Tag: star volunteers 2021

Oct 25

October 2021 Volunteers of the Month

Elyse Stelford

Elyse really goes above and beyond with her tutoring sessions and finds useful tools to help her during tutoring. She has shared many great resources with me and she also advocates for her student and her student’s mother. She ensures that Khalil is getting the appropriate resources at school and has great communication with both him and his mother. Elyse is patient and kind and makes her sessions fun and engaging. She is great at listening and makes sure Khalil feels heard and valued. 

-Yesenia Ontiveros, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I was a general education classroom teacher for 6 years, so getting to use my teacher skills to help my student understand a concept (and potentially even have some fun while doing so) is very rewarding. I also just truly love getting to spend time with our kids. They are all so funny and sweet! They get so excited to share their day or about something they read or a show they are loving. Grown ups don’t have that same enthusiasm. Working with kids is the best! 

Recently, I saw that Khalil was struggling with his multiplication facts. So I decided to go back to basics and use more concrete visual aids to help him. Usually we start our sessions with some drawing time and we will take drawing breaks throughout the session. We were working on multiplication using the visual aids and Khalil was CRUSHING it. When I asked him if he wanted to take a drawing break, he said no. I was stunned. I asked him, do you want to keep going because you’re doing such a great job and you’re good at this? He said yes. It made my heart so happy that he felt confident and didn’t even want to stop to draw! 

What would you tell someone who is thinking about becoming a volunteer tutor?

If someone is considering being a volunteer tutor, I would tell them to do it! Don’t hesitate! Sign up today! You do not need to be a teacher. Anyone can help! Everyone has something special they can bring to the table to help enrich the life of an incredible School on Wheels kid!

Sai Rithvik Kotla

I decided to nominate Rithvik for his incredible desire to give back to others and help give the gift of education. He is always willing to tutor multiple students while being a student himself! It has been great to see Rithvik grow and build relationships with his students. 

-Genesis Torres, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I always felt that education is the most important thing in life. When people are educated they can contribute significantly to a stable and stimulating community. I wanted to help people in need and School on Wheels had a perfect combination of my interest and my passion. By volunteering with School on Wheels, I’m not only helping people who are in need, but I’m also helping them learn. I feel rewarded when my students finally make a breakthrough and understand something they’ve been struggling with and I’m able to have a direct impact on their work.  

My most memorable experience was when one of my students, who was struggling with math when I first began tutoring, told me that they started feeling comfortable doing math as our tutoring sessions went by and were able to ace a test in school.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about becoming a volunteer tutor?

You have the chance to make a real difference in the life of a child and ultimately, the greater community. Volunteer tutoring is easy and fun, and you get to experience your student’s positive responses and growth.

Amanda Zaumeyer

Amanda’s immense kindness and advocacy for her student has inspired me during such an uneasy and unpredictable time in the pandemic. Her ability to think on her feet and create innovative ways to help her student constantly amazes me! I am very thankful for all of her persistence and empathy. 

-Maxine Faustino, Volunteer Support Coordinator

The personal connection—I’ve been working with Lexi now for a year and a half—and the satisfaction of helping her through high school algebra and other tough subjects is so gratifying. Plus I really enjoy my time with her. We love chatting about life, our dogs, our taste in TV and music, etc. She’s so positive and has such a great laugh. Last month Lexi had studied for hours for an algebra test, but she still wasn’t feeling 100% confident, so she asked me to make her a whole new practice test to go through. I was so impressed by her determination to keep working until she “got it,” even though she had already put so many hours in. 

What would you tell someone who is thinking about becoming a volunteer tutor?

Do it! You’ll get more out of it than you put in. 

Tim Bonds

Tim is a fantastic and dedicated tutor who gives up extra family time so he can tutor his student online on the weekends. He spends extra hours ahead of time finding resources and reviewing his student’s assignments so he is more than prepared for each session. Tim is such a fantastic asset to the School on Wheels program!

-Chris Walsh, Regional Coordinator

My first year of college I found that I was unprepared for the level and pace of my math classes. It was only through the help of friends that I was able to succeed. I have always wanted to pay it forward to others as the best way to repay that kindness. It is most rewarding to partner with families and students that put a high value on education, set challenging goals, and work hard at achieving them.
I have been very impressed with the progress that Mariam has made. Each week she attempts a new set of challenging math problems, and we go over those that are most difficult in our tutoring sessions. The very next week I will quiz her on similar problems—and she can solve them without my help!

What would you tell someone who is thinking about becoming a volunteer tutor?

One should consider all of the instances in one’s own life in which we have been helped by others. What was the impact of each gift? How did it change our immediate situation and our lives into the future? In what ways can we offer the same things to others?

Erika Lin

Erika is compassionate, patient and understanding. She effortlessly connects with her students; always going an extra mile for them and advocating for them. It is inspiring to see how much her student Haze trusts her and leans on her for support. Erika is currently tutoring two students. I admire her dedication and flexibility for her students. I am grateful to have her on my team.

-Manmeet Sodhi, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I have always loved working with children and adolescents of all ages. Most of my experiences are from summer camp counseling or in a hospital setting, but never in education. I realized this past year at work, I enjoy teaching and mentoring. Moreover, I was ready to be challenged in a different arena. Luckily, my good friend told me about School on Wheels and when I learned more about the mission of this organization and target population—I knew it would be a rewarding experience. 

One of the most rewarding aspects of tutoring is hearing a student say “this was really helpful.” I love watching my students improve and gain clarity where there is a potential learning gap. As a tutor, I have also improved in the way I explain concepts that I can personalize to the student’s learning style; I have learned to think about multiple approaches to a concept so that I can cover all the important details. Lastly, I am humbled by how hard these students work despite their life circumstances. At times, they can transition between multiple schools within a month. Their willingness to continue to learn, show up for tutoring, and bring positive energy is incredible. 

What would you tell someone who is thinking about becoming a volunteer tutor?
Do it. You will not regret it! It is a simple yet incredibly rewarding commitment each week with the potential to make a life-long impact on a student. Even if you feel like working with kids may not be something for you or you have no experience with teaching, the numerous resources and support at School on Wheels will definitely prepare you. Also, we have all been students at some point in our lives, so relating to these students might be easier than you think.

Sara Williams

Sara exemplifies a dedicated, passionate volunteer tutor! Not only was she the first tutor I ever matched at School on Wheels, but she has gone above and beyond to tutor both in-person and online. 

-Jesse Pasquan, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I first learned about School on Wheels (SOW) when I worked at Girl Scouts—a troop was raising money for the organization, kids helping other kids. It touched me so much that I looked into the organization, and was really drawn to the mission and program. It also felt like a wonderful opportunity to make a tangible difference in someone’s life. I’ve loved being part of SOW ever since.

There are so many reasons why I continue to tutor with SOW, and why I’ve found the experience incredibly rewarding. Yet what I’ve found most rewarding is creating a connection with my students like Serena—letting them know there’s another adult cheerleader in their lives, encouraging them to keep going, and inspiring them to do their best. The students have so much pressure to deal with; through tutoring, I strive to provide a respite and safe space for students like Serena to learn, grow, and have fun.

There have been so many great, memorable experiences with Serena, but I’d say the most memorable was our Shakespeare project. During summer break, I looked through SOW’s suggested activities, and came across a site with virtual tours of cultural institutions. I shared that list with Serena , and she wanted to check out the Globe in London.We decided it’d be fun to spend the next few weeks working on a brochure about Shakespeare’s life, works, and legacy. Serena got to flex her impressive graphic design skills! It’s a project I’ll always fondly remember, and hope Serena will as well, especially when she studies Shakespeare later in school!

What would you tell someone who is thinking about becoming a volunteer tutor?

For me, tutoring is the best part of my week and can easily transform my day from bad to good. Even if you don’t have a background in education, SOW makes tutoring easy with great resources and enthusiastic (and accessible) staff. The whole volunteering experience has been incredibly positive and rewarding, and I recommend it to anyone interested in working with youth and/or helping unhoused folks. By committing an hour each week to tutoring, you’re doing wonders for the community, for today’s youth, and for yourself. 

Janet Adams

Janet is an incredible role model and mentor. She goes above and beyond for her student Hailey every single week. Janet comes prepared for every session. There are slides, books, pictures, and personalized activities waiting for her student in every session, both academic and non-academic. Her kindness, dedication, and commitment to Hailey and her family are inspiring. I am grateful to have her on my team.

-Manmeet Sodhi, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I meet with two incredible educators every six weeks. We are retired and one of them mentioned that her daughter found out about School on Wheels and shared the information with me. I applied right away. I wanted to continue to give to others my love of education, teaching, curriculum, and technology.  

School on Wheels provides a systematic platform that is incredibly easy to use and learn. The training, the resources, and the coordinators have made my induction a joy. My weekly opportunity with Hailey is not taken lightly. I think about our conversations, her academic position, and Hailey’s emotional health after every session. I examine my conversation and teaching strategies when we leave the session. How can I make the next session better? What am I missing? I really am not looking for my own personal rewards. I am here to serve Hailey and her mother.  

I love the moments when Hailey makes connections. Recently she was reading a book in Epic and the subject matter brought up a personal connection. As she was reading about minerals and their names, she lit up, showing me her bracelet and necklace. The mineral name she was reading was the same mineral that was in her jewelry. 

What would you tell someone who is thinking about becoming a volunteer tutor?

The time spent with a student is giving back moments of learning and life lessons that may bring that student a foundation that they will build on from time to time. Your experiences are tried and tested and many of us have gone through fires that refine us into amazing human beings. With grit and determination, why not become a School on Wheels tutor?

Margie Johnson

I nominated Margie because she always goes above and beyond for her students. Even when her students are going through tough times, Margie always shows up ready to help them learn. Margie is always the first one to respond about helping with events and recruitment. She always has a positive attitude! 

-Aeriell Woodhams, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I was a teacher and wanted to work with children again, and I liked the idea of working with students who needed help with school work. I have worked with School on Wheels for about 10 years—mostly in person at Esqueda in Santa Ana. It is a great opportunity to help a student improve their academic skills as well as their self-esteem. Needless to say, I feel great satisfaction about what I am doing.

Batool Hussain

Batool brings the utmost patience, kindness, and care to her tutoring. She meets challenges with grace and persistence and is always thinking of ways to improve her students’ tutoring experience.

-Emma Gerch, Digital Learning Specialist

As a teacher, I’ve seen the disparity in the quality of education available to different populations. I’m going in a different direction with my career now, but I still wanted to use my teaching skills to help fill in some gaps. The first time my student got through an unfamiliar book pretty smoothly, I was so proud!

What would you tell someone who is thinking about becoming a volunteer tutor?

Prepare more things than you know you’ll have time for… you’re constantly going to have to adapt to the mood or technology problems or your activity just not going the way you thought!

Sep 27

September 2021 Volunteers of the Month

Adrianne Rippinger

Adrianne is an experienced educator and is tutoring three elementary school students! We are so lucky to have her.
-Alexander Toutant, Volunteer Support Coordinator

As a former educator, and especially after witnessing a year of online education, I knew the best way I could give back to my community was by tutoring students. I also know from experience that well-off parents will always find a way to give their children an edge in school. Sadly and perhaps irreversibly, it is those less fortunate who lost the most educational progress this past year, further widening the gap in educational advantage. So it was to those less fortunate whom I turned to offer my time and educational skill set.

Kelly Bauer

Kelly is incredibly dedicated; he and his student have been working so hard together. He really enjoys working with his student and they have a really special bond. Kelly has so much care and compassion and it’s clear that he only wants to see his student succeed and have all of the opportunities to do so. He has made such a big impact in the four months he has been tutoring!
-Kristina Rakosh, Regional Coordinator

Last year I worked with my own children as they worked from home due to COVID. I saw how hard they were working and knew that it must be so challenging for other kids. I looked for organizations that I could support using my background in education and found School on Wheels. I loved their mission so I signed up.

I think the most rewarding part has been seeing my student grow. He is up against so many challenges and still is able to show up each week and learn. I can already see him getting stronger in Math and Writing. This summer, we worked on a five-paragraph essay as part of a School on Wheels scholarship he’ll be applying for this fall. He learned the whole process, created an outline and drafts of his essay. He was motivated and persistent the whole way through.

No matter what challenges you may be up against in your life, being kind, positive, and responsible can take you a long way. Every bit of energy you put into tutoring you receive back in multitudes from the joy and satisfaction of working with students.

Mohammad Fidaali

Mohammad is an incredible role model, mentor, and tutor for his student, Benjamin. When Mohammad first joined us, he had a huge desire to help, but he was uncertain if he had what it took to be a tutor. From the moment Mohammad started tutoring, he was a natural! He not only possesses a natural ability to teach, but he does a great job of finding ways to connect with his student. When Mohammad joined SOW, he had just made an important transition in his life, leaving a corporate job behind and moving back in with his family to pursue medical school. He’s a great example of what you can do with a positive mindset and determination. Mohammad has always been more than qualified to work with our students and is making a wonderful difference in the life of his student. It’s been a pleasure to watch him grow as a tutor.
-Stephanie Swenseid, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I have always enjoyed working with kids but hadn’t done so in quite some time. I found myself with some extra time on my hands recently and decided I wanted to spend a portion of it tutoring. I started talking to people who also tutor and one of them mentioned School on Wheels specifically. The mission at School on Wheels is genuine, which is why I decided to reach out and see if I can volunteer.

Working with Benjamin has given me an immense perspective on how people develop. I think I was like him in a lot of ways when I was in third grade. Quick, wanting, not wishing to struggle through to potentially greater outcomes. So seeing that, and now working with him at this stage in my life, is humbling. He has taught me patience and the virtue of practicing what we preach. I was blown away at his ability to process the information, retain, recall, and give really sound, creative thoughts on abstract ideas like where he thinks the story will progress. These were things I wasn’t expecting. What I realized then is that he can actually read very well, it’s just sometimes he might get flustered or give an incorrect answer in the moment. In actuality, with time and strong effort put towards the question or problem, he can get an accurate answer. He does have the ability to excel!

Jessica Spake 

Jess is truly an amazing volunteer! The two students she tutors speak three languages, with English being their newest language. Jess has been able to tutor them in both English and in French. She brings excitement about space, animals, and academic achievements to the table.
-Jesse Pasquan, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I learned about School on Wheels from a friend. I believe that kids experiencing homelessness deserve the resources necessary to succeed in school. My student Amy has taught me that we all need big checkmarks for every achievement we make. I would tell anyone thinking about becoming a tutor, “do not hesitate. Getting to know my students, and seeing them bravely face up to academic challenges has been an utter privilege.”

Aug 23

Volunteers of the Summer (2021)

Anya Alag

Anya has an incredibly warm and nurturing spirit. She is particularly great about identifying her students’ interests and incorporating them into her lessons. Anya is always quick to go above and beyond her duties as a volunteer, and we are lucky to have her in the School on Wheels family!

Emma Gerch, Digital Learning Specialist

I always enjoyed working with children—they are so bright, brilliant, imaginative, and curious. I also was in awe of School on Wheels’ mission, to provide resources to children who need them most, and I wanted to be a part of that! Seeing one of my students get excited about something I’m teaching them is the best feeling—I appreciate their passion and enthusiasm, and feel like they are making strides in their educational journey. 

One of my students and I baked cornbread together, and also discussed the science of baking, and the history of cornbread. I enjoyed creating an interdisciplinary lesson for my student that combined multiple subjects and delicious food! To someone considering volunteering, I would say absolutely do it! It is such a fun experience, and just as much as your student will learn from you, you will learn a lot from them. And be creative with your lessons if you can! Putting in the effort can make tutoring a lot more exciting for both the tutor and the student. 

Jaslyn Wong

Jaslyn is a blessing! She is extremely patient, fun, and innovative. She is also enthusiastic and always ready to take on a challenge. Despite the challenges, she creatively engages her student and helps them flourish. She has fostered a deep and warm relationship not just with her student but also with the family. I am grateful to have Jaslyn on my team.

Manmeet Sodhi, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I’ve always loved learning, teaching, and kids! I thought I would combine some of my interests and give back to the community by sharing what (little) knowledge and skills I do have. My first-ever job in high school was tutoring young kids from ages 4 to 14. I remember using all of my paychecks to buy popsicles/snacks and activity books for the kids just because I truly found joy in enriching their lives!

The “breakthrough” moments are always so, so rewarding! This is especially true for the moments that required some grit, tough love, and hard work to achieve. But, by far, my favorite moments are the day-to-day interactions that I get to have with the students. Whether it’s a bonding moment over a hip new video or finding similarities in our humanness, I feel so very honored to be able to interact with and inspire the younger generation. (You would be surprised to know how many students get awestruck when they find out that their teacher/tutor also enjoys eating pizza or visiting the local fast food joint or taking part in a viral TikTok food trend!) 

I think any time we are working on “tough stuff” is when I find tutoring to be the most memorable. It’s always a magical process to see Max transform from having a super hesitant and skeptical attitude to having more of an “oh this isn’t as bad as I initially thought” attitude. I remember one time we were working on some visual spelling techniques with the word “which”. He was arguing with me that I was using the wrong “which”. (He thought that was how you spell “witch”.) After trying different methods of explaining it to him, we found a saying that helped him remember which was which! The saying was “Which ‘h’ is your favorite in ‘which’?” 

If someone is considering tutoring, do it! You might think you’re not qualified to be a teacher or you might be apprehensive about not getting along with your tutee, but I promise you that you will find something in common. There has never been an encounter or session where I regretted showing up. I always feel rejuvenated and full of life after a tutoring session! Being a tutor is more than just teaching; it’s being a friend/mentor/role model for your tutee! The impact you can have is always so humbling. 

Chloe Wells

I nominated Chloe because she is dedicated and committed to her student’s education and personal growth. She helps instill confidence and determination in her student. Chloe’s passion for School on Wheels is evident and is demonstrated each and every time she meets with her student. 

Maxine Faustino, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I have spent many years working as a piano teacher and organic chemistry tutor. I love helping people nail challenging concepts and have so much fun working with students. School on Wheels presented a perfect opportunity for me to follow this passion while contributing to a super awesome cause! Everything I teach has been something that I struggled to learn at one point in my life. I find fulfillment in being able to help people through the same struggles that I faced when I was in their position. 

There is nothing more satisfying than seeing your student excel at something that they once struggled with. Amy and I have been working on building a strong foundation by practicing with fractions. After a few weeks of practice she has improved significantly and seems a lot more confident! 

Aarij Gora 

I decided to nominate Aarij because not only does he have a great relationship with his student, Alex, but he is also one of my tutor coordinators! Aarij is always willing to go the extra mile for our students and tutors. He does a great job of making his fellow tutors feel supported and can always be counted on!

Aeriell Woodhams, Volunteer Support Coordinator 

The reason I joined School on Wheels was actually my younger brother. I saw how hard online school was for him as a special needs teen and I really enjoyed helping him out with his homework and classroom activities. It helped me realize that I really enjoy spending time with kids and helping them out in different activities. The aspect of tutoring I have found most memorable is knowing that I am doing this for someone else. Not only have I developed a relationship with Alex, but also with his mom and his younger brother. Tutoring has allowed me to develop a relationship and connection with a whole family, which I think is really great and rewarding.

A memorable experience I had when tutoring was when Alex and I were playing a math game. It was amazing to see how much he progressed just during the middle of the game. He picked up on the patterns and the trends of the game very quickly to the point where he was sometimes saying the answer before I even read him the question! He has improved a lot in recognizing patterns and doing addition problems quickly. For someone who wants to volunteer as a tutor, definitely do it and stick with it! It is a once-in-a-lifetime type of experience where you can develop a relationship with a student and even their family. You may even make a new friend for life in the process. 

Julie Martel

Julie is an incredible tutor who has a gift for working with all students, and teenagers in particular. She possesses a beautiful ability to connect instantly with her students, helping them recognize their talents and abilities and how they can share them in the world. Students love working with Julie because she is fun, but also because she listens to them. Her students always know that she has their best interests in mind and cares for them. Julie is such a wonderful and caring person and makes a big difference with her students.

Stephanie Swenseid, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I wanted to be a tutor because as an older person I have learned much from living all these years and I wanted to use my knowledge to hopefully make the life of a young person better. The most rewarding aspect of tutoring is the friendly relationship that has developed between Anthony and I. I also love watching his self-confidence grow through the tutoring process. A memorable experience was when Anthony was moving to a different home and he asked me if I would keep tutoring him. It made me feel like he really appreciates me and the help I have been giving him. Helping young people is very rewarding. I know it is a cliche but you get as much as you give.

Geneva Tripp 

Geneva is a consistent, reliable, and resourceful tutor. She has been tutoring Freddy long-term and they have a great relationship. They have worked together on Freddy’s shoe business and she helped him win a School on Wheels scholarship. She wants the best for Freddy and is a truly positive role model for him. 

Yesenia Ontiveros, Volunteer Support Coordinator

I wanted to be a School on Wheels tutor to give students the opportunity to succeed at school and beyond, and to help them feel supported and confident in whatever passions they choose to follow. It’s very rewarding to see the progress my student has made over time: becoming motivated and passionate about their path, taking initiative, managing multiple classes and assignments on their own, and improving their grades. I loved seeing my student use the skills they learned from the BUS Program—budgeting and managing finances—for their business! I can see how it gave my student direction and motivated them to work hard in that area of life. It’s a great thing to be able to pass on whatever skills or knowledge you have to kids in the younger generation to help them recognize their potential.

John Pham

I nominated John for his dedication to his student, Sergio. I have seen John log tutoring sessions that exceed the required 1 hour a week and feel that he has gone above and beyond for Sergio! John is also a part of region 9’s CASA Youth virtual group tutoring team and also assists our region with delivery drop-offs. I am so thankful for the time and dedication that John has given to School on Wheels! 

Genesis Torres, Volunteer Support Coordinator

In the past, I had a great experience as a tutor at my local library. I later came across School on Wheels and read about its mission of improving education for students experiencing homelessness. The tremendous educational barriers that these students face made me want to help them. With my interest in the mission and joy for tutoring, I became a School on Wheels tutor. It has been very fulfilling to see how confident my student has grown in his academic abilities after working with him over the school year. I remember when he used to get discouraged doing mathematics. While accurately plotting points on a coordinate plane one session, he joyfully told me that he was starting to like this subject a little more. 

One day, my student suddenly told me that he wanted to learn how to count money. I taught him the value of a penny, nickel, dime, and quarter. He was already familiar with the different dollar bills. I remember taking objects from my room, putting a price on each item, and having him tell me the combination of coins and dollar bills he planned on using to pay. Though it was difficult doing all this virtually, we both had fun and he was able to give me the exact amount for each item. 

For those who are considering volunteering as a tutor, I would say that this is a meaningful and worthwhile experience. As their tutor and mentor, you will be helping students overcome tremendous educational barriers so that they can better pursue their dreams.

May 25

Volunteers of the Month (5/21)

I’ve been tutoring kids in stable housing for years and I know even small obstacles can feel huge to kids, much less something as daunting as homelessness. Seeing the impact of just a little bit of consistent individual attention has been so humbling. My current student was a very reluctant reader when I met her. A few months ago I treated her to a game she loves as part of her session, and a few minutes in she asked, “can we read a story now?”

I love reminding children that education and growth are exciting and fun. Seeing a shift in attitude and perspective towards education is the greatest and most rewarding gift. Using a digital learning platform can be difficult, but the drawings that my student and I have created together are amazing!

If someone asked me why they should become a tutor I would say, “Do it! It’s fun, it’s important, and it’s rewarding. Doesn’t everyone want those three things?!”

I’ve always loved tutoring and working with kids, and done so for years—this combined the best of best worlds! Virtual tutoring can be challenging, but it’s so rewarding to have been a part of my student’s lives over the past year. It’s been a hard one for all of us, and they’ve been a light in mine. One of my students told me she didn’t know how to do the math problems they were working on in class. We went through the steps, and within fifteen minutes she was teaching ME how to do the problems! It was fun to see her catch on so quickly.