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.
Chelsea invited our very own Skid Row Learning Center Instructor, Allison Maldonado on her show to talk about why education is important and what we should be doing to help more students learn.
Chelsea asks her dinner party guests about the teachers who made meaningful impacts on their lives. From the nun who saved Mary McCormack from first-grade humiliation to the ethics professor who could’ve made Rashida Jones throw her own ethics code out the window – it’s safe to say that a good (or good-looking) teacher can truly make a lasting impact.
Here are a few sound bites from the show:
Education is the antidote to ignorance
Education is the great equalizer
I want to empower my students through education to break the cycle of homelessness and help them to feel powerful and to feel strong.
Dressed in yellow from head to toe (literally), Ian Chan, Program Administrator for local nonprofit School on Wheels, completed the Los Angeles Marathon on Sunday to raise money for the homeless children that School on Wheels serves. Chan was one of thousands who made the 26.2-mile trek from Dodger Stadium. to the Santa Monica shoreline.
Ian is running 52 marathons in 2017 to raise awareness about homeless children in California. The LA marathon was his 12th this year and Ian ran his personal best with a time of 3 hours, 19 minutes and 58 seconds. He placed 404th out of 18,864 finishers.
This is what Ian had to say about his experience so far:
“It was an incredible feeling being out there with thousands of fellow Angelenos. The love, the camaraderie, the support…just unbelievable. This was the first time I wore the full-body School on Wheels outfit for a full 26.2 miles, and I’m glad I finished in one piece! Why am I running 52 marathons this year? Over 300,000 children experience homelessness in California each year; this campaign is about giving agency and hope to a population all too forgotten and neglected. My legs are tired, my feet sore but my heart is full. Onward to the next marathon!”
In an interview with KTLA, Ian showed off his amazing costume and talked about the 3,000+ homeless children School on Wheels serves each year and the thousands of volunteers that help them get back on track with school and learning.
Want to help School on Wheels achieve our mission through advocacy?
In this webinar, our staff discuss the ways you can help to promote School on Wheels on social media and in your community. As a volunteer, you have a greater impact than you know! This workshop explains the various ways you can spread the word, advocate for homeless students, and encourage others to get involved.
About the Presenters: Lisa Pullins works as an AmeriCorps VISTA for School on Wheels as a Communications and Branding Associate. After receiving her Bachelor’s in Planning, Public Policy & Management, she shortly began working at School on Wheels in November 2016 to focus on capacity building for the organization.
Sinead Chilton has been involved with School on Wheels since 2004. She is responsible for marketing, media, branding and fundraising events. As the Marketing Director for School on Wheels, she has spent many years promoting School on Wheels and is also a volunteer tutor.