Apr 04

Volunteers of the Year

Congratulations to our Volunteers
of the Year!

Aarji Gora 

Being nominated for Volunteer of the Year means a lot to me. This is such an amazing cause and this award is a reminder of the community I am serving, the people I am working with, and the lives I am able to impact with this organization.

My favorite part of tutoring is seeing the spark in my students’ eyes when they understand a concept. I have tutored multiple students over the years with School on Wheels, and seeing how motivated and engaged they are when they begin to understand a concept is amazing.

The relationship I develop with my students is what inspires me to overcome any challenges that come with tutoring. Becoming friends with them, learning about who they are, and learning about their interests while tutoring is what motivates me to come every single week and help them improve as students.

From my students, I have learned the importance of taking the time to understand someone’s background. With each of my students over the years, I have seen how they come from different family situations and how important these things are to take into account when tutoring. Being flexible and understanding of their situation is very important in order to help our students feel comfortable.

Kathy McCarthy

This nomination means so much to me. It is such an honor to be recognized by School on Wheels; I truly love the program and the intimate way that I can help a family in need. I believe that School on Wheels is making the world a better place and being recognized like this tells me I am heading in the right direction. Thank you!

I really enjoy the time I spend with my student, Leanna. I just think she’s a little creative genius. My favorite part of the sessions lately have been watching her sound out words. I can see how close she is to reading and it makes me so happy. It’s wonderful spending time with her. Leanna looks at the world with fresh eyes and enthusiasm, and I learn from her fresh perspective. 

For me, the most challenging part of tutoring is holding the student’s attention. It’s especially frustrating when I come to a session with set goals; it turns out that my best strategy is to adjust my own mindset and let go of any self-imposed pressure to get through the lesson as I had imagined. When I need inspiration to continue, I just remember that my efforts are making a difference for my student, the families and the community.

Shreya Rao

Being nominated for Volunteer of the Year means a lot to me, as it reminds me of the impact my tutoring has made. I first joined School on Wheels because it seemed like a good way to engage my interest in teaching, while also allowing me to make a difference in a student’s life. Our weekly sessions seem to fly by and I have been able to get really close to my student, but being nominated for Volunteer of the Year has helped me acknowledge my impact and has motivated me to continue with this organization. I am very grateful to be recognized for my work, and I hope to make an even larger impact in the future. 

My favorite part of tutoring my student is seeing him understand a concept and getting excited about it. His excitement feeds into mine, and I feel so happy. I also like hearing him gush about something good that happened in his life or something fun that he did. He is a very joyful child so I love when he is in a good mood because it lifts my mood up as well. 

My student’s progress inspires me to overcome challenges that occur in tutoring. Even when he is frustrated, if he doesn’t understand something or is in a bad mood, he still tries and that inspires me to be patient and try as well. His little victories also inspire me, and seeing him easily complete tasks that he originally struggled with encourages me. 

Something that I have learned from my student is that you can always find things that make you excited, even if you are having a hard time. When my student is having a difficult time understanding what we are going over or is tired at the end of the session, he always comes up with a new and interesting way to say goodbye to me. He maintains enthusiasm and energy even when he has had a tough day. This has taught me that even during a bad day, sparing a little energy and enthusiasm for a small moment can make a big difference, not only for you but for the people around you. On days when we are both tired, his little farewells (whether it be aliens that are coming or dinosaurs) also give me joy and energy.

Tameka “Nicki” Clark

School on Wheels holds a special place in my heart, especially given my own journey from facing homelessness in my youth to where I stand today. To me, this recognition reflects the passion, the commitment, and the hours put in, as a volunteer, devoted to serving children and creating positive change. The mission of School on Wheels is motivation to continue making a difference, inspired by my own experiences and the belief in the transformative power of helping our youth.

Tutoring the students goes beyond the academic achievements we strive for; it’s also witnessing their growth in confidence and resilience. Each session is an opportunity to see them not just learn, but also realize their own potential and strength in the face of adversity. There’s a profound joy in observing those moments of understanding and pride when they grasp a new concept or overcome a challenge they thought was impossible.These instances of personal triumph, no matter how small they may seem, truly encapsulate the essence of the work at School on Wheels. The journey of empowering students to believe in themselves and their future possibilities is what I cherish the most.

What inspires me to overcome any challenges that arise with tutoring is the incredible resilience of the students. Their determination to learn and grow despite the obstacles they face due to homelessness reminds me that the hurdles encountered in tutoring are surmountable. Every challenge becomes a lesson in creativity, patience, and perseverance, not just for the students, but for me as well. Seeing the positive impact these sessions have on their academic and personal development fuels my motivation to find solutions, adapt, and continuously improve my approach. Their courage and progress inspires me to push through difficulties, always keeping in mind the transformative power of education and the difference a dedicated tutor can make.

From my students, I’ve learned lessons far beyond the academic curriculum. I’ve learned the true meaning of resilience and the strength of a positive mindset. Their ability to face life’s challenges with optimism and determination has been incredibly inspiring. It has taught me that our circumstances do not define us. Instead, it’s our attitude towards those circumstances that shape our journey. Witnessing their eagerness to learn and grow, despite the obstacles of homelessness, has also reinforced my belief in the power of education as a tool for change. 

Steven Tiso

This recognition is humbling, quite honestly, as many School on Wheels volunteers work so hard, many of whom are young kids in school or still working. I’m retired, so I have time. I am flattered of course, but I feel I am doing all that I am supposed to do, and sometimes a bit more, to help these kids who are not having the easiest life.

Some of my favorite moments in tutoring come when my student gives me a “high five” and a big smile when they get something. Maybe the answer to a tricky or challenging question on homework or test; anytime they show that emotion that they are learning and having fun.

If I ever feel overwhelmed or discouraged, all I have to do is think about how hard the kids and their families have it. 99% of the time, any challenges I have pale in comparison. Through my experiences with these kids, I’ve learned how important it is to simply persevere, be patient, stay humble, be empathetic, and just listen.

Elisa Vaezazizi

Being nominated for Volunteer of the Year is a profound honor that goes beyond personal recognition. It signifies a collective effort and a shared commitment to making a lasting and positive impact on the lives of those in need. For me, this nomination is a testament to the importance of education and the potential it has to break the cycle of homelessness. It’s not just about me; it’s about the cause, the students, and the hope for a better future. 

My favorite part of tutoring my students are in those “aha” moments when they grasp a concept or overcome a difficult problem. Watching their eyes light up with understanding and confidence is immensely rewarding. It goes beyond academics; it’s about empowering these students to believe in their own capabilities and fostering a sense of self-worth.

The inspiration to overcome challenges in tutoring comes from the resilience of the students themselves. Knowing the hardships they face outside the classroom fuels my determination to provide a stable and nurturing learning environment. Every obstacle becomes an opportunity to reinforce the idea that education is a powerful tool for change, capable of unlocking doors that seemed firmly shut. 

From my students, I’ve learned the transformative power of patience and empathy. Each student carries a unique story, often filled with struggles and setbacks. Patience allows me to navigate their academic journey at their pace, understanding that progress may come in small steps. On the other hand, empathy bridges the gap between tutor and student, creating a connection beyond textbooks and lessons. 

Debbie and Michael Snow

This acknowledgement feels really good and also humbling. There is so much more I feel we could be doing for these kids. It is great, though, to receive validation for the effort we put into improving the lives of our students.

The most rewarding part of tutoring, for us, is the excitement the show when they learn something they never knew and they think it’s really cool. Or if a child comes to us shy or angry and feels visibly better by the time they leave.

What inspires us through any difficulties are really the students themselves. Every one of them is worth any challenge! Seeing the bond they develop with you and the efforts they make is absolutely inspiring. They really want to learn and are hoping for a better life. 

Shanon Kelley

This is such a meaningful nomination to me! When you predominantly work one-on-one with students, it’s hard to know if people see the work you’re putting in and the difference you’re making. I know that I’m making a difference to my students, but it’s nice to know that other people see that as well!

My favorite parts of tutoring are always the little things that you’re not expecting. One time, for example, I came over to work with a student and I saw him looking out the window waiting for me! It was so simple, but it was the sweetest moment and made every frustration evaporate. 

It is so humbling and inspiring to remember that each student and their families are up against their own great challenges. If they can come to the table and seek out tutoring, then I can certainly show up for them. Sometimes it might be hard to tell if I’m making a difference, but I remember that what counts is to show up anyway and do my best.

Jessica Spake

I’m delighted to be nominated for Volunteer of the Year! School on Wheels is such an important part of my life and it’s an honor to be recognised this way.

My favorite part of tutoring my three students is bearing witness to their excitement in learning something new. Smiles from my students and their mom are constant sources of inspiration, and keep me going when we go through challenging times.

My students have taught me so much! They are extremely wise — and have the best jokes!

John Meinert

Being nominated for Volunteer of the Year was a pleasant surprise, but ultimately watching my student grow has been the most validating part of being a tutor. I’ve enjoyed getting to watch my student Rey grow and do the work to unlock his full potential.

I’m motivated by a desire to do my part towards working for educational equity; this outweighs any resistance to overcoming any challenges I might encounter.

Rey has taught me how to teach, which oftentimes means sitting back and letting your students drive their own learning experience.

Anna Lee

I am honored to be nominated for Volunteer of the Year by such a wonderful organization and among so many dedicated volunteers. 

It is so satisfying to see my students come to the realization that they are capable of performing better and improving themselves, especially when they realize their improvement themselves and express gratitude for what they have learned. They are such hard-working children, striving to do better even in challenging environments. 

Tim Bonds

School on Wheels is an amazing organization with the most important of missions: help prepare our youngest people for success in school and in life. While I am not sure that I am deserving of this honor, I am grateful to have the opportunity to help School on Wheels in this mission.

The students, their families, School On Wheels, and I are partners in a lifelong project to help students learn and grow. We all depend upon others to grow and learn; tutoring is a way to empower the next generation. Seeing them work hard every week to learn sometimes difficult material — and being there the moment they achieve an understanding — is the most special of moments!

Working with my students has taught me that there is an opportunity in every day and every activity to find some joy. Even in difficult subjects like math and physics! Seek that opportunity!!