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.