Written by Zarina Yunis
Startled by the alarming increase in homelessness in the past year, 12 Latina girls from San Fernando High School have taken it upon themselves to search for ways to help the homeless. These students are part of a program called DIY Girls, which “empowers girls to be confident makers and creators of technology,” according to the DIY (Do It Yourself) Girls’ website.
On a daily basis, these girls witness homelessness on the streets. They wanted to help the homeless families; however, donating money was not an option for their own low-income families. Despite their inability to contribute money, the girls weren’t about to let this obstacle prevent them from helping those who are less fortunate.
“With all the already existing programs in place to help end homelessness, we felt as if something more needed to be done to provide temporary relief to those who are displaced,” Paola Valtierra said in an email interview. Valtierra is a senior at San Fernando High School, and this will be her second year in the DIY Girls program.
Motivated to help the people in their community, the DIY girls got to work. They came up with the idea to create a solar-powered tent that could also function as a backpack. This one item could efficiently serve multiple needs and conserve space. The team of girls met frequently to work on the solar-powered tent, and a year later, they finished designing their prototype.
At times, the competition in the STEM field was intimidating for young Latina women. Evelyn Gomez, the executive director for DIY girls, recalls her experience at UCLA, getting her master’s degree in aerospace engineering. “I was often the only girl in the class and definitely the only Latina in the class. It felt like kind of imposter syndrome,” Gomez says, describing a feeling of chronic self-doubt even in the midst of evident success.
Nonetheless, the girls were determined to make a difference, regardless of their gender or race. They have not only made a positive impact on their community, but they have been role models for many other girls and have inspired them to pursue their passions. “Remember that there will always be obstacles in life but push through them because the outcome will be worth it,” Valtierra said.
On November 18th, 2017, team School on Wheels participated in a march to end homelessness hosted by United Way of Los Angeles. Our team marched through the streets of downtown Los Angeles to protest along with volunteers, supporters and other nonprofits dedicated to eradicating homelessness.
This was a successful turnout that helped raise awareness for our mission and the plight of homeless children everywhere. We are very appreciative for everyone who supported us in this year’s march and contributed their effort to make this a memorable event. Thank you to everyone for your endless support!
Registration is now Open!
Students, Staff, Parents, Volunteers, Supporters and Friends will be participating in the 11th Annual HomeWalk hosted by UnitedWay of LA.
Skip the lines and head straight to our booth to pick up your T-Shirt and Bib!
The 5k walk will begin at 8:45 am.
If you are registering more than one person, please choose ‘Other’ and enter amount ($25 per person -children under 12 are FREE).
View flyer here.
View photos from the event here.
Our Generations Connected initiative, sponsored by a generous grant from the Eisner Foundation, focuses on matching students with older adult volunteers for one-on-one tutoring. These intergenerational matches are an integral part of our program, and they are equally beneficial for students and volunteers. Tutors with more life experience inspire and connect with students and learn from them too.
School on Wheels provides ongoing support for our older volunteers. We also offer quarterly regional meet-ups and special volunteer opportunities for those who want to give more time.
And… tutors who are 50+ stay 50% longer tutoring a School on Wheels student!
Read more about our amazing volunteers here.
Friends and Supporters,
I hear a lot of people asking what can we do to combat the racism, ignorance and hatred exhibited on the streets, in leadership positions and in the hearts of many who live in our country. Over 80 percent of our students are children of color; 53 percent are of Hispanic heritage. And they are afraid. Many are used to fear, anxiety and stress – they experience those feelings every single day because they are homeless. They are used to being bullied, shamed and ridiculed.
We must let our students and their families know that the actions unfolding in places like Charlottesville are unacceptable and not reflective of who we are as a community. At School on Wheels, we value diversity, inclusion and equality. We deplore and condemn white supremacists and neo-Nazis in the strongest terms. We affirm our commitment to serving the most vulnerable and fragile among us – homeless children.
We must not be defeated by bigotry and ignorance. In the midst of all this sorrow, darkness and anger, we can stand up, speak out and remind ourselves that in our School on Wheels community, we have thousands of people who believe that love and truth will win out. I am inspired by the courage our students display every day just to go to school, the generosity of our supporters and friends who sustain us, and the precious time and dedication our volunteers give to our students.
There is much work to be done, and we need your help to do it. So if someone asks you, “What can we do to help, to uphold our shared values, to demonstrate love and kindness?” tell them to use their energy and power to support organizations like School on Wheels. We can make a huge difference in the life of a homeless child. This is what we can do.
Recent middle school graduate Zarina Yunis, age (almost!) 14, discusses her experiences tutoring with School on Wheels.
Middle and high school students are often looking for opportunities to volunteer and earn service hours. I highly recommend tutoring for School on Wheels. School on Wheels is a non-profit organization that helps support the educational needs of homeless students in Southern California. Tutor coordinators find volunteers to tutor homeless children living in motels, domestic violence shelters, and even kids who live on the streets. Tutoring for School on Wheels enables volunteers to utilize their academic skills while also helping other students achieve their potential.
I discovered School on Wheels when my mother became a tutor with them three years ago. She would tutor at our local library, and my brother and I would do our homework at a nearby table. I would often notice her students struggling with the math concepts they were learning in school. I had just learned some of these concepts myself, so I offered to help explain some of the concepts. I could relate well to these students because we were similar in age, and it was easy for me to guide them. That was when I found myself to have a knack for tutoring, so when I turned 12, I decided that I wanted to become a tutor myself. I filled out the online application, submitted my references, and participated in both the online and in-person trainings. Within a couple weeks, the regional coordinator had a student for me, and I was ready for my first tutoring session.
Because I wasn’t yet 16, I participated with my mother in a family tutoring session. We were each assigned our own student. For those who aren’t tutoring with their parents, a parent or guardian only needs to be on the premises. Our first students were twins, so my mother and I each tutored one. Every Wednesday after school, my mother would drive me to our local library, and we would spend an hour helping the twins with their homework and areas where they were struggling. After several sessions I could see a significant improvement in my student’s math and reading abilities. Another student I had was struggling in math and needed help with double digit multiplication and long division. I approached it several different ways, but finally made her a “cheat sheet” that listed the actions for her to follow step-by-step along with explanations. She would use this sheet to walk her through each problem. Because she had a specialized educational plan that allowed for modifications, her teacher allowed her to use the guide when she was taking her test. She did very well on the test, and this made me feel proud of her and good about myself for helping her. I enjoy watching my students learn and grow after receiving guidance from me. It is gratifying to help students in need in any way I can.
This summer, I started group tutoring. Every Wednesday, I go to an elementary school to tutor a group of students who have signed up for the program. These students work on either an online math program or phonics program. While they work, the tutors move from student to student to see how they can help. In this method of tutoring, students are taught to be independent but have access to help when they need it. In contrast to the one-on-one tutoring experience, sometimes tutors are managing multiple students. It can be challenging at times, but it develops important skills that will help me in all aspects in my life.
In order to be able to teach a concept well, you have to know it well yourself. Tutoring enhances your own academic knowledge while helping others learn. Tutors use their creativity to demonstrate concepts in ways that deepen their student’s understanding. Tutoring for School on Wheels allows the opportunity to have a positive impact on the education of vulnerable populations. It has been a rewarding experience for me, and I highly recommend others to dedicate their time and get involved.