In 2003, Tony was in 5th grade and struggling to learn a new language as well as understand his math homework. His family had moved to the United States from Vietnam.
Tony was matched with a School on Wheels tutor and remembers breaking down one day because of the stress of it all. His family had been evicted, and they were living in their car. He was struggling with school and was feeling overwhelmed. What his School on Wheels tutor said in that moment stayed with Tony and became his mantra: “It’s going to get better. You can get past this. It’s not going to be like this forever.”
Fast-forward to 2017, and Tony is about to graduate from Cal State Fullerton with a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies. His biggest challenge – learning to speak English – became his biggest achievement! With gratitude to School on Wheels, Tony is now training to become a volunteer tutor, wanting to pass on some of the positivity he received when he was 10 years old and homeless.
“I enjoy tutoring math. When I first applied, math tutors were in short supply. Agnes Stevens (Founder of School on Wheels) referred to me as the math guy.”
Dwight Liu has been a School on Wheels tutor for 15 years! He maintains his one-hour-a-week commitment and continues to volunteer because he finds it rewarding and feels better about himself when he is making a difference. And what a difference. We estimate that he has tutored over 100 students in his time with us!
“I tutored one student for around three years until he graduated high school. He had a heart of gold and a wonderful attitude. I was so glad when his family finally found permanent housing…So many of my other students have been brief encounters, but that is the nature of tutoring homeless kids.”
Dwight credits tutoring for School on Wheels for making him a much better tutor to his daughter – increasing his patience with her and giving him new teaching tools to help explain things. Many of the students he has worked with lack basic skills and have very difficult lives. While he still sometimes finds it hard to get his students to focus or understand concepts, he gets the support he needs from the School on Wheels online workshops and staff.
Dwight tutors at a shelter only a few minutes from his work. His company, Covington Capital Management, supports volunteer activities with donations to their employees’ favorite nonprofits. Thank you, Dwight, for your years of service!
Ryleigh is 12 ¼ years old, and her favorite flavor ice-cream is birthday cake! She would like to be a nurse, like her mom, because “Being a nurse is the best thing because you get to help people.”
Rachel Bravo, Ryleigh’s tutor’s favorite ice cream is pistachio. Ryleigh says Rachel is “funny, nice and kind.”
Rachel has been a volunteer tutor for 4 years. “I tell people about School on Wheels all the time! I even managed to persuade one of my coworkers at Ventura County Credit Union to tutor, and she loves it.”
Rachel and Ryleigh have worked together, mostly on math, for about a year. Although they meet at a kitchen table in a busy shelter, they still manage to focus on school and studies.
When Rachel wanted to do more in her community, she discovered School on Wheels online and knew she was able to commit to an hour-a-week schedule. She loves her 10-minute commute and that Ryleigh is always ready and waiting for her.
“It is hard enough to help a child succeed in school and navigate getting into college when there are two parents, with two incomes, living in their own home. Once a child falls behind, the obstacles just multiply. I also understand that no matter how prevalent texting and social media is – mastering good grammar, spelling and reading comprehension will never be obsolete!”
Click below to become a School on Wheels tutor like Rachel!
Diane Lopez – Wanting to do something in the field of education, I would have never thought about tutoring homeless children. Sometimes people forget that homelessness is something that affects everyone, and children are not immune to it. I am so glad that I found School on Wheels because it fills me with such warmth that I cannot explain in words. Seeing my student smiling and growing in her studies keeps me wanting to make sure she gets the best tutoring I can give her.
Region 5 – Hollywood, Silverlake, Pasadena:
Erna Taylor – I had just come out of an 8 1/2 year retail job at a scrapbooking store, and I was looking for something to do. School on Wheels caught my eye as an opportunity to work with children again. I had been a storyteller for many years, so this seemed perfect. I love words and books, and learning is very important to me. I also come from a big family, so working one-on-one with a child has been a great experience for both me and my student.
Region 6 – Inland Empire:
Deborah Myers – Education has always been important to me. Someone once told me, “Never stop learning,” and I took that message to heart. When I came across a notice for School on Wheels, it seemed like a perfect fit for my interests. I chose to work with high school boys in a group foster home. Even though their circumstances present a unique challenge, it’s especially thrilling when I can connect with a student to help expand his knowledge, and through education, help him to build dreams for a future.
Skid Row Learning Center:
Jesse Polen – Every Thursday, you will find Mr. Jesse sitting at Table 1 (a.k.a. Mr. Jesse’s Table). He takes on the tough but fun task of working with three or four 1st and 2nd graders at one time. Throughout this time, he not only helps the students complete homework but assists them in raising their scores. Mr. Jesse makes sure the sessions are fun, yet efficient, and is making a lasting impact on these children!
Justin Helps – Tutoring with School On Wheels is a welcome change of pace after spending the work day in the world of adults. It is the highlight of my week. It is also very rewarding to see the understanding “click” for a student, and this has proven helpful to my work at Khan Academy. I’m honored to be involved with an organization like School On Wheels, which enables me to have this experience and know that the student benefits as well.
School on Wheels was featured on the Southern California Public Radio, KPCC, website in an article on the issue of summer learning loss and how our program helps homeless students learn throughout the year in face of the many other transitions they experience.
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.