Category: Star Volunteers

Aug 23

Volunteers of the Summer (2021)

Anya Alag

Anya has an incredibly warm and nurturing spirit. She is particularly great about identifying her students’ interests and incorporating them into her lessons. Anya is always quick to go above and beyond her duties as a volunteer, and we are lucky to have her in the School on Wheels family!

Emma Gerch, Digital Learning Specialist

I always enjoyed working with children—they are so bright, brilliant, imaginative, and curious. I also was in awe of School on Wheels’ mission, to provide resources to children who need them most, and I wanted to be a part of that! Seeing one of my students get excited about something I’m teaching them is the best feeling—I appreciate their passion and enthusiasm, and feel like they are making strides in their educational journey. 

One of my students and I baked cornbread together, and also discussed the science of baking, and the history of cornbread. I enjoyed creating an interdisciplinary lesson for my student that combined multiple subjects and delicious food! To someone considering volunteering, I would say absolutely do it! It is such a fun experience, and just as much as your student will learn from you, you will learn a lot from them. And be creative with your lessons if you can! Putting in the effort can make tutoring a lot more exciting for both the tutor and the student. 

Jaslyn Wong

Jaslyn is a blessing! She is extremely patient, fun, and innovative. She is also enthusiastic and always ready to take on a challenge. Despite the challenges, she creatively engages her student and helps them flourish. She has fostered a deep and warm relationship not just with her student but also with the family. I am grateful to have Jaslyn on my team.

Manmeet Sodhi, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I’ve always loved learning, teaching, and kids! I thought I would combine some of my interests and give back to the community by sharing what (little) knowledge and skills I do have. My first-ever job in high school was tutoring young kids from ages 4 to 14. I remember using all of my paychecks to buy popsicles/snacks and activity books for the kids just because I truly found joy in enriching their lives!

The “breakthrough” moments are always so, so rewarding! This is especially true for the moments that required some grit, tough love, and hard work to achieve. But, by far, my favorite moments are the day-to-day interactions that I get to have with the students. Whether it’s a bonding moment over a hip new video or finding similarities in our humanness, I feel so very honored to be able to interact with and inspire the younger generation. (You would be surprised to know how many students get awestruck when they find out that their teacher/tutor also enjoys eating pizza or visiting the local fast food joint or taking part in a viral TikTok food trend!) 

I think any time we are working on “tough stuff” is when I find tutoring to be the most memorable. It’s always a magical process to see Max transform from having a super hesitant and skeptical attitude to having more of an “oh this isn’t as bad as I initially thought” attitude. I remember one time we were working on some visual spelling techniques with the word “which”. He was arguing with me that I was using the wrong “which”. (He thought that was how you spell “witch”.) After trying different methods of explaining it to him, we found a saying that helped him remember which was which! The saying was “Which ‘h’ is your favorite in ‘which’?” 

If someone is considering tutoring, do it! You might think you’re not qualified to be a teacher or you might be apprehensive about not getting along with your tutee, but I promise you that you will find something in common. There has never been an encounter or session where I regretted showing up. I always feel rejuvenated and full of life after a tutoring session! Being a tutor is more than just teaching; it’s being a friend/mentor/role model for your tutee! The impact you can have is always so humbling. 

Chloe Wells

I nominated Chloe because she is dedicated and committed to her student’s education and personal growth. She helps instill confidence and determination in her student. Chloe’s passion for School on Wheels is evident and is demonstrated each and every time she meets with her student. 

Maxine Faustino, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I have spent many years working as a piano teacher and organic chemistry tutor. I love helping people nail challenging concepts and have so much fun working with students. School on Wheels presented a perfect opportunity for me to follow this passion while contributing to a super awesome cause! Everything I teach has been something that I struggled to learn at one point in my life. I find fulfillment in being able to help people through the same struggles that I faced when I was in their position. 

There is nothing more satisfying than seeing your student excel at something that they once struggled with. Amy and I have been working on building a strong foundation by practicing with fractions. After a few weeks of practice she has improved significantly and seems a lot more confident! 

Aarij Gora 

I decided to nominate Aarij because not only does he have a great relationship with his student, Alex, but he is also one of my tutor coordinators! Aarij is always willing to go the extra mile for our students and tutors. He does a great job of making his fellow tutors feel supported and can always be counted on!

Aeriell Woodhams, Volunteer Support Coordinator 

The reason I joined School on Wheels was actually my younger brother. I saw how hard online school was for him as a special needs teen and I really enjoyed helping him out with his homework and classroom activities. It helped me realize that I really enjoy spending time with kids and helping them out in different activities. The aspect of tutoring I have found most memorable is knowing that I am doing this for someone else. Not only have I developed a relationship with Alex, but also with his mom and his younger brother. Tutoring has allowed me to develop a relationship and connection with a whole family, which I think is really great and rewarding.

A memorable experience I had when tutoring was when Alex and I were playing a math game. It was amazing to see how much he progressed just during the middle of the game. He picked up on the patterns and the trends of the game very quickly to the point where he was sometimes saying the answer before I even read him the question! He has improved a lot in recognizing patterns and doing addition problems quickly. For someone who wants to volunteer as a tutor, definitely do it and stick with it! It is a once-in-a-lifetime type of experience where you can develop a relationship with a student and even their family. You may even make a new friend for life in the process. 

Julie Martel

Julie is an incredible tutor who has a gift for working with all students, and teenagers in particular. She possesses a beautiful ability to connect instantly with her students, helping them recognize their talents and abilities and how they can share them in the world. Students love working with Julie because she is fun, but also because she listens to them. Her students always know that she has their best interests in mind and cares for them. Julie is such a wonderful and caring person and makes a big difference with her students.

Stephanie Swenseid, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I wanted to be a tutor because as an older person I have learned much from living all these years and I wanted to use my knowledge to hopefully make the life of a young person better. The most rewarding aspect of tutoring is the friendly relationship that has developed between Anthony and I. I also love watching his self-confidence grow through the tutoring process. A memorable experience was when Anthony was moving to a different home and he asked me if I would keep tutoring him. It made me feel like he really appreciates me and the help I have been giving him. Helping young people is very rewarding. I know it is a cliche but you get as much as you give.

Geneva Tripp 

Geneva is a consistent, reliable, and resourceful tutor. She has been tutoring Freddy long-term and they have a great relationship. They have worked together on Freddy’s shoe business and she helped him win a School on Wheels scholarship. She wants the best for Freddy and is a truly positive role model for him. 

Yesenia Ontiveros, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I wanted to be a School on Wheels tutor to give students the opportunity to succeed at school and beyond, and to help them feel supported and confident in whatever passions they choose to follow. It’s very rewarding to see the progress my student has made over time: becoming motivated and passionate about their path, taking initiative, managing multiple classes and assignments on their own, and improving their grades. I loved seeing my student use the skills they learned from the BUS Program—budgeting and managing finances—for their business! I can see how it gave my student direction and motivated them to work hard in that area of life. It’s a great thing to be able to pass on whatever skills or knowledge you have to kids in the younger generation to help them recognize their potential.

John Pham

I nominated John for his dedication to his student, Sergio. I have seen John log tutoring sessions that exceed the required 1 hour a week and feel that he has gone above and beyond for Sergio! John is also a part of region 9’s CASA Youth virtual group tutoring team and also assists our region with delivery drop-offs. I am so thankful for the time and dedication that John has given to School on Wheels! 

Genesis Torres, Volunteer Support Coordinator

In the past, I had a great experience as a tutor at my local library. I later came across School on Wheels and read about its mission of improving education for students experiencing homelessness. The tremendous educational barriers that these students face made me want to help them. With my interest in the mission and joy for tutoring, I became a School on Wheels tutor. It has been very fulfilling to see how confident my student has grown in his academic abilities after working with him over the school year. I remember when he used to get discouraged doing mathematics. While accurately plotting points on a coordinate plane one session, he joyfully told me that he was starting to like this subject a little more. 

One day, my student suddenly told me that he wanted to learn how to count money. I taught him the value of a penny, nickel, dime, and quarter. He was already familiar with the different dollar bills. I remember taking objects from my room, putting a price on each item, and having him tell me the combination of coins and dollar bills he planned on using to pay. Though it was difficult doing all this virtually, we both had fun and he was able to give me the exact amount for each item. 

For those who are considering volunteering as a tutor, I would say that this is a meaningful and worthwhile experience. As their tutor and mentor, you will be helping students overcome tremendous educational barriers so that they can better pursue their dreams.

May 25

Volunteers of the Month (5/21)

I’ve been tutoring kids in stable housing for years and I know even small obstacles can feel huge to kids, much less something as daunting as homelessness. Seeing the impact of just a little bit of consistent individual attention has been so humbling. My current student was a very reluctant reader when I met her. A few months ago I treated her to a game she loves as part of her session, and a few minutes in she asked, “can we read a story now?”

I love reminding children that education and growth are exciting and fun. Seeing a shift in attitude and perspective towards education is the greatest and most rewarding gift. Using a digital learning platform can be difficult, but the drawings that my student and I have created together are amazing!

If someone asked me why they should become a tutor I would say, “Do it! It’s fun, it’s important, and it’s rewarding. Doesn’t everyone want those three things?!”

I’ve always loved tutoring and working with kids, and done so for years—this combined the best of best worlds! Virtual tutoring can be challenging, but it’s so rewarding to have been a part of my student’s lives over the past year. It’s been a hard one for all of us, and they’ve been a light in mine. One of my students told me she didn’t know how to do the math problems they were working on in class. We went through the steps, and within fifteen minutes she was teaching ME how to do the problems! It was fun to see her catch on so quickly.

Apr 21

2021 Volunteer Appreciation Message and Volunteers of the Year

A very special thank you message to ALL OUR AMAZING VOLUNTEERS!

Congratulations to volunteers of the year:

« top of list

Nhi Ha

Nhi is the silver lining of the cloud for her students. She is humble, kind, polite, compassionate, and incredibly intelligent. All her students look up to her and many have mentioned they do not want any other tutor. The grace, fun, innovation, creativity and substance Nhi brings to a tutoring session is something her students look forward to every week. Nhi has contributed to School on Wheels in every possible way throughout 2020, before and after: as a tutor, mentor, tutor coordinator, and ambassador. 

-Manmeet Sodhi, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I used to tutor through my college to provide free services for peers. One semester, I noticed one student who had difficulty in the class and provided some resources they look into for help. They disclosed to me that they were experiencing homelessness and therefore had limited access to resources since they had to work outside of class to support themselves. After listening to their story, I took it upon myself to pool together any free resources on campus and online that would help the student even after hours. The student started participating more during the lectures and would continuously attend my tutoring sessions afterwards. Seeing them grow instilled in me the resolve to always try to help someone in need. Then one day, they stopped coming. It was only later that I found out this student had dropped out of college altogether because they couldn’t afford to attend. After losing this student, I also came to terms with the fact that I needed to do more. And so, I decided to volunteer with School on Wheels to tutor and better understand how we can reach out to students early on to give them more structured support through an unstable time in their life. I have since treasured my experiences with School On Wheels and all the efforts each person in our organization has made to make a difference.

One of the most rewarding aspects of tutoring for me has been the moment a student finds something that excites them or they enjoy. For example, a recent student of mine had been a bit distant because they were unsure of what they wanted to do in life. When the first few sessions going through English or Math didn’t click with them, I started bringing in different subjects such as science and art. They were a bit more interested in art and we bonded over how to draw 3D shapes. It was something that interested them, but it didn’t challenge them. Then I started integrating computer science lessons as puzzles such as using Scratch and the Google Doodle coding game. The moment she hit a wall in the game, she started trying different combinations of answers to try to work through the problem. It was the first time she was so persistent on problem-solving in the sessions and I could tell she liked the challenge. I felt this moment, this shift, in her attitude towards learning something new after having previously been disinterested, was the most rewarding part of tutoring — helping spark the desire to learn and problem solve in a student.

One memorable experience with another one of my students again involved seeing that spark. This student had previously avoided tutoring due to pressure from other children in their group home. It was difficult getting them to be engaged and they would leave without notice sometimes. So when the staff members told me they would make sure the student attended the upcoming session, I knew I had to make it count. I remembered that my student often doodled in his notebook and wanted to listen to music during the sessions. He was very artistic, so I figured we could work on figurative language by creating a rap album. I pulled examples from some of the most popular songs and had him identify similar things in other songs. I then asked him to make his own rap and afterward, he was able to figure out that he naturally incorporated epithets, metaphors, and similes on his own. Then we cooled down by designing the cover art for his album. That was the first time he sat through the entire tutoring session with me, and he kept the album cover and song he wrote. I know that I haven’t significantly changed his situation or his life, but I do think that he found something he cared about and a way to translate it for people to see. I think that was one of the memorable experiences I’ve had with a student.

Manmeet has been an amazing coordinator who will show you the ropes, make sure you are heard, and will always value your input. School on Wheels benefits not only the students and families, but also the staff, volunteers, and you. It has been one of the most fulfilling experiences I’ve ever had. It isn’t easy, for sure, but when you get to the end of the tunnel with a student, you know that you both put in the work to get there together. 

« return to list

Chris Ruoff

I decided to nominate Chris because of the effort he has put forth for his student, Karla. In the short time I have worked with Chris, I have seen the impact he has had on his student. She started out failing her courses and is now excelling because of his help. Their match is an inspiration and I wanted to recognize Chris for that hard work. 

-Aeriell Woodhams, Volunteer Support Coordinator

All of my prior volunteer work (20+ years) had involved my kids’ schools or activities (coaching sports, being on the PTO board) and as they got older, I wanted to shift my volunteer work to give back in the community, especially to those in need. My first assignment with School on Wheels (SOW) was in group tutoring at a winter emergency shelter in Santa Ana, which was an interesting way to break in! When the shelter closed, I became a Tutor Coordinator (TC) and helped start up the first SOW after school program in OC at Washington Elementary School. Then, I helped start up tutoring at the new Homeaid Family Care Center in Orange. After that, I helped start the onsite tutoring program at California Lodge Suites, where I shifted to 1:1 tutoring instead of group. That is when I was paired with my current student, Karla, and we have been together ever since. I’m in my 5th year at SOW and I’ve also had the opportunity to record a webinar on group tutoring tips, help deliver advanced trainings for tutors, organize backpack and supply drives, hold first-sessions with tutors, and speak about SOW at corporate events. Everything I have done for SOW over the years has been extremely rewarding!

I’ve been tutoring Karla since she was in 8th grade and math has always been challenging, as it’s not one of her favorite subjects. But we have worked hard on getting this turned around. Karla has a very positive attitude and has moved her grades up, consistently earning A’s and B’s on quizzes and tests!

When I was at Washington Elementary, I had a special student who was nervous about tutoring and we had a very rough start. I worked closely with him over several weeks, won his confidence. Soon he was running from class to after-school tutoring, wanting to be the first one there. When he would solve a problem on his own, we would high five and I would say “Anthony, you got this”. Then he started saying “Mr. Chris, I got this”. It still makes me smile thinking about it.

This is the most rewarding and meaningful time you could spend with a child in need – to be able to help them, be there for them – it’s the best thing you could do!  And, you get to work with and learn from some amazing staff members and volunteers. Please join us!

« return to list

Lynn Johnson

Lynn isn’t just an exemplary tutor and a dedicated volunteer, she is a kind and caring person who inspires me with her enthusiasm and willingness to take on any challenge. She advocates for her students, creates a warm and collaborative relationship with the families, and always answers an immediate “yes” whenever I need her assistance. She has been invaluable in our transition to online tutoring and I feel extremely lucky to have her as a School on Wheels volunteer! 

-Chris Walsh, Regional Coordinator

My neighbor, who is a CASA, introduced me to School on Wheels. I had been fully retired from an education career for about a year and there was something definitely missing in my life. I thought by being a part of a student’s life and supporting them in their education just might fill that gap in my life!

I enjoy ALL aspects of tutoring, but especially the one-on-one non-academic time I have with my student. We begin with catching up with what’s been going on in our lives, which includes checking in with our household pets, before we hit the academics! We conclude the session with an art activity. Personalizing the session makes it such a special time for my student and me!

I think the most memorable experience I had was when at the conclusion of a session, my present student had a big smile with bright eyes and asked me….”see you tomorrow?”.  Another, just as memorable, was when my student’s teacher communicated with me that she has seen more confidence in my student since I began working with her.

This is what I share with EVERYONE….this volunteer experience has done as much for me as it does for my student …it’s immeasurable!

« return to list

Marlene Brostoff

Marlene carries such immense care and dedication for her students and their family. She is constantly looking for new, innovative ways to engage her students and fosters a safe and caring environment to help her students flourish. She is encouraging and motivating and that has really exemplified through her sessions.

-Maxine Faustino, Volunteer Support Coordinator

After retiring as an elementary school special education teacher at a public school, I wanted to share my skills and experience as a teacher with children who didn’t have all the advantages of the students who I taught at a wealthy school.  When I read about School on Wheels, my heart literally did palpitations. I have been aware of the increase in families who are experiencing homelessness and food insecurity (especially in Los Angeles) and learning about School on Wheels gave me an opportunity to be able to reach out to students in need.  This was just what I was looking for in my retirement. 

The most rewarding aspect of my tutoring has been hearing the joy in the voices of my students as they proudly read new material and seeing a huge smile on their faces.  It’s been great to see them closing the gap in their learning as they acquire new skills. 

A memorable experience was when I’ve said, “OK……we are finished for today…….I’ll see you next week” and my students said, “Oh no……we are done already? Can’t we do a little bit more?”

Another memorable experience is that I was invited to attend my students’ mom’s graduation from a college program.  It meant so much to me to be included in this wonderful event for this family and to know what an incredible role model this mom is for her kids.

I would like anyone who is considering tutoring for School on Wheels to know that as much as you will feel good in knowing you are helping others, your students will touch your life in immeasurable ways.  Back in the days when we were able to see kids in person instead of on Zoom, I volunteered at the Rescue Mission in Reseda.  Whenever I left that environment, I thought about how lucky the kids were to be in a place filled with safety, love, and joy.

« return to list

Alexis Chan

Alexis is so dedicated to our students! She goes above and beyond to make sure her student is getting the attention he deserves. In addition to supporting her high school student in applying for our scholarship program, she also coordinated a toy drive for the family shelter she tutored in-person before COVID. Thank you, Alexis, for all that you do at School on Wheels!

-Jesse Pasquan, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I was looking for an opportunity to volunteer and School on Wheels seemed like a great organization in my area. I love when a student asks good questions or when you can see a concept click. Helping my student apply for the School on Wheels Scholarship was fun because we were able to talk about what he wants for his future and he had some great ideas about what to write on his application. Volunteering is an easy and rewarding way to make a difference in a kid’s life and their future!

« return to list

Mara Miyashiro

Mara is a hugely dedicated member of the School on Wheels family. She transitioned from in-person to online tutoring when her student Elizabeth moved, way back in 2019. Her experience and expertise with online tutoring allowed her to provide crucial insight to other volunteers when the pandemic started. With her student Elizabeth, Mara makes every session engaging and fun, using a combination of our literacy resources, educational videos, and a virtual motivational “sticker chart.” School on Wheels is lucky to have such a dedicated, creative, and caring volunteer as part of our team.

-Emma Gerch, Digital Learning Specialist

During college, I mentored and tutored high school students struggling with algebra, helping them develop a growth mindset and consider careers in the STEM field. I wanted to continue tutoring students after college and I found the right opportunity through School on Wheels.  When I heard about School on Wheels’ mission to provide tutoring and support to students experiencing homelessness, I knew I wanted to be involved. 

During my time as a tutor, I’ve learned how important consistency, patience, and optimism are when teaching. I’ve really enjoyed the trust and rapport I’ve been able to establish with my student. Being able to be a consistent face and cheerleader for her success has been really special. I enjoy seeing my student’s aha moments when a concept clicks and watching her confidence grow with difficult problems. I’ve also enjoyed being able to encourage her passion for art and space exploration during our free time in sessions. It’s rewarding seeing my student become more motivated and eager to learn. We use a star chart to track her progress each session and with each lesson we complete she earns a star.  My favorite thing is hearing my student brag to her mom about how many stars she’s earned.

I would say if you are considering volunteering, go for it. The support you can give can really make a difference in a child’s life. The bonds you form with a student and their family are invaluable and I couldn’t have asked for a better student or family to be placed with.

« return to list

Tolulope Popoola

Tee has consistently dedicated himself to his student and School on Wheels. With 6 years of tutoring experience, he has motivated and guided his students to reach their educational goals. We admire his tenacity, and we’re extremely grateful to call him a School on Wheels tutor.

Carlie Whittaker, Student Support Coordinator

I was inspired to volunteer as a School on Wheels tutor due to my belief that education provides a low-risk, high yield opportunity to be successful regardless of background and past history.

A memorable experience with my student was when he texted me out of the blue that he would like to be a medical doctor. It is remarkably interesting and relevant to note that I am also a medical student but I have always made sure to not directly influence his career path. If anything, I imagined I would have discouraged him as I shared with him some of my academic struggles and the amount of commitment I had devoted to achieving my goals. In fact, we had established that he would not seek a career related to science, technology, and mathematics due to his lack of interest in these subjects even though he academically excelled in them. However, I think he has been highly influenced by the pandemic both from a scientific and health/social disparity aspect as his family was affected. And of course, it is possible that I might have had a tiny bit of influence too!

Working as a volunteer tutor is a great way to leave a positive footprint in the life of a young person. For some students, these tutoring sessions are a rare opportunity to connect with a role model figure and it is quite evident to me that this can have a profound effect on their development, both in academics and their personal lives.

« return to list

Rosemary Shinbane

I could not have picked a more well-deserving tutor for the Volunteer of the Year award. Rosemary has gone above and beyond tutoring one-on-one with two siblings. She works with each student twice a week and has formed an incredible bond with both of them. She has faced her fair share of challenges but never gave up, just kept pushing forward. Rosemary continues to make significant academic breakthroughs with her kids and they cannot get enough of her. Both kids just absolutely adore her. It has been such a delight getting to know Rosemary and I am so fortunate to have her volunteering in my region. She has a heart of gold!

-Kristina Rakosh, Regional Coordinator

Once I heard so many of the amazing  stories from current and past students of School on Wheels I knew that I wanted to be a part of this great organization. I have always been grateful for the wonderful education that our children had, and wanted to be a hands on part of making a difference in other children’s learning experiences as well.

I began my journey as a tutor at the Skid Row Learning Center which I truly enjoyed. Once Covid -19 changed all of our lives, I was determined to pivot to one-on-one tutoring, which I discovered was an awesome experience. The most rewarding part of tutoring is getting to know students in a more personal way and to see the pride they have with each new accomplishment.

I work with two children, a sister and brother ages 7 and 5. I think the best memories have been when I am able to connect with them despite doing so from Zoom.  During our sessions, once our “school work” is completed, we dance together and send each other pictures and I love that these meetings bring some fun to our tutoring time!

For those of you who are contemplating becoming a tutor, I would say that despite all of the challenges that will be a part of your experience, that the joy of connecting with your students will impact you in ways you will always treasure. You will make such a difference in their lives!

« return to list

Acacia Shyr

Acacia is a highly skilled tutor and is exceptionally dedicated to helping her students become life-long learners. She practices a pedagogy of love and puts in the work to build deep and transformative relationships with her students.  Acacia’s compassion, thoughtfulness, and dedication are absolutely outstanding, and it is my honor to nominate her as a School On Wheels volunteer of the year for the West Los Angeles region. 

-Alex Toutant, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I’ve always been looking for a meaningful volunteering opportunity to be directly involved in an organization’s mission. During my time at UCLA, I discovered that I really enjoy teaching, so I set out to find a way to give back to the education system that gave me so much. When I found School on Wheels online, I was hopeful that it would be what I’ve been looking for. It is nearly impossible to find volunteering where you feel needed, and there isn’t a huge barrier to entry. It has been such a blessing to have been a volunteer tutor for the past 3 years, and I hope I never stop.

The most rewarding aspects of tutoring include the freedom to explore students’ interests, be their strength when they feel weak, offer dependability, and bring them closer to realizing their purpose through education. In school, there’s often little to no time to ask students one-on-one about how they feel about school, what their interests are, and reveal the importance and wonder behind seemingly mundane assignments. 

One of the most memorable experiences I’ve had as a tutor happened a few weeks ago when my student (a 5-year-old) told me that she loved coming to tutoring because it was fun. She has such a sweet spirit, and it made me so happy to hear that I am making a life-long positive impact in her life. In six months, I’ve seen her go from knowing the alphabet to asking if we can learn to spell “friends,” a much more advanced word than her current level. 

My advice to new volunteers would be to listen to your student actively. Outside of tutoring, they may rarely get the impression that what they have to say is important. Love is spelled T-I-M-E. We aren’t regular tutors whose main goals are to reach certain academic markers. We are role models and dependable guides who journey with our students toward loving learning and using it to live out their passions.

« return to list

Meng Liev

I nominated Meng as a volunteer of the year for her amazing leadership in working with 2 students and meeting as many times as possible with her students, even up to twice per week. Meng engages students to participate in various School on Wheels programs, competitions, and scholarships. She has been a great advocate helping make sure a Spanish-speaking family gains the correct information and stays engaged. Meng has also helped in communication with tutors who are working with siblings and taken on a leadership role to help the students’ families! 

-Genesis Torres, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I am grateful for my life and want to give back to this country that has taken me and my family in. I volunteered to be a School on Wheels tutor for young children because I love nurturing curious minds.

I was thrilled to learn that my student had studied his division notes that I made him take when he kept saying he doesn’t understand.  He started our tutoring session as the tutor and taught me division from his notes.  He was so proud to show me that he had grasped a difficult concept, and I was happy to see him happy.  

The saying of “the more we give the more we get” rings true for me. The joy of helping a child is priceless.  It’s an exercise in opening our hearts, appreciating the little things in life and growing as a person.  It has been good for my mind, body and soul to know that I can make a difference in positive ways. 

« return to list

Phillip Chung

From the day Phillip joined School on Wheels, his passion, and enthusiasm for helping our students really stood out.  Shortly after he was matched with his first student, asked if he could tutor more students (he now tutors four students).  I’ve had the pleasure of watching Phillip tutor and his students adore him, they really look up to him.  Not only do his students adore him, but the parents of his students really appreciate him and feel like he’s a part of their family.  In addition to tutoring, Phillip has been incredibly active in other ways, including creating a Volunteer Peer group for which tutors in the IE come together, meet, exchange ideas and support one another.  Phillip is always looking for ways to enhance what he does with his students as well as ways to make a deeper impact overall with School on Wheels.  Phillip is one of the kindest human beings I know with a heart of gold.  His passion for his students, their parents and the community is huge.  I’m incredibly grateful for Phillip. He deserves this distinction so very much.

-Stephanie Swenseid, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I often met homeless families through volunteering at a food pantry and always wished there was more I can do more for them, especially the children. I was raised with a strong emphasis on education, so I believed it was my duty to leverage this background in helping displaced students reach their highest potentials. School on Wheels sounded like the perfect opportunity to pursue this interest of mine.

Being able to be a long-term resource for students has been the most rewarding aspect. Not only do I get to see my students grow both academically and emotionally over time, but I can also support them on both their good and bad days. Through all of this, I have the opportunity to grow alongside my students.

One fond memory was when Eliana, a 3rd grade student, asked me to keep being her tutor when her family found permanent housing and transitioned out of School on Wheels’ services. It meant so much that she enjoyed our sessions as much as I did, and it was a stark reminder of our tangible impact on our students.

If you are considering being a volunteer tutor, do it! It has been such a life-changing experience. You do not need any teaching experience—just the passion and desire to serve our youth—and will have the chance to grow alongside your student.

Mar 1

Volunteers of the Month (3/21)

Helen Kwon

Region 10

I decided to nominate Helen because she always goes above and beyond with her students. Helen is currently matched with 2 students at one of our sites in Tustin and she meets with these students a total of 6 times a week! She puts so much passion behind the work she does with her students and it is truly inspiring.

Aeriell Woodhams, Volunteer Support Coordinator

As a former high school English teacher I can supplement my own children’s education, and I wanted to do that for others. I was troubled by the disparities in education, especially during the pandemic. I could see the lack of education my own children were receiving.

I’ve mostly worked with older children and I enjoy the rapport with them, but sometimes I don’t necessarily see the academic improvements as readily. Today I’ve been working with my current 1st grader for just over 2 months and I can already see huge gains in her literacy. She’s actually reading!

If tutoring a child in need sounds interesting, try it — one on one tutoring really works! Just devoting one hour per week makes a real difference in that child’s current life & future possibilities.

Tazin Yunis

Region 10

I nominated Tazin because of the impact she is making on the high school students she works with. Tazin is currently working with four high school students and helping with college applications. All four have applied to their respective colleges and completed their FAFSA. The impact Tazin is making is amazing and is going to make a lasting impact on the students.

Aeriell Woodhams, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I have been a “volunteer” all my life; in my faith community, voluntary service is heavily encouraged and regarded as a responsibility and obligation to our fellow citizens on this Earth. I believe education is of the utmost importance and something we can carry with us, no matter what life may throw at us. It’s the one thing that can’t be taken away from us, and if need be it can be used to start all over, whether we have to change states, countries, or continents.

By volunteering with School on Wheels, I can use my skills, time, and energy to help at-risk students improve and excel in their studies and make strides towards changing their futures. After tutoring students in math, reading, science, and English for over 7 years, in the fall of 2020 I started helping high school seniors with their college and FAFSA applications. After researching and going through the process with my own daughter, I felt experienced enough to help advise our School on Wheels students with putting their best foot forward on their applications. I am a CPA by trade, so helping our students obtain financial aid to make their college dreams a reality is very rewarding. I am excited to see them enter the next phase in life and blessed to have been a small part of their journey.

No matter how busy or stretched you might feel you are, there is always time to give back. Find a cause that is important to you and dedicate some time to it. If supporting students experiencing homelessness speaks to your heart, I highly recommend getting involved with School on Wheels. One hour a week is easy to give and could make such a difference in a student’s life. During COVID, volunteering is as easy as logging into an online platform and meeting with your student virtually, you don’t even need to leave your home! Get involved and make a difference!

Raya Smith

Online

Raya has demonstrated patience, dedication, and persistence in supporting her student, who has special needs. Raya tutors twice per week, regularly researches resources to help Marcos thrive in school, and always models care and understanding in her sessions with him. We are lucky to have Raya in the School on Wheels family!

Emma Gerch, Digital Learning Specialist

After COVID-19 hit the U.S. last spring and we were all sent home from college, I was seeing a lot of stories online about younger kids who were struggling with keeping up in online learning. After doing a bit of research, I found School on Wheels online. I fell in love with the mission and wanted to do my part to help tutor those in need!

I always smile whenever Marcos gets really excited about learning or sharing something with me about his life! He loves to talk about animals, and we always learn about a new animal after doing math during a session. One time, he pulled a guinea pig out of his hood and it surprised me so much I couldn’t stop laughing! He definitely loves his animals 🙂

If you’re considering volunteering with School on Wheels, do it! The staff is super supportive of their tutors, and the kids are awesome to work with! School on Wheels provides a fairly low-time-commitment way to make a difference in a student’s life!

Judith Seki

Region 8

Judy is one of the most patient, kind, and helpful tutors I have met. She has an amazing way of connecting with and relating to her student. She understands the struggles our students face and is always willing to be an advocate for their rights. Working with Judy is an inspirational experience!

Manmeet Sodhi, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I learned about School on Wheels in 2015, while I was a teacher at Soledad Enrichment Action Charter High School. I was reading the L.A. Times and saw the obituary for Agnes Stevens, the founder of School on Wheels. Impressed with her story and the organization’s mission, I decided that volunteering for them would be one of my retirement projects. I retired in 2016, and soon thereafter joined the School on Wheels family. I love teaching and have a special appreciation and love for students who have experienced barriers that have prevented them from having an ideal educational experience. Although I retired from my teaching job, I never want to stop teaching!

Through the years, I have had so many experiences that made me smile! Some are funny, and others are pure joy in students’ accomplishments. I recall an essay written by a high school student who had to name one fictional character she would like to meet, and what she would like to do with that person. She chose Cinderella, and stated that she would like to do chores with her!

It is a very rewarding experience to see how you can make a difference in someone’s life by tutoring. I always feel that I end up learning the most!

Shant Khamo

Region 9

Shant had my region’s second-highest number of sessions held last quarter! He went above and beyond, meeting with his student two times a week. Shant hit the ground running, tutoring in any way possible, and continues to make sure his student has the opportunity to complete his work when they are able to meet together online!

Genesis Torres, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I was inspired to start volunteering because I felt that School on Wheels offered me an outlet where I could make a genuinely positive influence on the upcoming generation.

I have found it most gratifying when Amari had a moment of realization where he obtained a better understanding of a subject. One memorable experience we had was during the beginning of tutoring, working on his math skills with an online math game. Amari truly enjoys games in general and loves to compete!

For anyone considering volunteering with School on Wheels, I would tell them to immediately sign up to start tutoring because it truly has a very positive effect on both myself and my student. I am extremely happy with this program, and I have made a new friend in my student, Amari.

Feb 2

Volunteers of the Month (2/21)

Nima Kharrazi

Region 7

Nima radiates compassion and generosity to everyone he comes across – his student, their family, and other tutors. He constantly strives to be a better tutor and mentor every day. Nima’s kindness and dedication has impacted so many students and he continues to foster a desire to learn in his current student!

Maxine Faustino, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I started volunteering because I wanted to give back and School on Wheels was the closest organization to my heart. There is one main thing that has kept me volunteering for almost 8 years now: I love seeing the look on a student’s face when they finally understand the thing they’ve been struggling with. It’s like they have discovered a new way to approach any problem, and will use that knowledge for the rest of their lives.

I remember one day my student Nayven and I were done with his math and were discussing dragons (of course). He shared some pictures of dragons with me, and I showed him how to set the correct ratio for his dragon’s head, based it on some simple Algebraic principles. He really enjoyed learning how to draw a better and more realistic dragon, and I got to sneak in some more math for him.

If being a volunteer tutor sounds interesting at all, give it a try. It will honestly change the way you feel, the way you see things, and the way you approach life. It seems like a big reward for 1-hour a week, but it’s true. My only regret is that I didn’t start this sooner.

Mia Kenworthy

Region 6

Mia is a gifted tutor, mentor and role model. She has a beautiful ability to show deep empathy and compassion for every student she tutors. She makes learning fun and her students adore her. I’m so fortunate to have her as a volunteer and her students are so lucky to have her as their tutor.

Stephanie Swenseid, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I started volunteering because I think it’s important to use my education and the opportunities that I’ve had to help kids and teenagers who have not had the same advantages. On top of that, I love working with kids and find it rewarding to watch my students grow, both academically and as people.

My student has taught me to laugh more and to not take myself too seriously. She showed me how funny and clever children can be, catching me off guard with her witty jokes. She has also taught me to celebrate the small wins that come over time with tutoring. I feel so lucky to be Laura’s tutor!

Before COVID-19 hit, I was tutoring at a boys’ group home in Pomona. One day, a couple of the students were asking the tutors about ourselves, and eventually asked us how much we get paid for tutoring them. We explained that we’re volunteers, and we tutor because we enjoy it. After that encounter, several of the students acted more warmly towards us, knowing that we come to tutor them each week for nothing in return. That is one of my favorite memories from my time at School on Wheels.

I cannot recommend School on Wheels highly enough! Working with our students can be challenging, but it is also very rewarding. It takes so little of your time but makes such a lasting impact on your student. School on Wheels has been a transformative experience for me, and I recommend it to anyone looking to help out in their community and make a difference in the life of a child experiencing homelessness.

Kyra Rude

Region 8

Kyra is an incredible volunteer who is always willing to lend a helping hand, whether it is stuffing backpacks or helping at a holiday party at the shelter. On top of that, she is a fantastic tutor who has built a wonderful relationship with her student and is his greatest champion and cheerleader. Kyra not only has a positive influence on her student, she also inspires me with her joyful dedication and outlook!

Chris Walsh, Regional Coordinator

I was looking for a volunteer opportunity and a way to spend more time with children, and School on Wheels is the perfect fit! I love being around children; their energy and excitement is definitely the most rewarding part for me. It really makes me feel special when my student wants to show me his latest artwork.

If you’re considering volunteering with School on Wheels, don’t think about it any longer, just do it! It is so rewarding to interact with these young people and exciting to watch them progress. The time commitment is surprisingly small for the impact that it makes in these students’ lives.

Dec 22

Volunteers of the Month – 1/21

My Nguyen

Region 1

My is a very dedicated tutor who takes her work seriously. She is reliable, kind, patient, and always there for her students. My comes prepared for every single session and bonds with her students effortlessly. She has been matched with multiple students throughout the year and greatly impacted each and every one of them.

Manmeet Sodhi, Regional Coordinator

After graduating from college I was looking for a volunteer opportunity. I had worked as a tutor for a few years and really enjoyed that experience, so I thought School on Wheels would be a perfect place for me.

It’s been great! I always feel so happy when working with my students, especially when they actively engage in the learning process and creatively answer my questions.

For anyone considering becoming a volunteer tutor, I would say, “Go for it!” You will have chances to gain a lot of valuable experiences and to become a better version of yourself.

Darren Sepanek

Region 2

Darren is an incredible and dedicated volunteer. She always goes the extra mile for her student and always has a positive attitude. Despite the pandemic, Darren has remained committed to her student and the mission of School on Wheels. We are so grateful to have her on our team.

Carlie Whittaker, Student Support Coordinator

I learned about School on Wheels 6 years ago through a friend. At first I volunteered simply because I love children, but I quickly came to love working with and meeting so many amazing kids and their families.

Sometimes tutoring takes a bit of creativity. I once tutored a very bright high school senior who was taking an AP math class, and since math is not my strong suit, there wasn’t a lot I could help him with. We would watch lessons on Kahn Academy together and I’d have him teach me what he learned. This helped to some extent, but when it came to the really hard stuff, we would call my daughter, a math wiz who happened to be living in Australia at the time! Sometimes you just have to call in the right resources, no matter where they are!

If you are considering volunteering as a tutor, don’t worry about being a great teacher/tutor; that’s only one part of what you can bring to these kids. If you love working with children, it is an extremely rewarding and fun opportunity to make a real difference.

Claudia Bloch

Region 3

Claudia is a superstar volunteer and tutors two students! She is committed to providing her students with high-quality academic support and is a tremendous education advocate.

Alex Toutant, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I started volunteering because I wanted to make a difference in a child’s academic life. One experience I had that made me smile is when my student and I did jumping jacks between assignments. Gandhi once said that there is nothing more satisfying than losing yourself to the service of others.

Mary Ann Mailloux

Region 4

Mary Ann has been a dedicated tutor for a few years now. She loves tutoring and she has made meaningful connections with all of the students she’s worked with. Her students love her and look forward to meeting with her every week! She is consistent, caring, passionate, and loves what she does!

Kristina Rakosh, Regional Coordinator

After I retired from working as a teacher a school librarian in 2015, I looked around for some volunteer opportunities and found School on Wheels. It’s been a great fit.

I completed training and met with my first student in April of 2016. Since then I have worked with lots of wonderful students and alongside inspiring volunteers. I have tutored in three different shelters in Long Beach, and now I am working with kids online. I prefer in-person tutoring, but we can still share jokes, lessons, and help with homework.

School on Wheels has given me lots of resources and lessons to use with my students. I never arrive empty handed!

Ava Tran

Region 7

Ava has been a tutor with School on Wheels for over a year and a half, and is an amazing tutor! She works with three different students and has built such a strong rapport with each of them. When the transition to online learning became overwhelming, she stepped in and helped her students get back on track.

Jesse Pasquan, Volunteer Support Coordinator

My middle school required a small amount of community service each year, and to fill the hours, I worked as a referee for fencing tournaments at my fencing club. I realized it was really fun to work with kids, and I wanted to do more outreach with the time I had. With a bit of research I found School on Wheels, which turned out to be a great fit. I really like their mission and what they are doing.

One time I was with my student and we decided to play Connect 4 online. We played game after game, and he beat me every single time. I kept on insisting on playing another game, but it was hopeless. Even though I lost, thinking back on that always makes me laugh.

If you’re thinking about volunteering as a tutor, do it! It’s extremely fulfilling and super fun. It sometimes requires a lot of patience, but it always ends up being a blast.