Category: Star Volunteers

Oct 1

Volunteers of the Month – Oct. 2019

Rahul Kamalapurkar

Region 5

Rahul is constantly in good spirits at a fast-paced Digital Learning Center. He is invested in each of the students’ learning, and is always looking for ways to help out & make new tutors feel welcome. Rahul is very smart & happy to pass his math skills along to any student who wants to learn. He has been tutoring since January of 2019.

Jesse Pasquan, Coordinator

I was tutored growing up and had previously been a mentor for the foster care system. When I moved to LA I did a Google search for tutoring programs for underserved/underprivileged kids and found School On Wheels. A lucky find! I grew up with parents who had very high standards for me, but we were in a small town with a low-quality education system. I’ve seen how much of a difference educational support can make, and I wanted to be part of that effort.

The kids’ high energy is refreshing every week—so many of the students are really motivated and have a great sense of humor. In one of my first tutoring sessions, a Kindergarten student and I were reading together and making howling noises as the dog in the story howled at the moon. I still chuckle when I think about that day. I think my favorite moments are when a student is working on a tough problem (especially in math, my favorite) and sticks with it until he/she figures out the logic. I’ve truly felt like every session has been rewarding for me. So many of the kids want to be great students and just need someone to help them get over barriers; it’s amazing to be part of that journey.

Ann Buckley

Region 10

Ann has been tutoring James for over three years and has gone above and beyond to make sure he has consistency in his life. When I saw Ann with James it was clear how close they were and how much they trusted each other. Ann told me all about how wonderful James was and I could see how proud that made James feel. They have met anywhere that they are able to and Ann has really gone above and beyond to maintain that connection.

Katie Philipson, Coordinator

I found School on Wheels when I had just retired and was wanting to give back. It has been a very rewarding experience, and can also be great fun. I always encourage people to become a volunteer tutor. One hour of our time can be so precious for these children. The hour I spend with my student is definitely a highlight of my week. When my student James won the “Character Counts” award last school year, he was so proud. There are simply no words to describe how I feel… it’s so gratifying and fulfilling to know that I can have an impact on my student’s day, week, and even life.

Bernadette Baclig

Region 9

Bernadette has been such an amazing tutor at HIS House! She has been there since day one of group tutoring when we started in May of 2018 and has been a rock of support for the kids there. They love Ms. B!

Rachael Christenson, Coordinator

I first realized my love for working with students while volunteering at my kids’ elementary school. I love showing them that learning can be fun and providing them with useful skills to overcome any learning obstacles they might encounter.

I remember one student last year in our group session. Whenever he came in for tutoring, he looked like he didn’t want to be there and would always ask to play online games that were not educational. His family moved to another location, but within a month or so he was back… and very excited to be there! My Regional Coordinator informed me that he specifically asked to attend our group session, even though his family was now in another location. So even though at times it might feel like we are not getting through, something amazing is happening.

For anyone thinking of volunteering, I’d say don’t hesitate to do it. Think about all the students who are hungry for knowledge and just need someone to be there as their mentor, cheerleader, and teacher. School on Wheels makes it easy to volunteer, from their training to their support team.

Aug 29

Volunteers of the Month – Sept. 2019

Elaine Gonzales

Region 6

Elaine is an incredibly dedicated tutor who has been working with Colin for a year now. When Elaine initially began tutoring Colin, he was very withdrawn, wouldn’t talk much, and was very resistant to learning math. Through consistent tutoring sessions, care, and kindness, Elaine has been able to help bring Colin out of his shell and begin working on his academics.

Stephanie Swenseid, Coordinator

I wanted to work with children and I was pleasantly surprised when I found School on Wheels on the Internet. I wanted to help children who needed help and could not afford a private tutor. Seeing my student show up for his tutoring sessions with a smile always makes me smile too, confirming that volunteering is not only helping the students but helping me be happier as well. If you choose to volunteer as a tutor, you could be providing a positive difference in a young person’s life that will last a lifetime, one that, given the circumstances, that they might not otherwise have had.

Raquel Abreu

Region 3

Raquel has tutored with us for six years! She has worked with many students and has greatly impacted each and every one of them.

Cecilia Olivas, Coordinator

I was thrilled when my student shared with me that he won a mathematics award at school. He recognized how helpful our math sessions were and he said regarding maths: “I finally get it now!!!”

I do always encourage people to become a volunteer tutor. I just tell them how one hour of our time can be so precious for these children. That hour with my student is definitely a highlight of my week. There are no words to describe how I feel… it’s so gratifying and fulfilling to know that I can have an impact on my student’s day, week, or even life

Abheerava “Ganesh” Koka

Region 8

Ganesh is an amazing young man who is dedicated to School on Wheels and to his student. He was inspired by his grandfather to become a volunteer and to give back to his community and he is dedicating this award in memory of his grandfather. Ganesh has put countless hours into preparing for tutoring each week. He believes strongly in the mission and has devoted time to creating a proposal for a School on Wheels Club at his high school.

Chris Hague, Coordinator

At the beginning of my 8th grade, I really wanted to volunteer and give back to my community. I wanted to help the underprivileged, and do something that will make an impact. I researched online for a while and finally found School on Wheels. Every time I think about underprivileged children, I think that if I were in their position, I would want the same help in order to succeed. When I first started tutoring, my 4th-grade student told me she was being teased for not being able to solve a math problem in class. After the first few weeks of tutoring, she told me she was able to solve all the problems given in class and that kids even asked her for help! If someone is considering volunteering as a tutor, I would tell them that they should try to put themselves in their student’s position and be willing to help them as much as possible. Remember that the student you are tutoring is underprivileged and does not have access to most of the resources we take for granted.

Jordan Maranto

Region 11

Jordan is consistent, engages with every student she assists, and is ALWAYS bright! She’s a light to the students she serves and the volunteers who serve with her.

Jason Wright, SRLC Instructor

I was looking into volunteer organizations that aided the homeless, and I found School on Wheels online almost immediately. It was the perfect fit! In May of 2018 I moved to downtown Los Angeles. Even though I had been living in LA for a while and was aware of how large the homeless population was, I didn’t fully understand how bad things were until I started walking to work and passed by many familiar faces on the streets throughout my day. I work at a restaurant, and it was a pretty unsettling contrast, serving high powered executives with gorgeous office buildings, surrounded by luxury apartments, then walking home and passing by countless people who were begging for change to afford their next meal. I’m a huge believer in the motto, “None of us are well until we’re all well.” I believe it applies to the homelessness crisis perfectly.

These students can be so inspiring. I once had a sweet third grader ask me to proofread her essay. The topic was the future she saw for herself. Not only was it incredibly optimistic, well thought out, and full of self-confidence, but it ended with the sentence, “Thank you very much for reading this essay!” For me, it was definitely one of those “laughing through tears” situations. This girl faced more adversity than I could even imagine, yet walks through life with such a positive outlook and unrelenting gratitude. How can you not feel hopeful after that?

Jul 26

Tutors of the Month – August 2019

Diana Peterson

Online/Region 11

Diana is a very engaging and committed online tutor. She always comes up with creative ways to reach our students. She’s also very communicative, consistently reaching out for ideas to help her students and offering suggestions to improve our program.

Emma Gerch, Coordinator

I learned about School on Wheels from a colleague I work with here at Khan Academy, who had also learned about it from another Khan employee. I was a “reading buddy” at a school nearby for many years and enjoyed it, but recently began feeling that the school had more resources than it used to, and perhaps there were other students more in need. I have huge empathy for kids experiencing homelessness and all the challenges and stress that introduces, and love connecting with kids every week — they bring real joy and also help me live in the moment!

Recently a student I was working with had an assignment to write about Stephanie Kwolek. I’d never heard of her, but together we learned that she was a Chemist at DuPont, and in 1965 invented Kevlar! It was fun to learn about her together, what set her on her career path, and for us to talk about what was most interesting to us about what we’d learned. For anyone considering becoming a volunteer tutor, I would tell them to try it! Just 1 hour 1 day a week, and you could make an impact on a child’s life.

Stephanie Gunawan Piraner

Region 4

Stephanie works so hard to help her student. She goes above & beyond by tutoring multiple days a week, and is very dedicated to her student. Stephanie is caring and compassionate, and works closely with the shelter staff and her student to make sure her student’s learning gaps get smaller & smaller. I am so lucky to have her as a tutor in region 4!

Kristina Rakosh, Coordinator

With a busy work schedule and the regular long hours, we often get caught up in the little things and issues. Volunteering reminds me about the bigger picture of life. My student and I once had several three hour sessions over the course of two weeks to complete her missing assignments, and not once did I hear her complain about having to study for so long after school, and during weekends. I am so proud of her!

I would tell anyone considering volunteering as a tutor that it is a rewarding experience. It will require a lot of patience; a lot of these children have been through difficult times at such young age, so it is important to start your first few sessions with no expectations and to focus on getting to know what drives and interests them.

Casey Hoeschler

Region 5

I nominated Casey because of her professionalism and proactive attitude toward tutoring. She is clear & communicative and took initiative in planning a group field trip to the aquarium with her student. Casey’s passion for volunteering shows in the care the she puts into her tutoring sessions!

Jesse Pasquan, Coordinator

I used to volunteer tutor independently at Richstone Center but had to stop as I moved too far away; my mom sent me a write up on SOW and I immediately signed up! Education is the key to empowerment, and children experiencing homelessness need that more than anyone. During our first session, my student looked at every question on her homework and said “I don’t know this.” Last week, she finished a worksheet without hesitation and said, “I’m super smart!” You don’t have to know everything about a subject to be a good tutor! As long as you’re curious and eager, your one-on-one attention can be so meaningful to a student.

Nima Kharrazi

Region 7

Nima is an amazing volunteer that does so much for the students he works with. We really appreciate everything he does!

Danny Rico, Coordinator

Back in February 2014 I was going to have my 1st tutoring session and didn’t know what my student looked like. She didn’t know what I looked like either, and while I was waiting a girl walked up and commented on my Marvel shirt. We chatted for about 5 minutes — who my favorite is, who hers is, and so on — until she asked, “Can YOU be my tutor?” I apologized and said I was already assigned and was just waiting for my student, Samantha. She smiled really big and said, “That’s ME!”

Volunteering as a tutor will change your life. It will also give you the opportunity to help people in ways you never imagined. Just giving someone consistency and time and attention makes such a difference. It’s easily one of the best things I’ve ever done.

Frankie Olvera

Region 1

Frankie Olvera is a great tutor and is adored by his students. He has a magnetic and a compassionate personality that makes him very popular among his students. He is also thoroughly organised and prepared for every session.

Manmeet Sodhi, Coordinator

I’ve been teaching voluntarily since my early 20’s in places from Juvenile Hall to Men’s shelters, and have concluded that education is the best way to combat homelessness. If you have had the opportunity to get a solid education, then pay it forward: fight homelessness, and educate our youth. Join School on Wheels!

Gavin Sweeney

Region 9

Gavin has been an outstanding tutor! He is absolutely amazing with his student Martin and Martin’s mom cannot seem to say enough nice things about him.

Rachael Christenson, Coordinator

I began volunteering at a time when I felt overwhelmed by my understanding of social inequality. I have found that tutoring with School on Wheels is a real, tangible thing I can do to be a force for change in my community.

Pamela Miller-Shults

Region 6

Pam has demonstrated a willingness to work hard at being the best tutor she can be for her student. She is always looking for new ways to engage and help her student overcome her resistance to certain topics. Pam has also demonstrated great care and dedication with her student and being a wonderful role model.

Stephanie Swenseid, Coordinator

I googled volunteer opportunities with children, went to an information night led by Catherine Meeks, and knew wholeheartedly this was exactly what I was looking for. It made me sad that a child could grow up in an environment of homelessness, not feeling safe, not having a roof over their head or food on the table.

Volunteer tutoring is one of the most fulfilling opportunities I’ve ever had. To witness a child learn and gain knowledge week by week creates a very rich bond. When I leave her sessions to head home I feel like all my endorphins are dancing to the music on the radio in my car!

Erin Hughes

Region 10

I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with Erin this year, and I continue to be impressed with her thoughtful attention to the students she tutors. Erin strives to engage the students by creating contextual connections to the their existing academic skill-set, through both academic and enrichment activities. I’m grateful for her support to the students and tutors, as well as her additional role as a marketing and communications ambassador.

Ana Gutierrez, Program Implementation Specialist

I’ve been tutoring students in kindergarten through fifth grade at my current site, Washington Elementary, for two of my four years with School on Wheels. As the program and our resources have grown, so too have the enthusiasm among students and the camaraderie between tutors. Having tutored in both one-on-one and group formats, I believe they are equally capable of fostering a strong sense of educational community, as long as volunteers are consistent and dedicated. My favorite moments during tutoring are when students become energized after persevering through challenging exercises and then ask to tackle even more challenging work. I hope these triumphs of self-motivation demonstrate for them (as they do for me) that education can be an ongoing source of celebration.

Jun 19

Tutors of the Month – June 2019

Melinda Gevorgian

Region 7

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 Sodhi

Region 1

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 🙂

Kai Ferragallo-Hawkins

Region 7

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.


Joelle Suh

Region 2

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.

Andrew Kim

Region 2

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 Gentile


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.

Apr 10

2018 Volunteers of the Year

Congratulations and sincere thanks to:

« top of list

Winnie Strohmeyer

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.

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Victor Maldonado
(Region 4)

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.

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Albert Zhu

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.

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Livvy & Alessandra Gonzalez
(Region 9)

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.

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Jeanine Aguirre
(Region 10)

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.

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Sasana Kachirsky
(Region 1)

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!

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Varag Abed
(Region 7)

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.

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Nick Ellis
(Region 2)

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.

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Alexandra Nicolaou
(Region 6)

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 as been 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.

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Pouye Sedighian & Sahand Pirbadian
(Region 11)

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.

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Clara Fu
(Region 3)

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! 🙂

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Theresa Sterling
(Region 5)

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.

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Joe Carmona
(Region 8)

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.

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Apr 3

Group Project Idea: Vision Boards

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.