August is here and that means it’s back-to-school time. Were you excited to go back to school when you were young or did you want summer break to go on forever? Were you nervous going into a new grade? Did you worry about having the right clothes? I’ve been working with my student this summer and I see the stress he’s beginning to show as the new school year draws closer. Starting a new grade or a new school is tough for any kid, but for our students it can be painfully difficult — they may not have the new clothes their peers have, they may not have the school supplies they need, or any understanding from a new teacher. Most of them are starting from behind – typically two or three grades. What a painful situation for a kid to be in.
But school is one of the few stable, secure places in the lives of homeless children, a place where they can acquire the skills needed to escape poverty. And you, our wonderful donors and volunteers, help them understand how critical being in school and learning are. You can – and do – help close the gaps in their education. Whether you are tutoring every week or holding a backpack drive or donating funds, you are making a difference in the life of our most forgotten children. Where others don’t even acknowledge them, you reach out to help them. You validate them as the important persons they are; you encourage them to be the best students possible and most importantly, you instill hope in their young lives.
If you have any ideas and thoughts as to how we can help more of our students, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or (805) 641-1678. I would love to hear from you.
Summer is in full swing and I have a special request for all our amazing volunteers and supporters — please keep helping our students during the summer months. Summer may bring thoughts of vacation, leisure, and fun activities. For our homeless students, however, the summer break is not their friend. Students forget a lot of what they have learned throughout the school year, particularly homeless children. On average the learning loss is about three months of reading and math skills. Our students have enough obstacles in their lives – we don’t want them to lose everything you’ve helped them with during the school year.
Studies also show that being out of school is a dangerous time for unsupervised children and teens. They are more likely to use alcohol and drugs, engage in high-risk behaviors, receive poor grades and drop out of school than those who have the benefit of constructive activities supervised by responsible adults.
I know that many of you work with and support our students year round. Thank you – that will help them retain the knowledge they have learned during the school year and reduce that summer learning loss.
We know that summer learning is critical to ongoing academic success. We want our students to have a variety of experiences that challenge them, develop their talents, keep them engaged, and expand their horizons during these summer months. Our students don’t have a vacation — don’t let their learning take a vacation either.
“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.
When we developed our three-year strategic plan at the end of 2011, we established an ambitious and audacious goal to double the number of students we tutor. And with your help, encouragement and support, we did!
You made last year the best yet for School on Wheels and all our students. 3,129 homeless students in Southern California were tutored by 1,816 volunteers in 2014! We awarded scholarships to 12 outstanding students, presented the prestigious President’s Volunteer Service Award to 167 remarkable volunteers, provided backpacks, schools supplies, uniforms, bus tokens and computers to over 6,000 homeless kids, and you, our kind and very generous friends donated over $1.5 million in gifts.
We can only accomplish this work because of you. With one in every 30 kids homeless in America, we have much to do. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the magnitude of the numbers, but we can’t forget that each of those statistics is a child, a child who is scared and lonely and falling behind in school. You provide a critical benefit to that child, one that literally has the power to change the course of her life. You enrich and make a lasting difference in the lives of thousands of homeless children.