October 2014 Volunteer Stories

Volunteer tutors are the heart and soul of School on Wheels. Every month we feature tutors who are making a difference in their community. Read their stories below.

Volunteer Stories Archive

Skid Row Learning Center

James Edmisten, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

James Edmisten. Marines give off an air of pride and strength, honor and courage, and most of all knowledge. After being in the Marines, Mr. James had no clue what he was in for when he walked into the Skid Row Learning Center. Within one month, Mr, Jim became a student favorite. The girls loved reading with him and the boys enjoyed playing soccer out back. Mr. Jim has quickly become a staple around the Skid Row Learning Center. Whether he is acting as Manager of the Student Store or one of the main chaperones on every field trip this summer, Mr. Jim has earned the Medal of Awesome from the kids! If you are lucky you may just come in to see the girls styling Mr. Jim’s hair as well.

Allison Maldonado, Skid Row Learning Center Instructor

Region 1 – Los Angeles

Sarah Gonzalez, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

Sarah Gonzalez. Sarah has been a tutor with School on Wheels for 3 years; she demonstrates amazing qualities as a tutor/ Tutor Coordinator (TC). She has taken her role as a tutor and TC very seriously. Valerie, her current student, is in the 3rd grade and enjoys her sessions with Sarah. Sarah demonstrates the qualities of an outstanding and creative tutor: providing consistency every week, logging her hours regularly, and using creative techniques to help her student learn and keep her engaged. Here is what Sarah has to say about her experience as a tutor:

“I’ve been with School On Wheels on and off for almost three years now. My parents have always stressed the importance of education to me; so, naturally I grew up with a passion for learning. While searching for volunteer opportunities I discovered SOW and when I read the mission I knew School on Wheel was an organization I wanted to be a part of.”

Thanks for being such a magnificent tutor and TC, Sarah!

Marisol Farfan, Regional Coordinator

Region 1 – Los Angeles

Maria Avalos, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

Maria Avalos. Maria has been tutoring for only four months. She is already a dedicated Tutor Coordinator and tutors as well. Maria assists School on Wheels at a very difficult emergency shelter by contacting families who have just moved there and by matching tutors with students. She is always willing to help out in any way she can. I greatly appreciate her. Maria is an awesome addition to the School on Wheels family.

About volunteering with School on Wheels, Maria says, “I am a student at Cal State Long Beach. I joined School on Wheels in order to help children, to gain experience in teaching, and ,finally, to decide what to major in. Volunteering as a tutor has been life changing. Knowing that I am helping them to expand their knowledge feels very rewarding. The children are wonderful and full of energy. Everyone works really hard in order to keep children on track with their education. It is an honor to be part of this amazing program.I will also be getting my siblings to join once they reach the minimum age requirement.”

Kenisha Edwards, Regional Coordinator

Region 3 – Westside

Alice Chang, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

Alice Chang. Alice says “I have been a volunteer through School on Wheels since March 2013. Naturally there were some growing pains as Taj, my student, adjusted to his new tutor. Not every session flowed smoothly, but that’s what has made the experience rewarding. Being a tutor has taught me to be more patient and understanding. It has also given me a fulfilling outlet for my time and energy outside of work. Whenever Taj gets that light bulb “I get it!” expression, it brings me much satisfaction and pride. School on Wheels has allowed me to give back to the community and I am truly grateful to be a part of it.”

We are so grateful to have a wonderful volunteer such as Alice!

Blue Mc Donnell, Regional Coordinator

Region 4 – Long Beach, San Pedro

Christopher Ehling, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

Christopher Ehling. Chris is such a dedicated tutor. He is a busy full time student himself but always makes time for his student Jason. Chris checks regularly to make sure Jason understands what they are working on. When a session is missed, Chris reviews any missed material. He recently made sure Jason arrived to be filmed for School on Wheels’ new Public Service Announcement. Chris and Jason just celebrated 1 year of tutoring together; I hope they get to stay together for a long time.

Louis Mena, Regional Coordinator

Region 5 – Echo Park, Hollywood, Highland Park, Silverlake, Mid-City

Occidental College Student Group, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

Occidental College Student Group. Region 5’s Tutor of the Month goes to an amazing group of students from Occidental College! The group is led by senior Eleni Duret. For the past year, the tutors have taken time out of their busy college schedules to tutor at a nearby group home. They not only tutor the students at the group home, they consistently support and are role models for their students. During group tutoring sessions, the tutors help with academics and incorporate fun activities like playing board games. In addition to tutoring, the students conduct outreach on campus and have recruited others to tutor at a boys’ group house in the local area. The House Manager at the group home is very pleased to have the Occidental College group at the house week after week. We can’t thank them enough for their dedication.

In their own words:

“We have been tutoring at the group home for the past year. Though the students and tutoring group have changed, one thing remains the same; every session at the house is full of new perspectives and inspiration for the students, but especially for the tutors. The girls at the group home teach us about resilience and dedication at every tutor session. Though we try to encourage them to enjoy math and reading through our interactions, they are always the ones to encourage us through their kindness and openness. As a group, we start every tutor session sharing different fun facts about ourselves, and the girls always know exactly how to make us all laugh hysterically. They all have their individual talents – some are master chefs, others athletes, and artists – and they are honest and generous in the affirmations of each others’ talents. The house has become a new home for many of the student tutors as a result of the girls’ welcoming attitudes every Friday afternoon.” – Eleni Duret, Occidental College Class of 2015

Lancella Hunter, Regional Coordinator

Region 6 – West Covina, Rowland Heights, Corona/Norco, Pomona, Ontario, Upland, Chino

Amber Christon, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

Amber Christon. Amber is our superstar Tutor Coordinator at a shelter in Chino. Amber herself is going to school, working full-time and still makes time to volunteer for School on Wheels.

Dedicated is the best word to describe Amber. Through her coordination efforts , tutors are at the shelter Monday through Thursday and Sundays to tutor students! She has helped over 30 boys through School on Wheels at this location. Amber understands the plight of the kids we tutor and is a shining example that hard work can change your trajectory in life.

Loreena Garcia, Regional Coordinator

Region 7 – San Fernando Valley

Kelsey Lemmon, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

Kelsey Lemmon. Kelsey has been a tutor with School on Wheels since September 2013 and is a wonderful addition to our program. Kelsey truly cares about the students she has worked with and strives to help them pursue their educational goals. Kelsey makes learning fun and shows her students that if they work hard they can achieve anything.

In her own words, “I have been tutoring with School on Wheels for a little over a year. I have always loved working with children. I work as a special education teacher and am currently a school psychology graduate student at California State University, Northridge. However, helping out with School on Wheels is an experience like none other! It’s great to be able to provide support to kids who truly need the help and are so appreciative of everything you do. I love working with School on Wheels students and seeing their amazing determination and motivation. If I’m having a bad day, tutoring always cheers me up and puts a smile on my face. I feel blessed to be a part of this wonderful organization.” Thank you, Kelsey, for being an exceptional tutor and a positive role model for the kids in our program!

Lisette Gaeta, Regional Coordinator

Region 9 – Santa Barbara County

Mary Schuberg, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

Mary Schuberg. This summer Mary celebrated her two year anniversary of being a School On Wheels tutor. She began tutoring in Ventura County and was matched with a new student once relocating to Santa Barbara. Mary has traveled the world, and, after volunteering in India, she was inspired to set a goal for herself to volunteer in her local community. Mary was drawn to the flexibility of School on Wheels being throughout Southern California; even if she moves to a different city, she can continue to tutor a student. Her favorite part about tutoring is the mentoring relationship and bond that grows between a student and tutor that meet one-on-one. Thank you for all you do as a volunteer tutor, Mary. We really appreciate you!

In her own words:

“To be able to ask questions freely in a more comfortable environment than the classroom is perhaps one of the hidden bonuses for the students of School on Wheels. It’s one of the unexpected gifts I have had the pleasure to receive as a tutor.”

Terrie Soto, Regional Coordinator

Region 10 – Orange County

Eric Adams, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

Eric Adams. Eric joined School on Wheels in September of 2012. He has worked with students individually and in group settings and has been an outstanding tutor in both locations.

About his experience, Eric says, “When I started at School on Wheels I tutored a sixth grade boy, Blake, while my wife tutored his younger sister, Hannah. While it was sometimes challenging to get them to focus, it was very rewarding to get to know them and help them keep up in school during a difficult and uncertain time in their lives. Fortunately Blake’s family got back on their feet and moved into an apartment. So, the second year I spent tutoring at a group shelter for domestic violence victims. Tutoring in the group environment was even more challenging and more rewarding. The children in the group shelter had more distractions and challenges which made it difficult to keep them focused and on track with school. However, it was very rewarding to keep them interested in learning and to help prevent them from falling behind in school. Although it was bittersweet not to see the children again when they left the shelter, there is always a flow of new families with children in need. I decided to come to the shelter over the summer so that the children who spent their summer there wouldn’t be behind when school started in the fall.

“This is my third year with School on Wheels, and I am now tutoring an eighth grader named Joshua. My favorite subjects to tutor are math and science because they relate to my studies; understanding and explaining them come naturally to me. Many of the students I have worked with struggle the most with math and are frustrated because they don’t understand something and get stuck. Once they understand how to solve the problems they are proud of their ability to solve their homework problems. The struggle is to ensure they keep up with class work because as soon as they fall behind they get frustrated and begin to hate math again.”

Lilian Pahn, Regional Coordinator