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.
There is such tragedy and sorrow in our world. Every day, we learn of murder and mayhem, of war and hateful acts. There is also much beauty and joy. Our beloved Founder, Agnes Stevens, died last month. She was a visionary and the most positive person I’ve met. She saw beauty everywhere. She did not let anything stand in her way when it came to helping homeless children.
Emily Austin, a young woman at the beginning of life’s journey, also died, killed tragically in a car accident. Out of this heartbreak, came hope for our homeless students. Sue Taylor, President of OMD Entertainment, established a memorial fund in her honor and over 50 of Emily’s colleagues are volunteering to tutor our homeless students in her honor. This is what Sue said about Emily:
“When our friend and co-worker, Emily Austin, was killed so suddenly, our company looked for a way to channel our feelings of love for her and our grief at the tragedy to do something good in her honor. School on Wheels was an answered prayer. It allows us to give back to children, upended by circumstance, who are asking for help. Helping homeless children was always a passion of Emily’s and her family. The flexibility, training, organization, and reputation of School on Wheels has provided a tailor-made solution for us to give back in memory of our dear Emily.”
What wonderful legacies these women have left. They will continue to inspire us to help our students succeed in their number one job as a child: going to school and learning.
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.
On Thursday, October 2, School on Wheels Regional Coordinator, Lisette Gaeta, was interviewed on KPCRadio.com for the show Volunteer in The Valley. Volunteer in the Valley is a weekly Internet radio show/podcast on KPCRadio.com, which is a student-run Internet radio station based out of Pierce College with the goal to be a community resource for local news, entertainment, social issues and more in the San Fernando Valley.
School on Wheels is featured in a Ventura County Star article about a $15,000 grant from the Monsanto Fund earlier this year. Grants like these, along with donations, help us reach more students in more locations.
Terrie Soto, School on Wheels’ Regional Coordinator for Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, said she believes the nonprofit can have far-reaching effects on young people. “I really believe filling in the educational gaps will help them overcome obstacles in life and hopefully break the cycle of homelessness for these children,” Soto said. “And you can tell that everyone involved is doing it to help the homeless children in the community.”