Category: Star Volunteers

Jun 4

Tutors of the Month – June 2018

Region 6 – Inland Empire:

Bonnie Insull – I first heard about School on Wheels a year ago, through Volunteer Match. Riverside has a large homeless population, many of whom live in tents on the other side of ‘my’ mountain. I’d been looking for a way to contribute positively to their lives for some time, so I was very excited to discover School on wheels.
Every week, I look forward to working with my 2nd grade student, Collin. Although I’ve been a teacher all my life, I hadn’t worked with elementary school students before. Tutoring a second grader provides a bright spot in my week and the deep satisfaction of using my years of teaching experience while expanding my skill and understanding. I am proud to be a part of this organization.

 

Region 8 – Ventura County:

Samantha Pedersen – Samantha is a wonderful tutor. She is extremely patient with her student and always comes prepared with new and interesting ways to engage his interest. As as a high school volunteer, Samantha always amazes me with her maturity and natural ability to engage with and bond with her student. We are so thankful to have you, Samantha!

– Angie Allmendinger, Regional Coordinator

 

Dawn Hildebrand – Dawn is an absolutely inspiring tutor. For the past few months, I have watched her student grow from a scared and quiet child that barely looked us in the eyes, to a gregarious eight-year-old. Connor is genuinely proud to share his achievements with Dawn, and her care, patience, and joy in his small successes is absolutely heartfelt. Thank you, Dawn!

– Angie Allmendinger, Regional Coordinator

 

Online

Nathan Williams – In college, there’s a tendency for me to get caught up in my own affairs. As I spend my evenings working away in libraries and dormitories, campus gradually evolves into the entirety of my world. Consequently, I forget about the world around me. Fortunately, School on Wheels not only keeps me connected with the outside world, it also enables me to keep tabs on what’s going on back home in LA. The various students I’ve tutored through School on Wheels have taught me a lot about LA’s diverse backgrounds, teaching me that no one can ever really know the entirety of their city, let alone the world. In turn, School on Wheels has also granted me an opportunity to share a bit of Boston (my new home) with my students. Every online tutoring session serves as a cultural exchange of sorts, whereby both my students and I exchange bits of knowledge that we may have otherwise never known about the cities we call home. I moved from LA to Boston not long ago, and I’m glad to be able to continue as a volunteer with School on Wheels.

 

Apr 3

Tutors of the Month – April 2018

Region 5 – Hollywood, Silverlake, Pasadena:

My experience tutoring with School on Wheels has been my favorite part of college and, no matter how hard the week has been, that hour continues to be a bright spot.
– Kayla Williams

I chose to be a tutor because I think that the community can benefit from this academic support and our work has been very productive.
– Annika Moen

I choose to tutor with School on Wheels because I am committed to helping provide equal access to education for all.
– Clara Keane

I have had an amazing experience volunteering with School on Wheels.
– Ellen Prince

I have really enjoyed seeing the progress made over the year. There were some students who struggled with reading and to see them persevere and make progress has been rewarding. – Sara Woldegebriel

I love working with children and believe education is the ultimate tool of empowerment, especially for kids. I started volunteering for School on Wheels because I was excited for a chance to work with kids and because I wanted to give back to the community. – Dalia Quezada

School on Wheels is doing great work and we’re glad that we are contributing in a helpful way. – Manjun Hao

So far my experience with School on Wheels has been a very positive one. I’ve developed a close relationship with my student and I’ve really enjoyed seeing her reading comprehension develop over the course of our time together.
– Darla Howell

I choose to volunteer for School on Wheels because the value of education is immeasurable. – Gianna Zinnen

Skid Row Learning Center:

Shannon Moore – Shannon has been with School on Wheels since 2016 and recently formed a girls group, aged 10 and up, which gathers every Tuesday. They work on various emotional topics such as confidence, self-appreciation, and self-care.T he girls love it and look forward to their time with Ms. Shannon! In her own words, “From the moment I met my first student Rafael, I knew destiny was hard at work! School on Wheels has given me the opportunity to not only be a tutor, but a role model and friend to these beautiful souls.
Field trips in summer and birthday parties at the shelter have created irreplaceable memories that I can share with these incredible students for a lifetime. I’ll never be able to thank School on Wheels and my students enough for truly changing my life!”

Online:

Albert Zhu – Tutoring for School on Wheels has been a very delightful and inspiring experience for me. Helping my students understand and master what was taught to them in school has been very rewarding, and it always brings a smile to my face when I see them finally have their “aha!” moments. School on Wheels has not only given me the joy of teaching, but it has also allowed me to discover the need to sometimes put aside my own personal goal and desires to help others achieve theirs. If I had not known that School on Wheels tutored homeless children, I would not have thought for a second that any of my students were homeless, because once the label of “homeless” is taken away, each and every SOW student is just like any other student in the world—with the desire to learn, the ability to succeed, and the potential to shape their futures. I am always glad to put aside some of my time each week to help my students take control of their education and reach their future goals.

 

Mar 19

Tutors of the Month – March 2018

Region 3 – Westside:

Aidan Stern – The School On Wheels community is one of untapped potential in the mainstream consciousness. The family I tutor showed me an intelligence, thoughtfulness, creativity, and most importantly, an unparalleled resilience that I find extremely inspiring. If they can show up for the session, I have no excuse not to be there with them. My hope is to be a source of encouragement and motivation to support their educational journey. My favorite moments are in between the tutoring sessions: right before the tutoring starts and the mini breaks we take during the session where I get to better understand the students and their personal philosophies. My goal for each session is to get the kids to celebrate their mistakes and learn from them rather than judge themselves harshly for it; to provide a stress free space of levity where we accept mistakes as part of the process and learn from each other through open discussions.

Online

Sarah Lohmar – Although I have only been an online tutor for a little less than a year, I have quickly learned to love working with the students and getting them excited about learning. What is great about School on Wheels is that it focuses not only on education, but on inspiring confidence in students. I have learned that this confidence can be built in many ways, whether it be helping students realize they really do understand the material or by asking about their favorite subjects in school. Thanks to volunteering as a tutor, I get to help my local community and work with amazing, energetic students every week!

 

Yuki Jung – I became an online tutor after hearing about School on Wheels from a co-worker a year ago. I am constantly amazed by the curiosity and resilience of the students. I feel extremely lucky to support them as they overcome the challenge of reading a tricky word or adding two-digit numbers. I also love getting to know what gets them excited, whether it is Godzilla, tic-tac-toe, or spiders. Even though tutoring online has its challenges, I am grateful every week to School on Wheels for the opportunity to work with my students.

 

Feb 6

Tutors of the Month – February 2018

Online:

Aidan Stern – I see the impact that we School on Wheels tutors have on the lives of homeless students. Through online tutoring, I have been able to interact with students far beyond where I live, and I can fit tutoring time in spaces that would be impossible with regular school, work and commuting. These past few months I have watched my students gradually grow in their skills of complex arithmetic and grammar concepts. It has been very rewarding to see one of my students, Savanna, progress in multiplication. After just a few online sessions, we have progressed from two-digit multiplication to more complex compound multiplication. In-between her math homework questions, we take mini-breaks and play tic-tac-toe or do a maze. Getting to know my students has profoundly shown me the impact we all have on our students’ lives.

 

Sarah Lohmar – Although I have only been an online tutor for a little less than a year, I have quickly learned to love working with the students and getting them excited about learning. What is great about School on Wheels is that it focuses not only on education, but on inspiring confidence in students. I have learned that this confidence can be built in many ways, whether it be helping students realize they really do understand the material or by asking about their favorite subjects in school. Thanks to volunteering as a tutor, I get to help my local community and work with amazing, energetic students every week!

 

Region 5 – Hollywood, Silverlake, Pasadena:

Jonathan Garcia – My experience with School on Wheels over the past 2 1/2 years has been nothing short of amazing. I’ve been lucky enough to work with a handful of diverse students over this time, and although some days may be more productive than others, the breakthroughs we are able to accomplish more than make up for the struggles along our journey. I’ve been blessed enough to travel the world multiple times for a career that has been my dream since I was a teen, but in all honesty, the fulfillment and joy that I have cultivated from making a difference in these kids’ lives is far beyond what I could have expected. So much so, that it has led me to contemplate spending even more of my time giving back and helping strengthen the future of these kids that so desperately need it.

 

Alexandra Bendheim – I began tutoring with School on Wheels two years ago, after just graduating from college and at a time in my life where I felt particularly out of control. I wasn’t sure where my path would lead me, and for the first time, I felt out of my comfort zone. A colleague told me about this wonderful organization and thought volunteering would help to put things into perspective for me. She was right. I signed up to tutor the next day, and within the moment of meeting my very first student, Donald, my entire life changed.

Donald taught me about the challenges and trauma that kids in his position face every single day. He was a survivor, who had big dreams of playing professional basketball, and he was a poet (though he didn’t know it yet). Unfortunately, he left soon after. He will face tremendous hardships because there is a total lack of institutional support for kids like him, but with some guidance and extra attention, I am confident he will rise to his full potential.

After that, I made it my mission to be a mentor for other kids like Donald. As tutors, we get to be a part of a support system that can otherwise be lacking in their lives. Just showing up each week, we remind them that people care, and they can succeed. So I am grateful to School on Wheels, and to everyone committed to this mission, because every little ounce of positivity and kindness helps to spread the love and change the world.

 

Skid Row Learning Center:

Carla Gentile – I tutor because I believe education is the backbone of each child’s future. Many parents and guardians in skid row are facing incredible challenges daily just trying to provide basic needs for their children. To know that I am providing a tiny bit of support to these families in order to help them reach a more holistic life brings me joy and humility. I work with the young children ages 5-7. Helping them learn the alphabet, complete basic math and reading assignments alone can be a challenge. When we complete an assignment, we all feel happy and enjoy the accomplishment together! But there’s so much more to it: listening to the kids and helping them navigate their emotions, helping them stay focused and giving them attention that they might not get at school are a big part of tutoring for me. Being able to serve this community by helping a child to build their confidence and self-esteem is why I am here. The fact that we have so much fun doing this is just an extra benefit for me.

 

Region 4 – Long Beach, South Bay Cities:

Cathy Anderson – Cathy is a wonderful addition to the SOW volunteer team. She is always excited to tutor with her student Ariana and she loves to come up with different ways to make tutoring exciting and fun for her student. Cathy has a tremendous passion and love for tutoring. I am so lucky to have her tutoring in my region!

Jan 23

DIY Girls Use Their STEM Skills For Good

Written by Zarina Yunis

 

Startled by the alarming increase in homelessness in the past year, 12 Latina girls from San Fernando High School have taken it upon themselves to search for ways to help the homeless. These students are part of a program called DIY Girls, which “empowers girls to be confident makers and creators of technology,” according to the DIY (Do It Yourself) Girls’ website.

On a daily basis, these girls witness homelessness on the streets. They wanted to help the homeless families; however, donating money was not an option for their own low-income families. Despite their inability to contribute money, the girls weren’t about to let this obstacle prevent them from helping those who are less fortunate.

“With all the already existing programs in place to help end homelessness, we felt as if something more needed to be done to provide temporary relief to those who are displaced,” Paola Valtierra said in an email interview. Valtierra is a senior at San Fernando High School, and this will be her second year in the DIY Girls program.

Motivated to help the people in their community, the DIY girls got to work. They came up with the idea to create a solar-powered tent that could also function as a backpack. This one item could efficiently serve multiple needs and conserve space. The team of girls met frequently to work on the solar-powered tent, and a year later, they finished designing their prototype.

At times, the competition in the STEM field was intimidating for young Latina women. Evelyn Gomez, the executive director for DIY girls, recalls her experience at UCLA, getting her master’s degree in aerospace engineering. “I was often the only girl in the class and definitely the only Latina in the class. It felt like kind of imposter syndrome,” Gomez says, describing a feeling of chronic self-doubt even in the midst of evident success.

Nonetheless, the girls were determined to make a difference, regardless of their gender or race.  They have not only made a positive impact on their community, but they have been role models for many other girls and have inspired them to pursue their passions. “Remember that there will always be obstacles in life but push through them because the outcome will be worth it,” Valtierra said.

Nov 2

Tutors of the Month – November 2017

Skid Row Learning Center:

Eric Sarabia – Mr.Eric is a great tutor and he is nice and also helpful. He is funny and he helps me with my homework when I need help with it. He helps me when I am writing a story. Mr.Eric helps me with multiplication and he plays card games with me. Mr.Eric should be tutor of the month because he is a good tutor.

– Aisha, 3rd Grade

 

Region 6: Inland Empire

Gabriela NunezI joined School on Wheels as part of my college internship, but once my internship was over, I didn’t want to leave. Volunteering has made me expand my horizons through different tasks I’ve been able to accomplish. I feel like I’m actually giving back to my community by helping these children thrive in their education. As an educator, I strongly believe each child deserves a wholesome education to succeed in life. My student Maile has made me see the world with a different set of eyes. 

 

Region 5 – Hollywood, Silverlake, Pasadena:

Jarred OlsonI feel that we all have an obligation to protect and empower the most vulnerable people in our communities. I was shocked to read about the prevalence of homelessness among children in Los Angeles and felt pulled to help in some way. Volunteering with School on Wheels seemed like an effective way to participate in stopping the poverty cycle that people without a support system often fall into.

 

Online:

Peter Knapp – It’s been a great experience tutoring and I’m thankful for the opportunity to be able to help through the online platform. I’ve been online tutoring since January of this year and have been able to work with a number of different students. It’s a fun and rewarding challenge to figure out different ways to help them understand a concept or, sometimes, just help them smile after a bad day. There are so many negative challenges that homeless students face – it’s gratifying to be able to offer some positive feedback and encouragement.

Region 4 – Long Beach, South Bay Cities:

Amber Monterosso – When I first moved to Long Beach, I was looking to find a volunteer organization to get involved with. When I heard about School on Wheels from a coworker a couple of years ago, I knew it was going to be the perfect fit for me. The perseverance of the students I have worked with is inspiring, and I’m grateful that I have had the opportunity to help foster a love of learning in them.

 

Region 8: Ventura County

Stephen Smith – Tutoring a homeless student has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. It might sound like a cliché, but I honestly think I get more out of the experience than my student. It feels so good to see his big smile and perfect white teeth when he “gets” a concept (or one of my corny jokes), sounds out a word, takes in my compliment or feels proud of himself. To know that I had a part in making this adorable, bright, polite young boy (who is growing up in not the best of circumstances), happy is indescribable. My 16-year-old son recently asked me if it was depressing tutoring a homeless child. I replied – not at all! I explained that I was confident that he would “make it” in life, due to all the people who were taking care of him. He has a loving mother, a good supportive sister, teachers who care and of course School On Wheels to provide their services and programs.