School on Wheels is happy to announce the appointment of a new Executive Board member. Joining the Board is Ellen Padnos: “I’m thrilled and honored to have a greater role within School on Wheels. I’ve worked with the team for years and am so inspired by them and the incredible work they do.”
Ellen has supported School on Wheels for many years, and with her group, Joyful Giving has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars through their annual fundraising event to benefit School on Wheels.
“We are delighted that Ellen is joining the Board. She has been an integral part of our fundraising team for several years and I know she will continue to use her talents and her passion for our mission to help School on Wheels and our students,” said Catherine Meek, Executive Director
Prior to starting Joyful Giving, Ellen co-founded and was Editor-in-Chief of Women.com which she sold with her husband in 2013. Ellen spent her early career working in Sales and Operations at Yahoo in Silicon Valley and for USA Networks in New York.
Ellen currently resides in Manhattan Beach with her young family. She loves what she does and with over 100 active members of Joyful Giving and Joyful Givings Kids (created in 2016) is changing how her community, young and old, finds out and supports local nonprofits, not only financially but through volunteering and activism too.
School on Wheels is honored to announce that President of OMD Entertainment, Susan Taylor will join the Board of Directors.
“I created The Emily Austin Project for School on Wheels in honor of a young colleague’s sudden and tragic death. The Project provided a much needed outlet to help put grief into action. In learning more about School on Wheels I knew I wanted to be part of this small but mighty organization in a more substantial way. I am excited to join their Board of Directors.” - Susan Taylor
Susan is a career veteran of the entertainment and advertising industries focusing on film, television and theater. She currently holds the position of President, OMD Entertainment, an Omnicom agency that exclusively services The Walt Disney Company, including Studios, DCP, Franchise, DATG and Home Entertainment.
During her tenure at OMD Entertainment, Susan created The Emily Austin Project which continues today. The Emily Austin Project includes a corporate footprint for tutoring throughout her company in addition to a donation portal. Susan’s parents were both educators with LAUSD and she is a passionate believer in the importance of education in providing opportunity and hope.
“Susan is a great addition to our Board of Directors. She embodies the spirit of community and will bring talent, expertise and energy to our Board. We have all been inspired not only by her fundraising efforts in memorializing her former colleague, Emily Austin, but also in allowing her employees to use part of their workday to tutor our homeless students.” Catherine Meek, Executive Director.
Why/When/Where did you start working with volunteers?
Volunteers are the heart and soul of School on Wheels. School on Wheels volunteers work throughout Southern California to remove the barriers that stand between homeless children and their education. Our tutoring program stands at the center of our work: our volunteers come from all backgrounds and professions to teach, mentor, and assist the educational life of a homeless child. Once they have been through their online orientation and our additional training (designed to maximize the impact of their time with the children), volunteers are carefully matched with a homeless child with whom they meet at least once per week. This one-on-one time provides the highest impact of all our work; it constitutes the core of our focus. Last year, these amazing volunteers provided more than 95,000 hours of focused educational support to 3,129 homeless children. Approximately 300 of these students met their tutors at our Skid Row Learning Center, some 2,800 more had their tutors come to where they live in a service area that, while concentrated in Los Angeles County, spans more than 2,500 square miles.
What do you enjoy most about working with volunteers?
Volunteer tutors are positive role models who provide consistency and educational assistance to a homeless child through weekly one-on-one tutoring. School on Wheels is a volunteer based organization that seeks out committed people who are passionate about social justice and equality for all. A person engaged in volunteering with School on Wheels will benefits from increased self-confidence in their power as an individual to influence change and inspire others. Our volunteers act as a bridge between organizations and the communities that we serve and can inspire change in behavior and attitude in a wider group. They encourage the collective responsibility that enables solid outcomes, such as stability and consistency for the homeless students that we serve.
How has VolunteerMatch helped you to recruit volunteers?
It takes an enormous amount of work to attract, train, manage and retain more than 1,800 tutors and supervise more than 95,000 volunteer hours over the course of a year! Volunteer Match gave us an opportunity to have continuous recruiting of new volunteers throughout Southern California, while allowing us the time to focus our efforts on volunteer management, retention and support.
School on Wheels began in 1993 when Agnes Stevens, a recent retiree who had spent 30 years of her life as a schoolteacher, read a book that changed her life. The book was about homeless families in the U.S. Agnes was shocked to learn that hundreds of thousands of children were homeless (a figure that has since surged to 1.6 million) and that many of them did not attend school. She learned that there were many other barriers that stood between these children and their education and that they needed a wide range of specialized services to remove those barriers – they needed help getting back into school, they needed help in catching up on the subjects they missed, they needed help accessing uniforms and supplies. Unfortunately, because of their circumstances, homeless children often have no one in their lives who can help them access these services (at a time when a family’s focus is on basic needs like shelter and food, it can be difficult to pay attention to things that don’t seem to ensure survival – like a child’s education and future). Agnes began teaching homeless children in a park in Santa Monica, encouraging them to stay in school and keep up with their grades and school activities – and recruiting others to join her.