Before the pandemic, we had already tutored more than 1,600 students experiencing homelessness with 1,250 volunteer tutors this year alone. We were well on our way to achieving—or even exceeding—our goal of tutoring 3,700 students. Our new improved literacy and digital learning programs were in full swing, fostering a love of reading and narrowing the digital divide for our students. Then, suddenly, normal life ceased and our reality transformed. Many people adapted. Meanwhile, our most vulnerable children face increased challenges in receiving a quality education. We at School on Wheels are determined more than ever to ensure our students get the help that they desperately need and deserve.
Today, we are focused on making sure that our students have access to a tutor, the internet, and technology so that they too can get online and access their classes. We are collaborating with our shelter partners, school districts, charter schools and other nonprofit partners to maximize our impact.
With your continued support, here is our most recent progress:
Conducted outreach to shelters, families and our volunteer tutors to gather information on their greatest needs and issues.
Strategized with LAUSD, LAHSA, LACOE and Mayor Garcetti’s team on ways to best support our students.
Partnered with several organizations and other nonprofits to distribute over 3,000 books, school supplies, Chromebooks, Wi-fi hotspots, tablets, kindles, hygiene kits, activity and science kits, and educational games and toys.
Re-trained our active volunteer base to tutor online and revamped our advanced training to address the new social and emotional needs caused by the pandemic.
Currently, more than 350 volunteer tutors—with the support of our staff—are regularly meeting with their students. That number continues to increase as more and more students are referred to our program.
We recognize that this pandemic will impact the world long-term, and while our lives will hopefully return to some semblance of normalcy, we expect online tutoring to become increasingly important for our students’ success over time. Our resource center is open for deliveries, but our staff is still working from home. As summer approaches, we need your support now more than ever, so that our kids don’t fall behind even further and have fun activities (albeit online) to keep them learning all summer long.
A recent study from TNTP finds a pervasive pattern of low expectations schools that harms the most vulnerable students. The authors observed thousands of lessons in hundreds of schools, and found that majority white and high-income classrooms were more likely to have qualities that have a positive impact on student learning – strong instruction that encourages students to do most of the thinking, rather than lecturing; high expectations; grade-appropriate assignments; and deep student engagement. Having these factors in a classroom is especially impactful for students who start the year behind.
The study found that overall, students were only given grade level-appropriate work 26% of the time, meaning that even students that met expectations in school could be woefully unprepared for post-secondary education. 40% of classrooms with majority students of color never received a single grade-level assignment (compared with 10% of majority white classrooms). Classrooms with higher income students spent twice as much time on grade-appropriate work than those with lower-income students. In classrooms with majority students of color, 66% of teachers who were the same race as the majority of students had high expectations. Of teachers who were a different race from their students, 35% had high expectations. Students of color who got good grades were less likely to do well on state and AP tests than white students who got the same grades, indicating teachers in classrooms with mostly students of color had lower standards.
These findings have major implications for the students we serve. People of color are over-represented in the homeless population. According to LAHSA, 36% of people experiencing homelessness in LA County are Black or African-American, and 35% are Latino. Only 25% are white. Homeless children are also likely to attend schools in low-income areas. In addition, students experiencing homelessness are often behind their grade level – moving schools can cause a student to lose 3-6 months of learning. Our students are among those who are the most in need of the impactful factors identified by the study.
Youth experiencing homelessness need caring people to invest and believe in them. If our students are not challenged and engaged with meaningful work, they cannot achieve their full potential, and may struggle to succeed later in life. In order to break the cycle of homelessness, our students need supportive learning environments where they are encouraged and expected to do their best.
Thousands of families experience homelessness on any given night in America, leaving many children stricken by the grief of instability and unpredictability. There is a saying in Skid Row, “homeless but not hopeless.” But where does your hope come from if you’re the mother of four young, energetic children crammed in a motel room suitable for one or two people? How do you survive days when your kids go to bed hungry? Where does your hope come from when you’re an 8-year-old child whose only concept of home includes a revolving door?
I wish we lived in an America where homelessness didn’t exist; where kids could go to school without worrying about where they will sleep at night or if they will have enough food; where kids wouldn’t take on the burdens of adulthood. An America where kids could be kids – laughing, running, jumping, learning – the way they were meant to be.
So what can we do? We can start by speaking up, advocating for change, and accepting nothing less. Our friends need us, and we must deliver.
It’s back to school season, and our students are in need of brand-new school supplies now more than ever! It is important that our students, no matter the difficult obstacles they are currently facing, are provided with the same educational materials as their peers. Below is a list of the TOP 25 school supplies our students need to kick off the school year.
If you would like to host a back to school supply drive and are interested in receiving our print/promotional materials, please feel free to access them here or email firstname.lastname@example.org with your request and mailing address. Your generous donation means so much to our students. Please take the time to fill out our material donation form when donating/hosting a back to school supply drive.
We have two drop off locations. Please feel free to drop off any brand-new school supplies to either our Ventura or Los Angeles office Monday – Friday between 10 am to 4 pm. Our Los Angeles location is: 3150 N San Fernando Rd, Ste B Los Angeles, CA 90065 and our Ventura location is 303 N Ventura Ave. Suite D Ventura, CA 93001.
For 25 years we have relied on the kindness and support of people like you to keep our programs running; you have a greater impact than you know! Here are 25 ways to support School on Wheels that you might not have thought about:
“Safety and security don’t just happen. They are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear.”
– Nelson Mandela
As a nonprofit dedicated to supporting children experiencing homelessness, we understand the anxiety and trauma families suffer living in homeless shelters, but we cannot begin to imagine the stress and fear children and parents are enduring by being separated and held in tents and detention centers.
No matter what our opinions are about immigration policy, surely we can all agree that children have no control over their situation. Children are fragile and vulnerable. The impact of separation on them is unconscionable. We can’t unsee images of babies and children being taken from their parents to be used for political reasons. There is no protocol in place for keeping track of parents and children concurrently, for keeping parents and children in contact with each other while they are separated, or for eventually reuniting them. Surely a nation as generous and compassionate as the United States can find a way to prevent separating children from their parents.
If we are to protect our civility, our values, our worth as a society, we must first protect our children… all of our children.