I nominated Melinda because I can always count on her to be consistent, dedicated, have a huge smile on her face, and a day brightener for the kids she tutors. I am very lucky to have her in Region 7!
Riley H., Team Leader
I learned about School on Wheels after searching online about different ways to give back to my community. I was already volunteering with the San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission.
I started volunteering because I have been fortunate enough to have had the ease and convenience of having my parents provide me with resources like school supplies and homework help when I needed it. Without the resources they have granted me, I wouldn’t have been successful in all the endeavors I have embarked on up to this point. I realize how lucky I have been throughout my life and wanted to give back to those who have just as much, if not more potential than I, so they, too, can accomplish their goals.
One experience with a student that made me smile was when I was working with a brilliant 11 year old boy as part of the School on Wheels Summer Reading Program. He met me and the other tutors with a lot of resistance in the beginning, but he just needed to be approached little patience and kept accountable. By the end of the program he was reading more pages from his book than we planned for him to read during each week and was able to finish the book with more concentration than I saw in any other student that also participated in the program. I’m glad that I was able to bring out some of the greatness this student has to offer the world.
Manmeet has a positivity about her that is completely contagious. She has so much passion for tutoring and goes above and beyond for her students. She really embodies everything we strive to do here at School on Wheels!
Riley H., Team Leader
I have always believed that to bring about a change in our society we need to work on our children. Unless we educate them, we cannot bring real changes. Each child deserves to be sculpted by education so they can not just take on the world, but also contribute to make it a better place. My focus, therefore, was on the ones that are unable to get proper education due to their circumstances. That’s why School on Wheels seemed like a perfect place to volunteer.
Tutoring is the most fulfilling experience in life — you get to equip kids with knowledge, love, hope, and wisdom. You are giving them something that can never be taken away from them, no matter what. Also, you don’t need fancy degrees to become a volunteer tutor. All you need is a bit of passion and the internet 🙂
Make sure that the education is at your students pace, not at your own. And don’t forget to have a bit of fun, it can definitely improve the experience for them. It’s far too often that children don’t have the resources to complete an education – the platform they can use to advance themselves in life. School on Wheels is an organization that tries to equalize that difference, and I wanted to be a part of that.
I nominated Joelle or her dedication and commitment to her student. As a high school student, she showed an extraordinary maturity and understanding. Her students have grown to trust her and bond with her. She is a dependable and reliable tutor, and a wonderful mentor!
Danait B., Team Leader
I started volunteering, honestly, because I needed to fulfill my requirements for school. I was trying to find something that I’d enjoy doing, and over the past couple years that I’ve been volunteering with School on Wheels, it’s become more than just a requirement. I’ve built a close bond with my student, and it’s been such a privilege to watch her grow and make progress.
If someone was thinking about becoming a volunteer tutor, I’d first say thank you for taking their time and energy to do so. There are no doubt some harder sessions, when the students aren’t focusing and can’t perform their homework as well as usual, but overall, the sessions are so rewarding and well worth the effort.
I started volunteering because I saw the gap in academic support between different socioeconomic levels within my own high school and I felt that I needed to be part of the solution to ending this gap.
One experience that made me smile was when my student read a whole book with no help from me and I saw how proud of himself he was for completing it.
Carla is extremely creative in meeting her student where she’s at. She is really good at incorporating her student’s interests to make learning fun and relevant for her. This is especially challenging to do in an online tutoring context. Carla goes above and beyond to connect with her student remotely by mailing her books that they read together.
Emma G., Coordinator
I was looking for a way to contribute to my community when I found School on Wheels. Living downtown you see the devastation on a daily basis due to homelessness. It’s a terrible cycle some people just can’t get out of. I feel that education is the most important thing to help break this cycle. But education comes in so many ways, most importantly to be a critical thinker, a free thinker, to learn to ask questions and have the confidence to stand up for yourself and clearly navigate the challenges they will face in their lives.
I became aware of School on Wheels through my dear friend Catherine Meek. Once I became aware of School on Wheels and the contribution this organization makes to stop the cycle of homelessness by educating children and providing hope, I wanted to be a part of something that makes this change so I started to volunteer. Catherine is my role model of someone who is making a difference in this world, selflessly and with a tremendous commitment, and I wanted to support her endeavors by giving to this worthy cause. When we worked together to redo the learning center with new floors and painted walls — to see the excitement on the kids faces the next day when they saw their new space made all the hard work worth it. Year after year, School on Wheels continues to enlist more volunteers and educate more students who are now given hope of a different and better future. If you are considering becoming a volunteer tutor, know that you are becoming part of an organization that is the real thing. Every effort, every penny, and everyone who works there is dedicated to making a difference in these kids lives. It is an honor to be able to assist this organization to do what it does.
Victor has been a dedicated Tutor Coordinator with School on Wheels for the past couple of years. He always go above and beyond for the students he works with. – Kristina Rakosh, Region 4 Coordinator
I learned about School on Wheels searching for an organization that strictly served the homeless population. Having previously worked with food banks and other organizations that assist in minimizing the hardships associated with homelessness, I got to see a side of homelessness that often goes unnoticed, which is the impact it has on children. I couldn’t help but feel compelled to do something. So, I made it a point to find an organization that would allow me to have a direct impact on helping break the cycle of poverty that so many children face, and School on Wheels has definitely been that organization. For the last two years I’ve tutored at a group home that consists of 5-6 high school aged boys. As one would imagine, every session is not always the most productive — but I’m constantly reminded that for children who have had to face harsh circumstances, and who often feel that they’ve been let down by family, institutions or society itself, being there on a consistent basis is the biggest service we can provide for these children. It reiterates to them that they aren’t forgotten, that they do matter and that they can change their circumstances. It’s been absolutely amazing watching my students mature into young men who believe in themselves, and I can’t thank School on Wheels enough for the support and opportunity to do so. If you are thinking about becoming a volunteer tutor, do it! These kids need our support.
Albert is A) Flexible — tutored at four very different locations in 2018; B) Dedicated — showed up consistently each week to tutor; and C) Passionate — always provides helpful feedback after each session and asks for additional resources to help his students. – Ian Chan, Program Administrator
I learned about School on Wheels from a friend who was also considering becoming an online tutor. I started volunteering for School on Wheels after learning more about the educational circumstances of homeless children. I realized that not only do these children have “gaps” in their education, but they also need to continue learning in order to achieve their goals in the future and end a cycle of homelessness. Overall, I also understood how lucky other students (including myself) are to have educational opportunities that are often taken for granted, and so I wanted to contribute in any way I could to help School on Wheels students take greater control of their learning. One experience that made me really proud and happy to be a tutor for School on Wheels was when I was working with a student on how to write an essay. In a single lesson, she learned how to structure an entire argumentative essay. At the end of our session, she appeared a lot more comfortable with her writing abilities than when we first started working. Later, her school counselor even told me how excited this girl felt after our lesson. Experiences like these continually support my belief that School on Wheels students have the same eagerness and capability to learn as other students in the country, and that’s why I am always glad to volunteer. Although there may be a few difficulties, such as time availability and technical problems (if you are an online tutor), volunteering for School on Wheels is a great experience and completely worth it. If you enjoy teaching and working with students, tutoring is a great activity, and every student you tutor will benefit. Even if you are a little hesitant about making a commitment or feel a little awkward at first, just give it a try! The staff at School on Wheels provide invaluable resources to help you with your tutoring sessions, so there’s always support if you need it. And lastly, in most cases, tutoring for School on Wheels will also allow you to learn something new about yourself.
I nominated Livvy and Alessandra Gonzalez because they go above and beyond in every aspect for our students. Every week, they spend 2-3 evenings at Thomas House in Garden Grove helping in whatever aspect is needed. Livvy comes prepared every week with her bag of learning materials and I have seen her charm teenagers into actively learning. Aly is a natural with kids (and her being a teenager herself!) and is so passionate about helping in every way she can. I nominated them for Volunteer of the Year as a team because that’s how they work. They’re a team and they both bring so much passion to the organization. – Rachael Christenson, Region 9 Coordinator
Alessandra’s school does an amazing job of keeping parents and students informed of potential volunteer opportunities. The opportunity to volunteer for School on Wheels is posted on their website. We have always tried to help our community with whatever we could — small things like donating clothes, jackets, food, etc. Alessandra was already looking into volunteering outside of the school, and when we came across the information for School on Wheels, we thought that this would be good fit for the both of us to continue to work together and give back to the community. Looking into the faces of the kids makes us smile each and every time. For us, tutoring seems more of a chance to “hang out” with the kids, while getting some work done. We smile whenever the kids finish their homework, finally understand their schoolwork, or when they find a book that truly interests them. Once, there was a student we tutored who was on track when it came to her schoolwork. She was very much into music, poetry, and, for some reason, spiders. We challenged her to write a poem from a spider’s perspective, something that she had never thought to do, and the flicker in her eyes warmed our hearts. One hour a week can make a huge impact in the life of a child. We encourage anyone interested in volunteering to see if School on Wheels is the right fit for them.
Jeanine came to us as an intern and I’ve been grateful to have her on my team ever since, both as an intern and as a volunteer tutor. She could have moved on after her first internship cycle ended, but instead re-upped her assignment with us. At the end of last year, Jeanine’s internship with School on Wheels finally drew to a close, but she has stayed on as a tutor coordinator, continuing to be an endless support for our tutors and students in sites around Orange County. I am grateful to rely on her as a dedicated tutor. Congratulations again, Jeanine, for being the 2018 Volunteer of the Year for Region 10! – Ana Gutierrez, Region 10 Coordinator
I first learned about School on Wheels while looking for a non profit where I can intern. My school has a resource link that has hundreds of non profit agencies available to us. School on Wheels caught my attention because of their mission and how flexible the hours were. As a full time worker and part time student, I was always nervous to volunteer somewhere because of my crazy schedule. When I found out that I could volunteer in the evenings, I was excited. Education has always been an important part of my life and reading about what School on Wheels stood for made me want to get involved. Over the past year, I’ve had many experiences with students that have made me smile. One in particular was when I was helping tutor a third grader with Math. By some miracle, I’ve always understood math. That was one subject I never struggled within school. We sat down and worked on rounding decimals. We were working on his homework and I could tell he wasn’t understanding, at one point guessing when to round up or round down. I got a piece a paper and drew ten happy faces in a row and added a star on the 6th-10th happy faces and told him if the number landed on the happy faces that had stars, we were going to round up and if they didn’t have stars we would round down. After trying this a couple times, finishing homework and extra worksheets, I could tell it finally clicked in him and once I felt confident enough that he understood a bit more I told him we would move on. He then said to me “Thanks for helping me understand this” with a huge smile in his face which of course melted my heart and made me smile for the rest of the day as well. If someone was thinking about becoming a volunteer tutor, I would tell them to do it. I was really nervous about becoming a tutor because I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to connect with the students and afraid I wouldn’t know the material well enough to help them. That nervousness went away the first day that I started tutoring; both the School on Wheels staff/volunteers and students were amazing. When I came across material that I had never seen in my life, with the help of other volunteer tutors (and my trusty friend Google), I was able to understand the material well enough to explain it to the student. I leave every session feeling happy and proud of not only myself but the student that I tutor.
Sasana’s contagious personality and ability to make anyone smile is just one of the reasons why she is so amazing. Her dedication to her students, the volunteers, and School on Wheels is something I really admire. In my opinion, there is not someone who deserves this honor more than her! – Riley Hennessy, Region 1 Coordinator
I learned about School on Wheels through my friend Evan, who has been a volunteer tutor for over nine years. He encouraged me, knowing how much I love children and education. He assured that I would love volunteering as a tutor for homeless children, and he was absolutely right. The best part of my tutoring time is seeing how a little encouragement and stability goes a long way. One of my favorite experiences happened during the summer of this year, with two separate students experiencing the same challenge. Two 3rd grade students were really struggling with reading. They were both at the point of saying “I just don’t like to read” and avoiding it at all costs. Each of them had a younger sibling that read really well, and would tease them about their struggles, which I could see hurt these students. I did all I could to try to keep them interested, usually sharing the reading (they read a page, then I read the next). In a shorter amount of time than I expected, they both came to that moment where they had enough confidence in themselves that they read through an entire page or two of a story, often checking on me to see my expression when they read through more words than they believed they could! They both learned to enjoy reading, finally making it past the struggle to simply sound the words out, to actually comprehending the tales that they were reading aloud! That feeling is the best reward for volunteering my time. I you are considering becoming a volunteer coordinator, go for it!! Dive right in!! There is so much support from the School on Wheels staff and on the website, you don’t need to have previous experience to be a tutor and help a struggling student; you just need to have hope, and that’s easy to give, and one hour a week!
Varag has been my go to Tutor Coordinator for the last couple of years. He is one of the most reliable people I know, so determined, and dedicated to his students. He really embodies the mission of School on Wheels and it has been an absolute pleasure to work alongside him! – Riley Hennessy, (Former) Region 7 Coordinator
I was first introduced to School on Wheels by my college advisor, and after reading the organization’s mission statement, I realized that it was a cause I wanted to be a part of. Soon after joining, I founded a School on Wheels club at my college campus to recruit more volunteers for tutoring. Now, three years later, I engage in group tutoring where there can be anywhere between one and ten kids on any particular week. The students’ willingness to learn brings a smile to my face every week, and even though I have been volunteering for three years, my passion for our mission burns as strong as it did the first day. For anyone interested in joining our fantastic organization, please do, as it is a great way to make a meaningful impact on a child’s life by fostering their education to promote a positive future.
Nick has been a wonderful tutor for the past two years that I have known him. He had been a tutor at Delilu, at an emergency group home for girls. Both the girls and the staff adore him and loved his commitment and his support. We have gotten nothing but positive feedback from the staff. He is reliable, creative, and resilient. He is very committed to School on Wheels. He participates in different ways other than just tutoring. He is a joy to work with. – Danait Berhe, Region 2 Volunteer Support Coordinator
I learned about School on Wheels while at a friend’s house party. I talked with a stranger there, and he mentioned that he was volunteering with the organization. I’d been looking for a place to volunteer, so I asked him a flurry of questions about his time there. The next day, I reached out to School on Wheels. I was already working as a full-time tutor in Los Angeles, but my clients were usually from well-off families. I felt uneasy that my skill set was being used merely as a privilege of the wealthy. I was looking for a way to help those more in need. A recent student — let’s call her Fatima — was having a rough transition. In our first session together, she was very standoffish. She told me outright that she didn’t need or want anything to do with me. Week by week, things started to change. She’d answer a question about her life, about her school work, about her favorite TV show. Three weeks in, she completed some math problems I wrote out. By the time it was our last session, we sat side-by-side, talking openly, preparing her for an upcoming American Studies final. I know I only played a small part in her transformation, but it was extremely moving to witness her go from a place of pain to one of trust. Being a pillar of stability and support week by week is deeply important in these students’ lives. Regardless of a student’s academic progress, you are making a difference.
Alex has been tutoring in my region for 8 months now and from the very beginning, her passion and commitment for helping children with their education and going out of her way to make learning fun always stood out to me. Alex is a natural leader and instantly took on the role of Tutor Coordinator at the United Way (the location where tutoring takes place). Her ability to be an incredible role model to students and collaborate with the other tutors at this location asbeen an incredible asset to all. Alex has a passion for helping children. She deeply believes in the power of education, and that passion goes into everything she does during weekly tutoring sessions. Alex is amazing and I’m go grateful for her every day. – Stephanie Swenseid, Region 6 Coordinator
I first discovered School on Wheels through an internet search of volunteer opportunities, narrowing it down to education and then children. I had been wanting to get involved with a volunteer organization after I completed my MBA and had more time to accommodate it, but I had no idea what I wanted to get involved with. Once I began researching School on Wheels, I was shocked at how many homeless families and children there were in my area alone. Education is important to me and I realized I could make a difference tutoring, mentoring and helping them succeed any way I can. There was a student at United Way in Corona who I was sure had no interest in connecting with any of the tutors, always talked back, etc. I couldn’t get through to him but still gave him attention, thinking eventually he’d come around. One day when I was leaving after the session, he stuck his head out of the doorway and yelled “Are you coming back tomorrow?” and I realized that even the students who seem uninterested in your presence look forward to you being there. Committing a small portion of your time to helping others is a win-win situation because you realize how much power you have to help make people’s lives a little bit better. Students in this situation are doing their best and with a little motivation and your help, you can help them succeed in school, make friends and form relationships, and increase their self-esteem. School on Wheels’ staff offers incredible support and constantly reminds you that you ARE making a difference, even if at times you might not feel that way.
This (married) tutoring duo have had a tremendous influence on various students. They come in weekly to assist all grade levels in multiple subjects. They also supervise free time and contribute in numerous ways such as building furniture/bookshelves and providing snacks. After speaking to their friends and family about their experience, Sahand and Pouye received donations of science games and activities for the kids. The games were a hit, inspiring us to convert an office into our STEM Room, ensuring that the kids could have space to explore and grow in their love of the sciences. – Allison Maldonado, Skid Row Learning Center Coordinator
We first heard about School on Wheels from a friend who was volunteering at the Skid Row Learning Center. When we learned about what School on Wheels provides, we felt that this could be a great opportunity for us to provide meaningful help to children in vulnerable situations, and for us to make a lasting impact in their lives. Seeing kids remembering us and getting excited when we show up every week makes us smile. I was once working with a middle-schooler on math, and though it was frustrating for him at first, he got a lot of work done by the end of that session, so much so that he was surprised himself, and excitedly said, “I’m really happy with myself.” At that moment, I thought to myself that this is really why I’m doing this; so that kids realize that they can do a lot more than they think, that they can build positive experiences and actualize their potential. By volunteering as a tutor, you will not only greatly help the children that desperately need it, but the experience of helping them will enrich your life, bring you joy, and teach you so many valuable lessons about yourself.
Helping others is something my grandma raised me to do and enjoy from a very young age. I’ve always enjoyed doing community service, so as soon as I moved back to LA, I googled for volunteering opportunities in my area. School on Wheels was one of the top hits, and I instantly connected with their mission. I chose School on Wheels because I have family who’ve been homeless and multiple family members that were deprived of proper (or any) education, because of economic, political and gender issues. Once I found School on Wheels, I knew this was a cause I could connect to and I wanted to be a part of it right away. I remember when one student had a sudden interest in programming; he announced it out of what felt like nowhere. However, I soon learned that his school was offering a programming class and he felt he couldn’t sign up because he didn’t own a computer at home. So instead, after school, we would watch Khan Academy videos on my laptop and learn about Java. On the first day, we created a snowman, which involved doing things he found difficult (algebra and typing), but he did it with ease. After he made a snowman with Java, he was beyond giddy and giggled for the rest of the session. That day, he took a little more interest in math and we started our application for a scholarship within School on Wheels and he eventually got himself his own laptop. To those considering becoming a volunteer tutor — DO IT! It’s an amazing feeling to be around these children and see the difference you’re bringing about over time. Just come with an open mind, expect to have your expectations blown (constantly), and remember to be positive and consistent! 🙂
I nominated Theresa because she is a dedicated, weekly volunteer who assists in the onboarding of all Region 5 volunteer tutors. Theresa coordinates and conducts all the phone interviews for volunteers in Downtown LA, Hollywood, Pasadena, and Altadena. She screens our applicants and supports them before they even start tutoring with School on Wheels! – Jesse Pasquan, Region 5 Coordinator
I learned about School on Wheels from the LAWorks newsletter. I had been looking for a volunteer opportunity for a while and their mission fit into my interests: homelessness and education. I have been volunteering for many years; I started with my daughter in school and continued looking for opportunities to help others. It is very important to me. One experience that makes me smile involved a student who was very resistant to tutoring and to me as his tutor. He was not happy the minute I walked in, but slowly we started to click. One day, after we finished a session, he asked his mom, “Can she come again tomorrow?” That was the moment we broke through that barrier. I would tell anyone considering volunteering as a tutor that you will make a difference in a young person’s life, even if you don’t think so. Do not underestimate how much you matter to these student’s lives. They do care.
Joe Carmona is nothing short of amazing. He joined our organization in the spring of 2018 and in less than a year has fundamentally changed the impact of School on Wheels in the Santa Barbara community. Every week, Joe visits the shelter not only to tutor his student, but to speak with children and their parents about our services, to provide backpacks and school supplies, and to introduce students to their new tutors. In addition, Joe checks in with other local tutors to ensure they are doing well. Joe does all of this in addition to being a full-time student at UCSB and working a part-time job. Because of Joe’s commitment, we have more students in Santa Barbara currently receiving services than ever before. I am proud not only to nominate Joe for Volunteer of the Year but also deeply proud to have met someone who exemplifies what it means to serve your community and change the world. – Angie Allmendinger, Region 8 Coordinator
I heard about School on Wheels from my mom. When I told of her I was looking for a way to give back, she suggested School on Wheels because she really enjoyed her experience as a tutor. I started volunteering about a year ago, when I got help from a tutor, for my own studies in college. It made such a difference, and I want to be that help for someone else. Almost every meeting with my student gives us both a reason to smile. The most memorable ‘smile’ occasions have been when my student makes a major break-through after we’ve been working on a concept for a while. When I first started with my student, we would spend the first 10-20 minutes doing sets of multiplication tables and I would time him. I kept the papers with the times and dates; when he and I go and look back at them, it is amazing how much he’s improved. He knows his times tables like the back of his hand now. The pride he had after seeing his improvement from 3 minutes to 30 seconds was palpable. To anyone thinking about becoming a volunteer tutor, definitely do it! It’s such a beneficial use of time and energy. The students gain so much and you can tell they feel really special to have a tutor. This is in addition to the personal gratification you get from helping the kids and seeing them improve! It may seem like the tutors are the only ones giving, but truly, tutors get just as much in return; the satisfaction of helping these students is unparalleled.
Kudos to our tutors at United Way in Corona for coming up with a great group project for the students they tutor! I’m so proud of all of you!
The idea was to have each student create a vision board which was divided into four parts. One part included fun facts about the student, second part included what they thought the may want to do for a career, third was their future goals and dreams and fourth was their plan of action to achieve their goals, etc.
Tutors assisted the students over the last several weeks, helping guide them as they designed their boards. Then students presented to the group their vision boards.
Many students who were once shy or unwilling to get up and speak in front of the group were now excited and wanting to share what they came up with. We witnessed so much growth with the students and were incredibly proud!
And to top it off….. We learned that one of our students who was failing many subjects improved his grades, going from F’s to B’s!
A HUGE heartfelt THANK YOU goes out to the tutors for pouring their hearts into helping these children develop a love of learning along with improved self-esteem.
Marianna tutors at a domestic violence emergency shelter and her Tutor Coordinator nominated because of her dedication and consistency to the students. The expectation is that a tutor would come one day, one hour a week, but Marianna regularly comes 2-3 times a week. -Ana, Volunteer Support Coordinator
Marianna Schroeder – I learned about School on Wheels through volunteermatch.org. After scrolling through a number of volunteer opportunities in my area, I found that School on Wheels was the perfect match for me. Regularly practicing philanthropy, empathy, and compassion is highly important to me, and I’m grateful to have witnessed the personal and educational impacts of these traits among students and tutors at School on Wheels.
In a recent tutoring session, a fifth grade student asked me insightful questions about college and told me he wanted to attend UCLA. It amazed me that while overcoming immense instability and difficulty in his life, he was already considering pursuing higher education and working diligently in our sessions to achieve academic success. This memory will always stay with me and make me smile.
Volunteering as a tutor with School on Wheels is a fulfilling, engaging, meaningful, unforgettable, and rewarding experience. It’s genuinely touching to see the joy that is brought to both students and tutors when students believe in themselves and their ability to succeed.
Becky and her tutoring partner, Alli, are two of the most dedicated, consistent, passionate, and patient tutors I could ask for. Each week, they work with a vulnerable group of teen girls at a group foster home. They plan amazing art projects and field trips and inspire not only the girls they work with but me as well. Thank you, Alli and Becky, for all that you do! -Angie, Regional Coordinator
Becky – A few years ago I had brain surgery that left me with some disabilities, but School on Wheels and the group home community has always accepted me as I am. I accept the girls at the group home for who they are too. Really, who could ask for anything more?
Allison Rowe – Tutoring at a group home constantly reminds me of the power of showing up. You can’t undo yesterday, and there’s no knowing what tomorrow will bring.This is especially true for our girls. Showing up, being flexible with how the lesson flows, and bringing creative energy is what builds trust and acceptance between everyone at the table. There are days that the most impactful lessons are the ones I take home about the strength of the human spirit. Every week is an opportunity to listen and learn. It is a true gift to be a part of this community.
Jeremy Agrusa – I was looking to volunteer online and found School on Wheels to be something I was compelled to be a part of. Starting I was a bit nervous. I didn’t know if I would be able to help all that much. I found out was that it’s not about knowing everything or being a teacher: it’s about being there for someone who needs the help. These students are smart and eager to learn, and sometimes they just need to be encouraged. It’s amazing to see the change in a student’s attitude when you congratulate them on the work they do. One of my students in particular does not like math. He would start to get overwhelmed by the amount of work on the page, so we simplified it. I showed him a few tricks that worked for me when I was young and it clicked for him. He got so excited with his progress and speed that he finished 80 problems in less than 20 minutes instead of hours. That’s what this program is about, showing these students that we are there for them and that they are capable of exceeding their own expectations.
Eric Garcia – I began working with School on Wheels through my work at Revolve. I’ve been helping to tutor Latin students at Casa Libre through Schools on Wheels. I try to help students in any way I can; I usually read in English or sketch with the students. I feel lucky to be helping tutor at this organization because I truly believe good change starts with youth. I feel fulfilled to help the students as best I can to reach their goals!
Charlotte Kim – While I grew up in Los Angeles, I didn’t think twice about what it meant to be able to enroll in SAT bootcamp or other enrichment programs during high school, let alone have a stable home. Joining the hip-hop club when I started college, however, initiated my interest in underserved communities and some of the issues they face. Since January, I have had the pleasure of sharing my passion for learning with tomorrow’s future leaders and thinkers at an emergency shelter. It is always gratifying to see how excited the students are when I arrive with the other tutors for group tutoring, where we practice anything from math to reading to art. Thanks to School on Wheels and their endless support, I now see how much talent, enthusiasm, and compassion exist in our city despite immense challenges.
Miriam Leserman – I have been with School on Wheels for about four and a half years now, and it has been one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had.
I was looking to do volunteer work and stumbled upon School on Wheels. Since the beginning I have worked as both a tutor and tutor coordinator at various locations.
I am currently at a domestic violence shelter. This location has been by far the most rewarding. Although I don’t get to work with the same children all the time, it has given me the opportunity to work with dozens of children and serve the community on a greater scale.
Lori Horhor – I completely love my experience online tutoring with School on Wheels! I love watching students reach their “a-ha” moment after struggling with the material for some time, because it demonstrates that hard work and practice always pays off. I realized that students look forward to meeting with their online tutor every week, which signifies that the relationship between tutor and student is extremely valuable in ways greater than simply academics. I hope that as an online tutor, I not only help my students understand their schoolwork, but also instill within them a curiosity and passion to learn and thrive.
Milan Narula – I began tutoring with School on Wheels in 2016. I tutor in a group setting at an emergency domestic violence shelter. I love that I get to meet and work with lots of different students. I’ve had so much fun with all of them! This past summer, a friend and I applied for, and won, a community grant to buy Chromebooks to teach coding to kids. From the very beginning, the students at the shelter loved coding and being on the computer, and the tutors loved teaching it. One family in particular (10th grade sister, 7th grade brother and 4th grade sister) were especially quick to pick up coding, and they challenged us because we had to keep coming up with new curriculum. It was fun and rewarding to see how much progress they made in such a short time, and I only hope they’re able to continue coding in their next home. Initially, the plan was for July to be our Month of Code, but the kids loved it so much that we continued until school started, and we hope to keep coding during the school year (whenever the kids are done with their schoolwork). I wish everyone could see the students’ enthusiasm and eagerness to learn — it’s the best part of being a School on Wheels tutor.
Riki Aihara – My experience with School on Wheels has been eye opening. I never knew the extent of how many kids and families face homelessness so close to my own home. I had this idea of the suburbs that excluded such problems and realized I had been naive. Being able to help and support these kids in any way possible has been both challenging at times and pure joy in others. I hope to continue making a difference in children’s lives with this great organization.
Thu-Anh Holton – I came across School on Wheels when I did an internet search for ways I could help out children. Education was always a big part of my upbringing and I was fortunate enough to have a strong support system to push me and help me with my studies. I wanted to pass that along in any way that I could. With my work schedule I end up with little pockets of down time, and wanted to make the most of that time. I started by donating school supplies, because without those things, learning can be so much more difficult than it already is. When I found out that School on Wheels had an online tutoring program, I thought it would be a great fit and it certainly is. I travel a lot for work and I would never be able to commit to physically being at a specific location to tutor. I hope to continue to work with School on Wheels for as long as my schedule allows. It’s such a great feeling seeing smiles on my students’ faces when they accomplish something!
Michael Hacker – In 2011, I was working a demanding job with the typical nagging desire of wanting to “give back.” I realized that I had to simply take that first step or nothing would ever happen. School On Wheels looked like a great organization and that proved to be a good hunch. I started with a student in Hollywood, and we worked together until he graduated from high school. We’re still in close contact, and he’s moved to Oregon and is living a productive and happy life. Last year I started working with Iris, who’s about to start her senior year in high school. Just an hour a week can make an enormous difference in the lives of these students, and it definitely continues to change my life in an extremely positive way.
Skid Row Learning Center:
Jennifer Soto – This coming November will be a full year of tutoring with Schools on Wheels. I get the biggest smile when the kids tell me how the tips I gave them for the week helped improved their school work. It’s amazing to know that tutoring once a week can still can make a big difference in the students school work. I had a student recently tell me that her goal is to be a famous DJ. She asked if I could help her with an assignment to explain why she wants to become a DJ, list ways on how she can reach her goal to become a DJ and come up with a creative DJ name. I love how our students always set their goals high. I like to remind the students that they can achieve as many goals they set their mind to. Any goal can be achieved, if they take the right steps on getting there and if they continue to have a positive mind with determination to never give up. I try to tell them not to listen to the people who say their goal is unrealistic or unachievable. A quote a friend told me once was there is three C’s in life, choices, chances and changes, we must make a choice to take a chance or our life will never change. I like to share this advice with our students, it’s a great way to explain why we should take the chance to pursue our goals. I will always want to continue tutoring at Schools on Wheels and thank you again for picking me as your tutor of the month!
Mathew – To go to the summer camp and share some of our knowledge of the biomedical, engineering, health, and coding fields was a rewarding experience: it put smiles on the kids’ faces, it put smiles on our faces, and overall, kids had a good time doing our hands-on projects. It was amazingly exciting to see our students start to discover new passions and interests while experiencing STEM as a whole.
Ashley – Each day we did a different activity that related to engineering, biomed, health, or coding. Many of the students learned things that they had never seen at school before, including Scratch and K’nex.
Michael – I could already tell that the organization required dedication and and passion. I soon realized the power of teamwork and the possibilities that could arise from the combined goodwill of multiple volunteers.
Jason – There was no doubt that the curriculum — which consisted of engineering, biomed, health, and coding — was exceptional, however, what made this program so successful and the experience worthwhile were the irreplaceable connections made during the course of the three weeks. Given the thier harsh lifestyles, it is not fanatical to presume that education is not their first priority, therefore, such intimate connections between the tutor and the students may be more impactful to the children’s lives than any lecture. I hope that we have comparably influenced the children.
Region 1 – East LA:
Evan Panas – I started tutoring with School on Wheels a little more than 5 years ago when I noticed some free time that could be more productive. I felt SOW offered the best bang for my buck. The greatest part about helping kids is that they’re eager to learn, and information adults take for granted amazes them. They are excited to see you every week. It’s satisfying to provide a little stability in their chaos-ridden lives. Since we do this as a group, I would be remiss to not also thank my fellow tutors Niru Madduri, Alonso Quintero, Brenda Ramirez, and Marisol Sacramento. And a special thanks to Sasana Kachirsky who coordinates at another shelter and is never-ending supply of inspiration. Also, many thanks to our past and present regional coordinators who offer wonderful support to all their tutors: Paula Buxbaum, Marisol Farfan, Daisy Arce, Cecelia Olivas, Louisiana Wermer, and Ian Chan.
Natalie Platon – It’s been lots of fun participating in the Summer Program this year! I’m glad that online tutoring gives me the opportunity to still work with Ethan even though he moved away from Skid Row a few years ago. By using Google Hangouts and our smartphones, we’ve had great discussions about what we’ve read; Ethan is now making more text-to-self, text-to-world, and text-to-text connections and has progressed when it comes to thinking more deeply about the underlying message behind a story. The Summer Program has also motivated him to read more as well, and we’ve read several books so far. Ethan has even gone to the library himself to read more books on his own! I’m very thankful to be able to still connect with and tutor Ethan even though he’s moved several times.
Skid Row Learning Center:
Lisa Yu – I began volunteering because I just want to help out a bit. Being homeless is hard enough but being homeless and trying to keep up with school as well?! Wow, now that’s a challenge. I tutor at the Learning Center so I never know what to expect. Sometimes a student needs help with a math problem. Often, he or she just needs encouragement to power through an assignment. There is nothing like seeing the glow of accomplishment on a student’s face after having just persevered and finished. Other times it has nothing to do with school but with just listening empathetically.
What amazes me is the energy that hits me every time I enter the Learning Center. Wow! I just love the unabashed enthusiasm, curiosity and resilience of these students. At times the energy seems to visibly bounce off the walls. Huge kudos to the resident team that keeps everyone focused! Thank you, School on Wheels, for really taking to heart the “no child left behind” credo.
Region 7 – San Fernando Valley:
Michael Weiser – I am happily married for 38 years and have two beautiful and incredible daughters and one grandson who we all adore. I have had a rewarding 40-year career in the entertainment industry, and have reached a point in my life where I decided that because I have been so fortunate, I need to recognize the opportunities I have had by giving back somehow.
While searching sites for non-profit organizations that might be appealing I stumbled across School on Wheels, and it all felt right. And because of School on Wheels, I have had the opportunity to meet 9-year-old Nikoli, who is an amazing, funny, and a very smart young man who has a real desire to learn. Nikoli loves video games and would like to be a video game developer when he is older. I am honored to have this opportunity to spend time with Nikoli every week, and to see the improvement in his math and handwriting skills!!