Thousands of families experience homelessness on any given night in America, leaving many children stricken by the grief of instability and unpredictability. There is a saying in Skid Row, “homeless but not hopeless.” But where does your hope come from if you’re the mother of four young, energetic children crammed in a motel room suitable for one or two people? How do you survive days when your kids go to bed hungry? Where does your hope come from when you’re an 8-year-old child whose only concept of home includes a revolving door?
I wish we lived in an America where homelessness didn’t exist; where kids could go to school without worrying about where they will sleep at night or if they will have enough food; where kids wouldn’t take on the burdens of adulthood. An America where kids could be kids – laughing, running, jumping, learning – the way they were meant to be.
So what can we do? We can start by speaking up, advocating for change, and accepting nothing less. Our friends need us, and we must deliver.
I hear a lot of people asking what can we do to combat the racism, ignorance and hatred exhibited on the streets, in leadership positions and in the hearts of many who live in our country. Over 80 percent of our students are children of color; 53 percent are of Hispanic heritage. And they are afraid. Many are used to fear, anxiety and stress – they experience those feelings every single day because they are homeless. They are used to being bullied, shamed and ridiculed.
We must let our students and their families know that the actions unfolding in places like Charlottesville are unacceptable and not reflective of who we are as a community. At School on Wheels, we value diversity, inclusion and equality. We deplore and condemn white supremacists and neo-Nazis in the strongest terms. We affirm our commitment to serving the most vulnerable and fragile among us – homeless children.
We must not be defeated by bigotry and ignorance. In the midst of all this sorrow, darkness and anger, we can stand up, speak out and remind ourselves that in our School on Wheels community, we have thousands of people who believe that love and truth will win out. I am inspired by the courage our students display every day just to go to school, the generosity of our supporters and friends who sustain us, and the precious time and dedication our volunteers give to our students.
There is much work to be done, and we need your help to do it. So if someone asks you, “What can we do to help, to uphold our shared values, to demonstrate love and kindness?” tell them to use their energy and power to support organizations like School on Wheels. We can make a huge difference in the life of a homeless child. This is what we can do.
Chris Kuritzkes is a pre-K teacher and recently moved to California from Philadelphia. She read a flyer about School on Wheels and was intrigued to find out more. She trained as a tutor and was recently matched with Giselle (10). Chris says that Giselle is a very hard worker and enjoys learning. Since Giselle loves to learn, she is excited to review and further explore the concepts she is learning about in the classroom.
Chris said that she was completely humbled by the outpouring of resources and the positive impacts School on Wheels has on its students and families. “I am honored to be a tutor with a program that offers hope and makes a difference in the lives of so many.”
If you would like to make a difference like Chris, click below!
Join us for 3 screenings of the documentary Most Likely To Succeed.
For most of the last century, entry-level jobs were plentiful, and college was an affordable path to a fulfilling career. That world no longer exists. The feature-length documentary Most Likely to Succeed examines the history of education, revealing the growing shortcomings of our school model in todayʼs innovative world. Film Threat stated that “this film should be a required course for all parents and educators.” Most Likely To Succeed is an official selection of many of the nation’s top film festivals, including the prestigious 2015 Sundance Film Festival and Tribeca Film Festival.
University of California Irvine, Student Center
Crystal Cove Auditorium Monday, February 8th, 6:30 p.m. (Free)
Inner City Arts, Downtown LA
The Rosenthal Theater Wednesday, February 17, 6:30 p.m. (Free)
“The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.” – B.B. King
It’s June and for most teenagers, that means getting ready for prom, graduation ceremonies, a summer of celebration. And for seniors, it means all the anticipation and excitement in preparing for the start of college. It’s not like that for the homeless high school student. For them, there is no SAT exam, no prom, no summer fun. The high school graduation rate for homeless children in California is less than 25%. There are many pressing issues facing our nation, but surely preparing young people for success in life is one of the most critical. Education is the fastest path out of poverty — the only way to achieve a more equal society. That’s why we do what we do.
We work with thousands of children and teens. In this issue, you will read about the success of some of our homeless students; students who, against all odds, find the power within themselves to continue each day, to study and keep focused on learning. They are truly inspirational.
Brianna Audinett, a former School on Wheels student, has not only excelled in school; now she is heading to San Francisco State University. She also represented School on Wheels and homeless children as a member of the World’s Children’s Prize Child Jury. The Child Jury consists of 15 children from all over the world who select the three final laureates for the World’s Children’s Prize.
School on Wheels gives hope and opportunity to graduating seniors through the Catherine McAuley Scholarship Fund. Josephine Bailey-McLein received one of our scholarship awards; she is heading to USC this fall. Allan Valencia, Emily Valencia, and Tatiana Obukhova also received scholarships.
Our wish is to plant the seeds of hope, confidence and knowledge in our students. You, our amazing supporters, help us do that.