Category: Student Success Stories

Nov 12

Meet Adam, Yalda, and Naz

Guest post by School on Wheels volunteer ambassador Stacey Millett.


Recently Yalda published a book of her poetry to raise funds for School on Wheels. It includes drawings from School on Wheels students as well! You can buy the book here and on November 16th, 2019 there will be a public book launch party in Ventura


Adam, 16 years old, started with School On Wheels in March 2018. He describes his experience with his tutors as being “positive and helpful in creating a template to reach his goals.”

When Adam came to School On Wheels his main aspiration was to work on increasing his SAT score. Adam’s current goal is to score within the top 1 percent of students on the PSAT, which will make him eligible for the National Merit Scholarship Program. He would like to attend USC and study biology and design. 

School On Wheels worked to facilitate a personal relationship that would support Adam in achieving his goals. Yalda,16, and her mother Naz tutored Adam together. Adam says, “they are both very helpful and have different points of view. Perspectives from both the mother and daughter help in different areas and provides a balance in learning.” 

The three met each week, and sometimes their sessions lasted over two hours. If they were unable to meet in person they did Skype sessions on the computer. Adam was very grateful to School On Wheels for providing a computer so that his learning has no boundaries.  

Adam and Yalda are the same age. Yalda has benefited from the tutor sessions as well, as she was studying to take her SAT test soon. Typically, when one of them answered a problem incorrectly, the other will have answered correctly, and vice versa. Naz, in a truly parental fashion, made sure they took breaks outside of the library: getting fresh air and even going for a quick jog around the building. 

This unique tutoring template they have created “worked working wonderfully,” Naz explained. When Adam began his School on Wheels tutoring sessions with Naz and Yalda, his score was 1170. He’s now at 1450! “This was a big turning point”, Naz continued, “when Adam scored so high, it made all three realize their hard work and dedication was really showing results and it gave them all more trust in each other and the process.”

Adam’s advice to other School On Wheel students is this: “Find a goal and dedicate yourself to your goal. If you are struggling to find something to focus on, ask others what they think you are good at, see if that is a good fit, and keep your head down and work hard. If things get hard along the way, believe that it will get better.” 

Adam adds that “when he achieves his success he will have three to credit: Yalda, Naz and School On Wheels for helping him get there.” Yalda believes 100% in this possibility, saying “Adam has a bright future ahead of him and can do anything he commits to.”

Aug 29

Meet Angie & Allison

“Give the tutoring sessions time. If they feel that connecting and relating with the children is difficult at first then allow time for walls to break down. These children have endured more than we may ever understand and it takes time for them to allow new people in their life. Keep showing kindness and respect to your student and always encourage them on their studying. It is amazing what you can do for their confidence in showing them positivity with their work and letting them know you are proud of them.”

Allison, School on Wheels Tutor

Growing up school was a difficult thing for Angie. “I switched school so many times and it became very hard,” she says. “I got depressed with the constant change and eventually fell very behind in school, so I just gave up and would not show up for school.”

Angie spent a great deal of her youth staying at different foster homes. She would eventually spend six years with a family. However, Angie’s foster Dad passed. Things became complicated and she switched homes again. Her depression grew, but through this pain, she found motivation by focusing on her education and finding purpose in wanting to help others like her.

Currently, Angie is at a group home. With the school year coming to an end and graduation looming, she needed to complete her math credits quickly, a daunting task as math has long been a difficult subject for Angie. She was connected with School on Wheels and tutor Alison Ochoa who focus exclusively on Angie’s math. “My goal during our tutoring sessions was to take each math course one section at a time. We go over multiple problems and ensure that she takes her quiz and understands each individual problem, even if it meant refreshing on prior skills.” 

This practical approach worked and Angie completed her credits in time to graduate. Alison continues to explain, “she has exceeded my own expectations.” 

Angie and Allison will continue their tutoring relationship as Angie begins college this fall. Angie now has confidence in her abilities and knows that she has a great support system for her educational goals, as well as a friend, in Allison. 

Angie’s future goal is to be a social worker. After going through the foster care system herself, she understands how important it is for kids to have someone they can trust and depend on.

“Keep reaching out to find someone that can help you and that you trust,” is the wisdom Angie would like to share with other School on Wheel students. “Believe that there is someone out there for you to trust. Stay motivated and work on building up your self-esteem so you can apply that confidence with your education.” 

Already Angie is off to a great start of helping other kids.

Jun 25

2019 Graduation Stories

June is our favorite month because we get to hear about all the successes our students have achieved during the school year.  We caught up with a few of our high school grads and their families and tutors to see their graduation photos and hear their stories.  

“My student Eric went from D’s and C’s to A’s and B’s.” tutor Anna Mack said proudly when we spoke to her on the phone last week. “We met at the shelter he was at with his family two years ago and we’ve tutored every week since.” Eric will be attending Cal Poly in the fall.

“I struggled as a Junior in high school. I was failing classes and wasn’t focused on my education. But for my senior year, I had a tutor – Brittany. I finally wasn’t on my own anymore. I became less frustrated with school and I started to feel positive and just started to do it. I want to study culinary arts or environmental science and plan to attend Los Angeles Mission College.” – Student Ossie 

“When I got my family into a shelter School on Wheels came right alongside us and helped my kids with their education. I didn’t have the education to help them myself. We are extremely proud of Ashley. She is the first in our family to graduate from high school.” – Xochitl, Ashley’s Mom

With your support, we can help more students like Eric, Ashley, and Ossie!

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. 

Sep 21

Upworthy – How Former Student, Angela, Defied the Odds Through Magic

It was just before Thanksgiving when then-high school junior Angela Sanchez and her father lost their home in Glendale, California.

A perfect storm of financial and family problems left her architect father unemployed, and the hardships soon led to eviction.

They slept in a car for the first few months, keeping up appearances of normalcy as best they could. Eventually, they found their way to a cold-weather shelter, then a family shelter.

But these were little more than places to sleep, and while it certainly helped to have a roof over their heads, it wasn’t enough to stop the stress of poverty and homelessness.

Despite it all, Sanchez did what she could to keep her grades — and her attendance — up. Her father had always taught her that education was incredibly important, and she had just started a new after-school club at the beginning of the year.

The theme of that club? Magic.

“A magician, by profession, is someone who is withholding knowledge,” she explains.

And Sanchez’s desire for hidden knowledge — to move beyond the hand that life had dealt her to experience something more — pushed her to succeed.

But just like magic, it would take a little know-how to get her there. That didn’t stop her from trying, though.

From a young age, Sanchez was drawn to the history of magic and magicians.

Everything from witchcraft to voodoo to Harry Houdini — particularly the ways they all tied back to women’s roles in society. Women who practiced magic were historically condemned while men were revered. Even as magic became more theatrical, women were still relegated to the role of assistants.
The history of women in magic resonated with Sanchez’s thirst for knowledge, particularly when the odds are stacked against you.

After all, even AP calculus is still a secret knowledge of the world.

But it wasn’t easy. As her anxiety and uncertainty about the future got the best of her, even magic club began to fall apart her senior year, and calculus turned out to be an even greater struggle than she imagined.

Sanchez’s plummeting grades threatened the future she’d been looking forward to (one that, she hoped, would take her to UCLA).
That’s when she discovered School on Wheels, a nonprofit that offers tutoring support for children struggling with poverty and homelessness.

The nonprofit paired her with an astrophysics graduate student from Cal Tech.

“Making that connection was the best thing that ever happened to me while being homeless, and since then I have maintained a constant relationship with them,” she says.

Her tutor not only offered her guidance in AP calculus, but he also gave her some “secret knowledge” to help unlock the mysterious realm of the college application process, a process that many underprivileged students are unsure of how to navigate.
A little support went a long way, and Sanchez was accepted to UCLA.

And by calling on that same tutor, Sanchez was also able to track down a variety of local community scholarships, and learned about the differences between need, merit, and passion-based support as she navigated her way through a pile of applications.

Read the full article on upworthy.com here.

Aug 21

Our Tutor is a Superhero!

Nancy, Lyann and Shelene

Lyann’s mom, Shelene, heard about School on Wheels from the shelter they were staying at four years ago, when Lyann was just 8. We caught up with them a couple of weeks ago to find out how they are all doing.

“It’s not just homework that Nancy helps Lyann with, but life,” said Shelene. “She confides in Nancy and tells her what’s going on at school rather than me. She tells Nancy her problems and struggles–and she has a lot. She has been through two different surgeries and struggles with hearing and reading.

Nancy is like family now. She has become a friend/mentor/big sister to Lyann. Sometimes I am so exhausted and busy, and Nancy is my superhero backup! She takes time out of her life to be here every week. She rides her bike in the LA heat to get here, and she goes above and beyond as a tutor. She turns up religiously every week for my child! What can I do to express how thankful I am? As a mom, it makes you feel good to have someone there for your child. Nancy is not a pushover, though; she knows when it’s time to work and when it’s time to play! There are no words to express my gratitude for Nancy. If School on Wheels didn’t exist, we wouldn’t have Nancy in our life. She is the perfect tutor, and I know your other tutors must be just as nice because they are doing this for free, not because they are being told to but because they want to help kids in our community. It takes a village to raise kids, and I want to thank School on Wheels for being there for me and my family.”

Nancy Dobbs Owen is a professional dancer and became a volunteer tutor with School on Wheels in 2013.

“I’m not sure how great a tutor I am. I am really more of a big sister. I turn up every week and make sure to be on time. I think being reliable has been a big help to the family and especially for my student’s mom, Shelene. I love Lyann’s mom. She is active in the kids’ school and has raised four beautiful children who are polite, kind and respectful. I have such huge respect for her. Lyann is going into 6th grade, but she has a number of learning disabilities. She had a stroke/seizure when she was 6, and this left her with partial hearing. She has trouble reading; she sees words upside down and back to front. Her vocabulary is amazing, though, and she uses words like ‘astounding’ and ‘inspirational’! She does get frustrated with school and can give up on herself quickly. That said, she loves math and science and is curious about the world and the way it works. I work with her teachers and let them know that they have backup. I am now Lyann’s emergency contact at school. The whole family is very important to me. They have become my family, my people. I am grounded with Lyann.

I always advocate for School on Wheels and try to get my friends involved, but emphasize that if you’re gonna do it, do it! If you bond with a student, you have to treat your relationship with respect. If you’re not willing to go there, do something else. When you are working with kids, they need someone that does not judge them. They need to know they are safe and that you are there to answer their questions, be their advocate: be truthful, loving, demanding, but always kind.

The day after the 2016 election we had a session. I didn’t know how politically aware Lyann was, and I learned that day that she is very aware of the world and what is going on in it. It was the hardest tutoring session we’ve had. Lyann was upset. Her mom is from Belize, and Lyann didn’t want her mom sent away by THAT MAN. She said he didn’t like people that looked like her, that the country would become meaner, that the ‘girl was smarter.’ She is a very old soul and worries about her family. She wants to protect people and be a good person. She cares. I tried to alleviate her fears, but that was my hardest tutoring session to date.”