Category: Star Students

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.

May 27

Students of the Month – June 2020

Julian

Age 13

Julian loves football and art, and is very creative. His math assessment score was low but he doubled it after six months. Trying to stay focused was a challenge; part of it was that in the beginning we had our tutoring sessions at McDonald’s, and there was a lot of distraction. Julian has had a tough life to date. His family has moved a lot, so he’s attended many schools. This kid, with all the trials and tribulations life throws at him, maintains a great attitude.

Steve Tiso, Tutor

H

Age 11

H’s favorite subjects are drawing, reading and PE. She dreams of one day becoming a surgeon or engineer. H has been through a lot in her short life, but she never gives up; I attribute this to her Mom. My time with her has made me realize that even in the worst of times, children can be fostered to have a positive attitude.

Lynn Johnson, Tutor

Jimmy & Ricky

Age 11 & 13

Both Jimmy and Ricky love playing sports! Also, Jimmy loves Captain Underpants and Ricky loves playing Fortnite. Jimmy and Ricky both struggled with reading, initially, but they have learned to read slower, enunciate clearer, understand passages better, and ultimately enjoy reading more. Jimmy wants to get better at soccer and be a soldier when he grows up. Ricky wants to either become a police officer, firefighter, or soldier. Jimmy and Ricky teach me to be more optimistic in my own life! These boys have reminded me how inherently optimistic children are. They all want to become somebody in the future and deserve to have the chance to do so.

Phillip Chung, Tutor

Bryan

Age 10

Bryan likes drawing and coloring (he drew this picture of the Coronavirus!) and would really like to have a dog one day. He even has a type of dog he would like to have; it’s a mix of pit bull and husky and it’s actually called a pitsky! We looked it up. We are making BIG steps towards learning the times table & that’s a very big deal. Bryan hopes to have a good future and do well in school. I am learning from Bryan to be patient and not ask him questions while he draws. I admire his persistence during our meetings, as well. He’s always on time and is very willing to learn new things.

Dana Altschuler , Tutor

Mar 3

Students of the Month – March 2020

Zyarre

Age 12

Zyarre and I did a fun “values” quiz together, and I think he found it illuminating. The quiz revealed that while recognition (being noticed, feeling significant in the world) is important to him, he is deeply interested in justice and helping others. He told me a story about how he welcomed a shy new student to his school, helping the other boy feel more confident. In the future, Zyarre hopes to build a meaningful and secure life that will likely involve some sort of service to others, and I find his attitude inspiring.

Suzanne Rizollo, Tutor

Moises

Age 8

Moises is 8 years old, in 2nd grade. He is a great reader, a studious learner, and approaches all the new things that come his way with determination and concentration. When he grows up Moises would like to work with lizards; he is the biggest Jurassic Park and Godzilla fan that I have met yet! For our reading time, we always set out an audience: Cat in the Hat and a stuffed dinosaur or two! I have learned from Moises that when you need to learn something new that seems difficult, approaching with a calm and studious outlook is the best way to conquer and learn! Here the dinosaurs and Cat and the Hat are helping Moises conquer double digit subtraction!

Sasana Kachirsky, Tutor

Rachel

Age 11

Rachel likes ice skating, anime, math, and making friends. She has taught me that it’s okay to be unique and comfortable with your own goofy self; she is never judgmental and always has a great attitude. Rachel enjoys talking and getting to know people, so its easy for her to drift away from her work. We’ve managed this by separating ourselves from the rest of the group during distracting times. Rachel hopes to become a psychologist because she doesn’t want kids to feel the same way she did when she was sad. If that doesn’t work out she would like to be a veterinarian.

Carlos, Tutor