Guest post by School on Wheels Ambassador Victor Maldonado
There are enough children without homes in Los Angeles to fill Dodger Stadium. Yet, when we think of homelessness, children aren’t who we typically imagine. With over 65,000 students without homes in Los Angeles County alone, why does child homelessness go so grossly unnoticed? The answer is simple: out of sight, out of mind. These are children who are living in shelters, motels, group foster homes, vehicles, and on the streets. The common thread that connects these children is a lack of consistent education.
I am proud to volunteer with an organization that bridges these gaps in education, giving children experiencing homelessness a fighting chance at a stable life—School on Wheels. Their approach may seem modest: tutor a child for one hour per week. However, the impact on that child’s life is incalculable—it provides these children with the structure and consistency they need. That hour reiterates to them that they aren’t forgotten, that they do matter, and that they can change their circumstances.
And once a child believes in themselves, the hope and optimism they carry is truly inspirational. In January 2018 a student of mine was struck in the crossfire of a drive-by. In the weeks following, I recall trying to be sympathetic to his condition by telling him we could just play games until he felt better. Knowing he had the SATs coming up, he responded, “Games won’t get me into college. We’ll work on math sections.” To contextualize things, this was a student who, not even a year prior, would constantly vocalize that he might as well “pick out a box to live in now” because he felt he had no chance of attending college. It was at that precise moment that I realized how much of an impact that hour a week can have on the self-esteem of a child in need.
School on Wheels is the only non-profit organization in Southern California that focuses on the education of children experiencing homelessness. As such, its’ success, as well as the success of the children it serves, is directly related to its number of volunteers. Sadly, that number is often limited by people’s misconceptions on whether they’re “qualified” to volunteer. In reality, the only obstacle is a person’s willingness to volunteer.
Regardless of your age, background or level of education, your mere presence in a child’s life can be transformative. They will never forget that someone cared enough to show up once a week during the most turbulent time of their lives. Get started today.
NBC4 and Telemundo 52 Los Angeles have launched the return of Supporting Our Schools donation drive from July 11-19. The stations are teaming up with Ralphs and Food 4 Less to provide homeless students in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura Counties with essential school supplies they need before school starts in the fall.
The public is invited to make a $1 or more donation at check-out when shopping at their local Ralphs and Food 4 Less supermarket – visit Ralphs.comand Food4Less.com to find a location near you. All proceeds will go to support School on Wheels!
April is Volunteer Appreciation month, and every year we celebrate our volunteers and thank them for dedicating their time and talents to supporting the homeless students we serve. As this year is our 25th anniversary, we hosted our biggest event ever. On Saturday, April 21, over 150 volunteers from Long Beach to Ventura joined staff and board members for an inspirational breakfast and award ceremony.
Mayor Eric Garcetti honored volunteer tutors with certificates of appreciation and recorded a video for us to share at the event. Speakers included a parent whose daughter is now attending college and student Charlie (15) who surprised his tutor, Executive Director Catherine Meek, by reading out the proclamation she received from the mayor. Click here to see a full list of the amazing volunteers who logged over 50+ volunteer hours in 2017.
On November 21, 2015, team School on Wheels participated in the United Way HomeWalk, a walk dedicated to eradicating homelessness in Los Angeles. This was our team’s second year participating and the turnout was outrageous!
As one of the largest groups, School on Wheels walked together with students, parents and volunteers in support of our organization and the fight to end homelessness. More than 300 supporters registered to walk with our team which is a record number for our organization!
We are very appreciative for everyone who supported us in this year’s walk and contributed their effort to make this a memorable event. Thank you all!
We have some more photos from the event on our Facebook page too!
About 15,000 LA school kids are officially homeless, living in a shelter, car, abandoned building or other temporary setup. David Nazar reports on Los Angeles Unified School District’s new program to deal with this shocking problem and talks to school officials, homeless kids and their parents. The segment includes an interview with School on Wheels Program Director, Matt Raab.
Click the image above to go directly to the video.