Tag: success story

Sep 15

Homeless at the age of ten, former student shares his story

  • Graduation picture - alongside youngest sister Blanca, mom Bertha, and middle sister Susan.
  • Carlos with his wife Nancy and daughter, Azucena

Carlos Horacio Hernandez, a former student of School on Wheels, was plunged into homelessness at the age of ten.  A year earlier, he had arrived in the United States from Honduras with his mother, stepfather, and two sisters. His mother lost her job within six months of occupying a four bedroom house in Los Angeles. Carlos’s stepfather disappeared from their lives when things started getting tough for the family and was around only for moments at a time. With no help to pay bills, Carlos’s mother warned the children of the possibility of losing their home. After four months of not meeting payments, police officers posted a letter at their door telling them they only had two hours to evacuate. Thus, Carlos’s journey into homelessness began.  

At twelve years old, Carlos found himself in non-permanent housing situations time after time. Eventually they wound up at the Union Rescue Mission shelter which is where Carlos had his first encounter with a School on Wheels tutor.

Carlos remembered hearing about School on Wheels from others at the shelter. His mother received more information about the program and Carlos, along with his sisters, began going to sessions at The Midnight Mission. He was sixteen years old when he met his tutor John, and for Carlos, meeting with him was a safe space where he could talk and relax.

“I used tutoring as a space for me to be me, a positive environment…I would get my homework done right away, and the rest of the time, we just talked about stuff or we did something like play a quick game.”

Carlos recalls John as someone who showed genuine care for him and his sisters.  After each session, John walked with Carlos and his sisters to the train and waited with them until it arrived.

“The thing I remember the most was when we used to finish with the session. He could have gone home, could have done whatever, but he opted to walk with us.”

Even after the family left the shelter, Carlos and his sisters still attended tutoring sessions. To this day, Carlos appreciates John and has plans to reconnect with him in the near future.

Carlos and his family were placed in transitional housing after leaving the Union Rescue Misson. After Carlos witnessed a violent shooting just across the street from their living area, Carlos’s mother chose to move her family elsewhere.

The family endured a few more moves, but after approximately four years of instability, they were able to save enough money to live on their own permanently.

Carlos went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in Central American Studies and in Psychology from Cal State Northridge. He then furthered his education by earning a master’s degree in Tourism, Hospitality, and Recreation Management from the same university. Now, his plan is to get his doctorate in Education.

Jun 20

High School Graduate Success Story

Brianna Audinett is a former student of School on Wheels. We met Brianna back in 2008 when she was chosen to represent School on Wheels students in Sweden at the World Children’s Prize for the Rights of a Child ceremony. Agnes Steven, Founder of School on Wheels, had been nominated for this award. This May Brianna graduated from high school, and we caught up with her to find out what she is up to and how School on Wheels has impacted her life.We asked Brianna these questions and here are her responses:

What was your best memory of representing School on Wheels at the prize ceremony in Sweden?

It was all wonderful. But I do remember the plane ride in particular because it was my first time on a plane. Spending time with Catherine, her husband Al, Agnes and Mr. Matt, who was one of my favorite tutors, was also wonderful. When I was in Sweden I felt so much love surrounded by people who loved me. I went back to Sweden six times as a jury member and made many great friends there. We stay in touch via Facebook and emails.

You spent a lot of time with Agnes; what is your best memory of her?

Agnes listened to me and took me seriously. She was candid and sweet and always asked, “What do you need me to do for you?’ Agnes was interested in my education and well-being, and that made me feel great. Knowing that someone, other than your mom, is invested in you is a good feeling. I am kinda indebted to Agnes because she affected me greatly, and I miss her.

What was it like to live in a homeless shelter?

The thing about living in a shelter that upset me the most was the atmosphere. It just destroyed me. Children have to grow up really fast when they are living in a shelter, and the shelter we were living in didn’t cater to children or our childhood. We had to be quiet and sit there and take it!

Do you have a message for our current students?

Yes, the one thing they must do is have hope and self-reliance. You kinda have to maintain your sanity and focus on the people that love you and uplift them too. When you do that, it reflects back… you have to have some degree of faith in yourself to pick yourself up.

Brianna is looking forward to attending college in the fall but she was unable to go to her first university choice due to financial constraints. Going to college, she says, will give her a chance of stability and she wants to be able to sustain herself academically. We know you will get there, Brianna.

Brianna and her mom have been living in permanent housing for a number of years.