Category: Star Students

Nov 10

Students of the Month – Nov. 2020

Lily

Age 11

Lily loves to dance and draw in her free time and is interested in taking dance or art classes in the future. She is also interested in history and learning about different cultures.

Certain areas of math have presented a challenge, so we have focused on solidifying her foundation. I am constantly inspired by her positive attitude and willingness to try new things, even when they are challenging.

Eliana McIlvery, Tutor

Emmanuel

Age 9

Emmanuel wants to become a doctor. He loves drawing everything and anything, and also enjoys piano and likes classical music. He has been taking lessons since he was 6 years old, and is currently learning the piece “Sunflower.”


One thing we focus on is slowing down to read instructions so we can avoid making careless mistakes. Learning to tutor and adjusting to my student’s needs remind me to listen to understand instead of listening to respond. It is helping me think outside of the box as I need to explain/teach in ways he understands instead of how I learned it.

Meng Liev, Tutor

Karen

Age 8

Karen wants to be a police officer, teacher, and doctor. She loves mermaids, making slime, making her own squishies, and playing with her baby doll.


When we first started working together Karen told me that her biggest challenge is math, so when she told me she got an A+ on her math test, I was so proud! Karen also helps me practice my Spanish and teaches me new words.

Therese Auza, Tutor

Milo

Age 8

Milo is very talented and has a defined goal to become an architect. He loves to draw and sketch just about anything that comes to his mind, and also likes to play football.


Milo is very eager to learn and gives his all to everything we work on; there haven’t been many challenges. As an architect, Milo would like to someday help create a special community center just for families.


Family is important to him; he dreams of the day when he’ll get to play football and have fun being part of a big family. It makes me so happy to work with someone who loves to learn as much as I love to teach. Spending time with Milo always makes me smile.

Myrna Sanpascual, Tutor
Oct 8

Students of the Month – Oct. 2020

Elijah

Age 12

Elijah loves the cosmos! He is even learning a bit of Russian because NASA Astronauts must speak Russian to work in the ISS (International Space Station). Elijah also really likes his new theatre class and we have a lot of fun reading aloud from a book School on Wheels sent us, The Lost Property Office.

Each time we meet, Elijah gets better and better at reading and using different inflections for the various characters. He is quite theatrically inclined!

Elijah is also beginning remote schooling at a NEW school this year, but takes it in stride and remains very positive. He reminds me of the brilliance and possibility of youth. Whether it’s learning Russian, being consistent with his lessons, or just saying YES to every lesson plan I proposed, Elijah has a faith in himself that is both innocent and infectious. I want to be more like Elijah!

Marisol Sacramento, Tutor

Steven

Age 8

Steven loves Spiderman, comics, tik-tok, beatboxing, and dancing. Though he sometimes struggles with staying focused, Steven wants to be a good reader.

It’s important to bookend each lesson with fun, no pressure activities, and some of the most fun I have working with Steven is when he uses this time to share some of his favorite dance moves with me!

Lihi Shadmi & Aviv Wilder, Tutor

Daniel

Age 17

On his free days, Daniel loves to skateboard. He picked it up as a hobby last December and hasn’t put it down since, averaging 2-3 hours a day of practice. It’s a great outlet for him, not only as exercise but mentally, learning to perform complex tricks. He has also been playing soccer ever since he was 6 years old and loves the sciences.

One of the biggest academic hurdles Daniel recently faced is transferring to a new school mid-year. Having to catch up on assignments the teacher had already provided other students in addition to all newly assigned homework, tests, and quizzes has been difficult to juggle all at once.

Daniel dreams of living the American dream of graduating college, having a family of his own, and owning a house one day. Daniel has taught me perseverance and that with yourself being the main motivator, every goal is achievable. I have learned that even when things get rough, the only way past all the hurdles in life is through them.

Jennyfer Han, Tutor

Hernan

Age 17

Hernan loves spending time with his family, doing community service through his school, participating in sports, and occasionally playing video games.

When I first met Hernan, he was struggling with poor grades and an overall lack of interest in school as a freshman. His grade point average at the end of freshman year was 1.42 due to a lack of motivation. Now, as he enters his final year of high school, his GPA is 3.4; he earned a GPA of 4.15 in his junior year!

Hernan would like to pursue a career in medicine and possibly become a surgeon. He has been motivated by some of the science related to the COVID-19 pandemic and he would like to pursue immunology or molecular biology as a major in College.

The ultimate lesson I have learned from Hernan is that we all have the potential to be successful. This is even more important for young students of Southern California in underserved communities. I am motivated to be a lifelong tutor and mentor to these students and I will encourage them to do so as well.

Tolulope Popoola , Tutor
Sep 16

Students of the Month – September 2020

Leon Jr.

Age 13

Leon is interested in deconstructing cars and reassembling them to increase their speed, specifically the Ford Mustang, Shelby Cobra, GT, and Ford Fox. Leon also loves to foster cats and host YouTube streams. Although he says he doesn’t like math, Leon is great at it! We have been working on his Algebra skills and I can see his fear slowly subsiding. By working methodically when approaching algebraic equations, he has gotten much more comfortable with seeing variables and solving for them!

Leon has taught me so much about cars! From the very first session, it became very evident that he has a strong understanding of different car models and how to reconfigure engines to increase their speed. Some of Leon’s dreams include racing a Shelby Cobra while listening to The Beach Boys or 70’s music, becoming a carpenter, and of course being a car mechanic.


Kristy Nguyen, Tutor

Miracle

Age 9

My student Miracle has had more than her share of challenges, including having to attend multiple schools, each with new kids, new teachers, and unfamiliar new programs — all without the benefit of a home as a place of refuge and comfort. When we first started working together, Miracle found reading a challenge and it was a struggle for us. Now, however, her reading skills are excellent! In addition to understanding the material, she asks questions and wants to learn more.

Miracle likes painting and doing math, and also helping other kids. Whenever she sees a little boy or girl who seems sad or might be having a problem, she goes over and asks if they’re okay and tries to make them feel better. The inspiration for the picture Miracle drew (above left) is her dream to be a doctor. She wants to take care of people, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen her do exactly that for other children. I know how smart and determined Miracle is, so if she wants to become a doctor, I know one day she will.


Betsy Borns, Tutor

Paola

Age 6

Paola loves ballet, makeup, nail polish, unicorns, and learning about Paris. She would love to travel and see a ballet in Paris one day.

Paola missed half of her kindergarten classes during the spring semester due to COVID and moving. On top of all the craziness, Paola is also an ESL student, so she is learning a new language! This has not been an easy time for her, but she is always excited to learn something new and wants to do well. She has reminded me about the resiliency of a child. She’s got more grit than most adults I know, and I am so proud of her. She has also taught me about the importance of silliness, especially on tough days. Laughter is our trick for a more productive tutoring session!


Leticia Ortiz, Tutor

Kieley

Age 13

Kieley is interested in writing, reading, and creating her own works of art. She also loves pumpkins, art, the sea, and animals — especially dolphins and her dogs. Kieley is also obsessed with all things Harry Potter! She is currently reading the series aloud with one of her other tutors and greatly admires the actress Emma Watson, who plays Hermione Granger in the films.

Kieley has struggled with reading in the past but has made considerable improvement through her consistent efforts. She’s a bright girl with strong opinions, and that also makes constructing paragraphs easier. Recently, Kieley finished reading the first Harry Potter book completely on her own. As she kept on progressing through the book, she began building her confidence in sounding out words and relating events of the book to her own life.

Kieley is a very sociable person and her infectious joy translates well into our sessions. For the immediate future, Kieley has told us that she is eager to “catch up” with her middle school peers in terms of her academic skills. We have no doubt she will achieve this goal because she is focused, determined, and eager to learn. Kieley has overcome so much, and she taught us that perseverance and a positive attitude are key to accomplishing previously impossible tasks. She is unfailingly positive, gracious, and grateful for the education she receives from her various tutors and family.


Suzanne Rizzolo , Tutor
Aug 5

Students of the Month – August 2020

Dominic

Age 15

Dominic enjoys football, writing, history, and graphic design, and has been academically challenged by math. We have worked on it in the past, and we are continuing to work on it. He puts in a lot of effort during our sessions to really understand the material. He continually shows improvement and always asks for help or clarification when he doesn’t understand a math problem. Dominic’s biggest dream is to play college football and eventually play for the NFL. One thing that really inspires me is his curiosity and willingness to always ask questions. When he doesn’t understand something or has a question about anything, he always asks and is always looking to learn more. It is something that I admire about him, and it has pushed me to also be more curious in my day to day life. It has taught me how important it is to recognize when you are unfamiliar with something and be able to comfortably ask questions to learn more.

Jannah Jakvani, Tutor

Joselina

Age 7

Joselina loves watching Sonic the Hedgehog. He is her favorite character! She also loves to play, eat hot dogs, and her favorite subject in school is math. A big academic challenge my student has faced is reading. When I started tutoring her, she was reading below grade level. We have been working really hard on improving her reading skills and helping her feel confident and comfortable with grade-level books. Joselina loves being a kid. She still doesn’t know what she wants to do when she grows up. For now, she says she just loves to play. I learned that Joselina is a very intelligent child who just needs some help in recognizing her potential.

Ingrid Hoyos, Tutor

Sophia

Age 5

What I love about Sophia is her positive attitude. She’s constantly excited about the world and has a strong sense of exploration and curiosity. She’s mentioned her love of music and wants to be a singer one day. She also loves doodling and sketching, especially her favorite animals like lions, leopards, and cats. Sophia has taught me a lot about patience and trust. I know that in our past month or so of remote sessions, there have been technical difficulties, especially considering she cannot read a lot of the words on the website and isn’t very familiar with working a computer on her own. I also slip up sometimes and ask her to read some big words (oops!), but she is never frustrated or flustered. She lets me know her needs (for example, that I need to read words aloud to her) and if I apologize, she tells me it’s okay! Her continued active participation in the tutoring process lets me know just how committed she is to the work and how much she trusts me while we navigate sessions together.

Mel Sakurada, Tutor

Julissa

Age 5

Some of Julissa’s interests include animals, shapes, painting/coloring, reading books about animals, and playing with her two-year-old brother. Julissa’s hope for the future is being able to read to her brother. She also looks forward to being able to play with friends in the future after COVID. I have learned so much from Julissa; she has taught me to slow down and really get into the details of learning rather than just the basic building blocks. In addition, she has taught me that practice really does make perfect as I have seen her improve in just the short amount of time that we have been working together.

Liat Smener , Tutor

Nathalie

Age 7

Nathalie enjoys reading, drawing, and math and reads all kinds of books and articles on her own, often bringing them to our sessions to share and discuss. One article she read to me explained how tapirs are needed for trees to grow in the rainforest. We haven’t encountered any really big academic challenges, but poor Internet connections on some days have been a huge obstacle. Nathalie is always patient, good-natured, and resourceful. When she couldn’t hear a video I was trying to play for her on Messenger, she asked me the name of the video, did a search for it herself, and watched it in a separate window. When asked about her dreams for the future, Nathalie says she wants to explore the jungle and someday work at the zoo. One of the great qualities Nathalie brings to our sessions is her sense of fun. We might be talking about verbs or how many tens are in a given number, with Nathalie fully involved in the conversation, and I’ll glance up at her image on the screen and see that she’s put on a filter to give herself ears like a rabbit or stars for eyes or a cake full of burning candles in front of her face!

Moira Nelson , Tutor

Jul 8

Students of the Month – July 2020

Ariana

Age 12

Ariana’s interests are sketching, skateboarding, and animating. Ariana’s big academic challenge was math and that is where we spend most of our time. Her hopes and dreams for the future are to be in the film industry, maybe a big time producer or a voice actor. She also wants to start a makeup/beauty line. Ariana has helped me conquer my own fears and doubts. Math is my worst and least favorite subject, so when I initially heard she needed help on math, I definitely panicked a bit! But together we took it one day at a time, and it forced me to get out of my own comfort zone. Teaching is the best way to really learn something, and I have been doing a lot of that lately. I hope to have my own kids one day, sooner than later, so I have Ariana to thank for giving me a glimpse into what to expect!

This artwork (at left) is something Ariana created.

Robin Vanneman, Tutor

Crystal

Age 17

During the group sessions I lead, it is sometimes hard to keep students on track and make sure they are progressing. For Crystal though, this weekly task isn’t as hard because she is serious about learning. She is very serious, even avid, about doing classwork, and you can tell she wants to take it seriously and be taken seriously. Currently, her dream is to graduate from high school this summer and attend Los Angeles City College in the fall. She also wants to get a job and move out on her own. She wants to start building her career before she gets married and has kids. Professionally, she wants to become an agent at the DEA or a registered nurse. Crystal loves cosmetology and is extremely good at doing makeup, and in her free time, she wants to attend cosmetology school to obtain a license so she can do side work. 

Charles Fogel, Tutor

Jasmin

Age 14

Jasmin loves Spanish poetry, speech, soccer, and cheerleading. During our time together, I’ve seen her become more confident in math and math-related skills. As Jasmin moves on to high school, one goal is to make the high school soccer team and become successful in her classes, especially math. Her long term goal is to become a Forensic Pathologist and work in Juárez, Mexico. She would like to make a big difference in the world through her career. I have learned a lot about perseverance and confidence from Jasmin. If she does not fully understand a topic, she does not hesitate to ask for clarification and if she gets a question incorrect the first time, Jasmin will go back and try until she gets it correct. Jasmin puts so much effort into producing the highest quality of work she can.

Anisha Singh, Tutor

Selena

Age 11

My student, Selena, loves the subject of language arts and loves art. She loves to draw, color, and make all kinds of crafts and projects. A big challenge that both Selena and I had to face was her struggle with math. She specifically had trouble with fractions, but now she is completely comfortable with them and the subject overall. Selena hopes to be successful and wishes to meet some of her idols that she has loved for a long time. I have learned a lot from Selena about never giving up. Although there were many tough times where some subjects seemed difficult, Selena never gave up and worked hard in order to understand in the end.

Andrew Chung , Tutor

Jun 18

2020 Graduation Spotlights

June equals graduation for students across the country. This year the celebrations have been different, to say the least. Schools got creative and hosted car parades and virtual events to celebrate students graduating from elementary school, middle school, high school and college.  

We partnered with Community Promise to celebrate School on Wheels students graduating high school this year. In addition to supporting our work with a financial contribution, they are also helping us to recognize graduating students with certificates, gift cards, and personalized gifts.

Today we want to shine a spotlight on a School on Wheels alumna graduating college, as well as two high school graduates—one a volunteer tutor and one a student.

Former student Josie graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree from USC. We first met Josie when she was living at the Union Rescue Mission with her mom and sister in 2014. She says her mom is her hero because she always said, “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!”

Eighteen-year-old volunteer tutor Lucy graduated from Laguna Blanca School and will be attending college in the fall. Lucy tutored two students at Transition House in Santa Barbara for over a year. Lucy recently worked with School on Wheels on her senior project. You can watch her video on Digital Divide here

School on Wheels student Kenneth in Orange County kept in touch with his tutor Benjamin even when in-person tutoring was canceled due to COVID-19. He said their weekly check-ins helped him to stay focused on graduating and planning for college. Kenneth will be attending Santa Ana College.