card showed incredible progress. In addition, he won two recognition awards during a year-end awards ceremony at his elementary school. Working with Mark has been my pleasure. I am thankful and proud of having him as a student.

Mark is interested in playing drums; one day, after a tutoring session, he thoughtfully decided to teach me some basic drum beats as a way to give back to me. Recently, Mark has also been sharing his talent as an artist to help me improve my drawing skills.

InJae Yoo, Tutor

Online Tutoring

Jonathan, School on Wheels Student of the Month

Jonathan, 3rd Grade. Jonathan has made huge gains since online tutoring 1-on-1 with his tutor, Farrah Haddad. From the beginning, Jonathan’s mother told me that she was worried about Jonathan because they’d been moving from shelter to shelter, which meant that he missed a lot of school. Since Jonathan joined us at the shelter, I noticed that he often felt like he wasn’t good at anything. He looked defeated and wasn’t motivated to participate in activities with the other kids. After a couple of online tutoring sessions with Farrah, sometimes twice and even three times a week, Jonathan was able to excel in school. He also smiles a lot more now, is more energetic, and is just more confident all around. Recently, Jonathan has been coming to my office everyday telling me how smart he is and how much he’s been improving in math. He’s always reciting his times tables in and around the shelter!

I just want to say how thankful I am for School on Wheels and Farrah for helping Jonathan. It’s so great to see Jonathan grow and thrive. Thanks so much. You guys truly make a difference!

Michelle Baek, Jonathan’s Shelter Staff

Jul 2

Tutors of the Month – July 2015

Liz Reznak, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month
Liz Reznak, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

Region 1 – East LA to Pasadena

Liz Reznak, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

– Liz Reznak. Liz has been an amazing School on Wheels tutor for ten months. Her creativity and passion for teaching have made learning fun for the students. Here is what Liz has to say about her experience as a tutor:

In 2014, I decided to join School on Wheels through the volunteer program at my work. I was encouraged by my best friend Matt Haze who has been involved with School on Wheels since 2009. Now we tutor together, and I look forward to it each week. I’ve always had a passion for education; working with our students and seeing them progress helps me to keep it alive. Thanks, School on Wheels!

Thank you, Liz, for being such a phenomenal tutor and a consistent person in Lariell’s life.

Marisol Farfan, Regional Coordinator

Region 2 – South Los Angeles

Alejandra Lepe, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

– Alejandra Lepe. Alejandra has been with School on Wheels for a short time, but she has been amazing. She joined as a Tutor Coordinator and has contributed tremendously in her two months of volunteering. Alejandra has helped start group tutoring at a L.A.U.S.D. school in Gardena, which was not easy. As a result, we have helped eight homeless students who were significantly behind academically. I look forward to working with Alejandra to identify more students in need in L.A.U.S.D.

As I found myself succeeding in life and education, I knew I had to find a volunteer program where I could give back for all the help I received. I came across School on Wheels through VolunteerMatch. I can’t express how fascinated I was to learn about this amazing organization. We may think that we will be an inspiration for these children, but I believe they are our inspiration. Homeless students encounter many obstacles on a daily basis and still manage to join us for an hour once a week for tutoring.. They have the will to keep trying and not give up on their educational goals. I work with five to six children in a group setting; we have developed a bond that is more important than tutoring. I hope that I can impact their lives in the best way possible. My experience so far has been incredible!

Kenisha Edwards, Regional Coordinator

Region 3 – Westside

Mahsaw Motlagh, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

– Mahsaw Motlagh. Mahsaw has been so enthusiastic about helping from the very beginning; she comes to her sessions prepared and structured so that her student gets to work on a little bit of every subject. Thanks, Mahsaw, for all your hard work and commitment to your student!

After graduating from college last year, I knew that I wanted to spend more time serving the community in Los Angeles. As a first-hand witness to the disparate nature of education in LA, I started researching volunteer tutoring positions. Now, nearly twelve weeks later, meeting with my student is the highlight of my every week. As serendipitous as my arrival was to this organization, I could not be more grateful for the opportunity to be a tutor. I have cultivated a sincere passion for teaching and am inspired in the presence of my student during our sessions. The feeling of making a positive impact on someone’s life is truly unparalleled — and I am fortunate to experience this every week with Joseph. At the end of each session, we draw together, and I can tell that Joseph is an artist in the making. My favorite moment thus far has been when he drew Pete the Cat for me (and even signed his name at the bottom of the page too)!

Kyle McDonough, Regional Coordinator

Region 8 – Ventura County

Jennifer Moore, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

– Jennifer Moore. Although Jennifer has only been a tutor for a little over a month, it is already evident that she and her student will be making great strides. After seeing her in action, I admire that Jennifer gives her student a voice and allows her to make decisions about what she would like to learn during their tutoring sessions. Jennifer has really taken advantage of many of School on Wheels’ resources; she will be participating in the Summer Program with her student. When asked, Jennifer says, “I am really looking forward to using the summer program, and I appreciate that School on Wheels offers a structured summer program.” Raising her own child with learning disabilities, Jennifer wants to help other kids who may not have the same resources that her son has. She sees School on Wheels as the perfect fit; and, the rest, as they say, is history!

By far, the best thing [about becoming a tutor] has been meeting Rhianna and getting to know her.

Terrie Soto, Regional Coordinator

Region 10 – South Orange County

Kylie Toy, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

– Kylie Toy. Kylie joined the School on Wheels family as a member of the “School on Wheels at UCI Club” last fall and started tutoring in January 2015. Since the beginning of her involvement with School on Wheels, Kylie has always gone above and beyond what was expected of a volunteer and tutor. She genuinely cares about her student and their family and took the lead in making sure that they were receiving the help that they needed. She took the initiative to organize tutoring for all the children in her student’s family. We are thrilled to have Kylie as part of our team and look forward to working with her and the UCI Club in reaching more students next year. Thank you, Kylie!

Tutoring, while initially challenging, has certainly been a rewarding learning experience for me. However, while my time working as a SOW tutor has been short, I have become very involved in the School on Wheels at UCI chapter. I immediately fell in love with School on Wheels’ mission and goals, and took a more active role in the UCI club by planning holiday parties and workshops at winter shelters. I also helped to orchestrate large-scale, campus-wide college tours for Orange County and Los Angeles School on Wheels students. Next year I will be Vice President of our club; I am thrilled to become even more involved in the organization and hope to bring light to more students’ lives.

Lilian Pahn, Regional Coordinator

Region 12 – North Orange County

InJae Yoo, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

– InJae Yoo. InJae has been a tutor with School On Wheels for six months. When asked what motivated him to volunteer, InJae said, “I believe in the power of education and want to share the joy of learning. Volunteering with School on Wheels is a great way to give back to my community.” He has certainly met those inspiring goals. InJae is hardworking, committed, and dedicated to helping his student. He constantly goes above and beyond what is expected of a tutor and is incredibly easy to work with.

InJae has tutored the same student throughout his time with School on Wheels. When asked about the effect InJae has during tutoring, his student’s mom said that InJae is like part of their family. Her son is so comfortable with InJae; as a result, his students’ grades and self-esteem have gone up. InJae is truly making the difference, and I cannot thank him enough for everything he does!

Laura Schickling, Regional Coordinator

Online Tutoring

Farrah Haddad, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

– Farrah Haddad. I’m having a wonderful experience with School on Wheels. The staff are very supportive and always do the best they can to ensure successful tutoring sessions including tech support, scheduling, tutoring resources, and follow-up with families. Since I started tutoring earlier in the year, I’ve learned that these children are incredibly bright and have many exceptional qualities; it has been a touching experience to interact with them and witness their resilience. My favorite moment so far was with my student Jonathan when he rattled off the “4 “ times table just two hours after doubting that he could learn it. Jonathan’s attitude slowly changed from one of despair and disappointment in his abilities, to one of confidence as he started to repeat under his breath, “Yeah, I’m smart. I can do this!” during our tutoring sessions. Overall, online tutoring introduces a novel and fun way for students to learn; and, it eliminates the time and logistics needed for transportation and space to tutor, which in turn helps maximize the time available for learning. If you’re looking to broaden your impact, online tutoring is a great way to reach students who are most in need all across the country. I am honored and privileged to help School on Wheels students make leaps in their education!

Thank you, Farrah, for all your hard work, persistence and being such an important and consistent part of our students’ lives. Fun fact: Farrah is our first tutor from the State of Virginia!

Ian Chan, Digital Learning Coordinator

Jul 1

July 2015 Newsletter

Dear Friends,

Summer is in full swing and I have a special request for all our amazing volunteers and supporters — please keep helping our students during the summer months. Summer may bring thoughts of vacation, leisure, and fun activities. For our homeless students, however, the summer break is not their friend. Students forget a lot of what they have learned throughout the school year, particularly homeless children. On average the learning loss is about three months of reading and math skills. Our students have enough obstacles in their lives – we don’t want them to lose everything you’ve helped them with during the school year.

Studies also show that being out of school is a dangerous time for unsupervised children and teens. They are more likely to use alcohol and drugs, engage in high-risk behaviors, receive poor grades and drop out of school than those who have the benefit of constructive activities supervised by responsible adults.

I know that many of you work with and support our students year round. Thank you – that will help them retain the knowledge they have learned during the school year and reduce that summer learning loss.

We know that summer learning is critical to ongoing academic success. We want our students to have a variety of experiences that challenge them, develop their talents, keep them engaged, and expand their horizons during these summer months. Our students don’t have a vacation — don’t let their learning take a vacation either.

With deep appreciation for everything you do,

Catherine signature
Catherine Meek
Executive Director

Click here to see more from our July Newsletter

Jun 30

The Guardian’s Weekend in Pictures – School on Wheels Einstein Event

School on Wheels Einstein Event - Photo by Lucy Nicholson/Reuters
School on Wheels Einstein Event - Photo by Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

Benny Wasserman and a few hundred other Albert Einstein look-alikes gathered at the California Science Center this past weekend to attempt to break a Guinness world record. This photo, by Lucy Nicholson/Reuters, was featured in The weekend in pictures from The Guardian.

Jun 28

School on Wheels Student accepted to University Southern California

Josephine Bailey-McLein

JosieWe met Josephine (Josie) when she was staying at the Union Rescue Mission (URM) on Skid Row in the fall of 2014. Josie graduated from University High School, Santa Monica, in June and will be heading to University Southern California to study Human Biology this fall. She received five scholarships, including one from School on Wheels, as well as a grant from USC.
Josie was a regular student at the School on Wheels Skid Row Learning Center. We caught up with her to ask her a few questions about her time as a School on Wheels student and how she coped with school while being in a homeless situation. Josie, her mom, and sister are still homeless, but they are now living in a longer term transitional living shelter and said it feels more like home.

Josie, what was it like living in the largest homeless shelter in Skid Row?

I liked that it gave me a place to sleep but it was a very stressful experience. There were lots of people there that you would not meet in everyday life who were from all walks of life.

What was your first impression of School on Wheels’ Learning Center?

When I first walked in, I noticed straight away how many kids were there, especially younger kids. It was loud and busy but warm and welcoming. All the staff and volunteer tutors were really friendly, and Miss Allison, Skid Row Learning Center (SRLC) instructor, is an amazing person who was very encouraging to me and made the center a nice environment to be in.

What difference did School on Wheels make for you during this time?

Being able to study at the SRLC was very important to me because I was able to access the internet. (No internet at the shelter) Most of my homework assignments were online so I needed to be able to get online. They were also great at providing me with school supplies.

Did you move schools a lot?

Yes, I went to three different high schools and eight schools in total. We moved to LA from Indiana but we only became homeless two years ago. I knew I always wanted to go to college. It is such a great feeling to know I am finally done with high school!

Who is your hero?

My mom is my hero because she always pushed me to do well at school. She said that, ‘Having an education was the only way you get anywhere and if I wanted to reach for something better, school was the way to do it!’

Do you have a message for any students out there going through the same experiences as you?

I would tell them not to worry about their living situation and to take advantage of the resources available, like School on Wheels, and the people they meet that are there to help them. I would also say that it is important to be around other kids the same age and try to have fun. It is easy to get stressed about your situation, but sometimes it’s good to forget and just be a kid!