July 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

Charles “Mr. Charlie” Wielski. Taking the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) is a tense and overwhelming feat. Imagine studying for this test while tutoring homeless students on Skid Row a few hours each week and still taking current college courses. Our very own Mr. Charlie is able to do just that. He is working hard to become a doctor and he tutors at the Learning Center so that he can better understand the needs and emotions of families in low income communities. When School on Wheels students are asked about their favorite part of working with Mr. Charlie, they say that they feel comfortable around him thanks to his calm and patient demeanor. They also enjoy helping Mr. Charlie study for his test. It is always fun to hear the kids try to pronounce long medical terms. We are honored to have a future life saving doctor who is inspiring our kids today!

Allison Maldonado, Skid Row Learning Center Instructor


Region 1 – Los Angeles

Jackie Romo. Jackie has been an amazing and dedicated tutor with School on Wheels since 2008! During her time with School on Wheels, Jackie has worked with four different students. Angel, her current student, is in kindergarten. Jackie 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 him engaged. One thing I admire about Jackie is her true dedication to her student. She plans ahead of time, preparing for their sessions. Here is what Jackie has to say about her experience as a tutor:

“As a long time tutor for School on Wheels, I am constantly amazed by our dedicated volunteer tutors. Each time I speak to a fellow tutor, I am inspired and proud to serve the children. More than that, I find joy in instilling the love of learning in my 6 year old student, Angel. Seeing the smile on his face as he skips down the hall and his weekly question, “What did you bring today?” make my tutoring experience all worthwhile. In my opinion, there are very few volunteer experiences that are as personal and rewarding as School on Wheels which is why I will continue to dedicate my time to this organization”.

Marisol Farfan, Regional Coordinator


Region 2 – South Los Angeles

John Schemm. John has been a tutor and Tutor Coordinator for two years with School on Wheels. In that time he has already tutored eight students and is currently working with two siblings. John is very dedicated to his students; he rarely misses a session. John has also been a tremendous help as a Tutor Coordinator. In that role, John assists by contacting families, shelter staff, and tutors. He brings backpacks and school supplies to students as well. I can’t say enough about John’s giving nature; he’s an awesome person and volunteer!

John says, “When I retired a little more than two years ago, I started tutoring with School on Wheels. Even though I’m retired, I keep pretty busy. I am busier now that I am retired than I was when I was working. So I have had to set priorities for what I do with my time. I have made a priority of giving to people. That is what I do as a tutor for School on Wheels; I give to people going through a difficult time and who need a little more love. That is why volunteering with School on Wheels is so meaningful to me.”

Kenisha Edwards, Regional Coordinator


Region 3 – Westside

Eric Morse. “My experience with School on Wheels has been greatly rewarding on many levels. Seeing Lilly grow and mature as a student through hard work and perseverance has been a weekly highlight. While the academic progress she has made cannot be understated, my favorite tutoring moments have been listening to her share her goals and dreams for the future. I want to express my sincere gratitude to the School on Wheels staff for providing such fantastic support to Lilly and me over the last two years!”
Thank you, Eric, for being such an amazing volunteer and all you have done for Lilly.

Blue Mc Donnell, Regional Coordinator


Region 4 – Long Beach, San Pedro

Jezz Quibal. Jezz is a new School on Wheels tutor who has been with her first student since February. From the time I introduced Jezz to her student, I knew that they were going to get along well. Jezz is the kind of person who everyone wants to be friends with. She likes to have fun and knows just how to make homework fun to do. Jezz was so happy with her student’s progress that she decided, along with another tutor and student, that they would take a field trip and have a day of fun. The girls could not have been more excited and had a great time with their tutors.
Thank you, Jezz, for being such a great influence in your student’s life.

Louis Mena, Regional Coordinator


Region 5 – Hollywood, Pasadena, Glendale

Carla Jimenez. Carla became a volunteer with School on Wheels after she graduated with a master’s degree. She wanted to give back to her community. On her first day of tutoring at the homeless shelter in Los Angeles, Carla did not know what to expect. She definitely did not expect twins! The twins, Ariel and Arian, were in 8th grade. Carla and her students started by making a plan. Each week they would review their homework; then, they would work on a couple of fun things online including the Khan Academy and School on Wheels’ BUS program.

The twins will be starting high school in the fall; in middle school both won awards for their academic achievements. Carla says it is sometimes hard working with two students at once but she splits her time between the sisters so that they both get one-on-one attention. “Ariel and Arian are really friendly kids and have huge hearts. Both of them are really very smart,” says Carla. “I had never thought about there being homeless children before. But I know now. Kids need a lot of love; and, homeless children just need a bit more.”

Janet Lang, Regional Director


Region 6 – West Covina, Rowland Heights, La Puente, Pomona, Ontario, Upland, Chino

Raymond Fiola. Raymond is an amazing tutor. He has really made an impact on the life of his student, Angel, as well as on Angel’s twin and their older brother. Angel has had a fear of authority; so his mom was concerned whether Angel would be cooperative during tutoring. However, Raymond has been the ideal tutor for Angel. The two have really bonded. He is very patient with Angel which makes a positive difference in their tutoring sessions. Raymond has also helped his Regional Coordinator by providing support during their Saturday sessions with new tutors. Raymond recently graduated with his Associate of Science Degree from Mt. San Antonio College. Congratulations to you, Raymond!

Loreena Garcia, Regional Coordinator


Region 7 – San Fernando Valley

Lauren Kinney. Lauren joined School on Wheels as a volunteer just one year ago. She is a dedicated tutor who puts time and effort into planning her tutoring sessions. Lauren’s student’s mother has not only expressed her gratitude for having such a wonderful tutor but also has been in awe over the difference she has seen in her daughter’s school performance.

In Lauren’s own words, “I have experience as a tutor and an elementary school assistant. In the past couple of years I have become a music teacher. When I saw a flyer in a coffee shop about School on Wheels, the idea touched me. Since it was during the summer, I had plenty of time to get involved. It is great to be able to work one-on-one with a student and an appreciative family; it’s the best part about tutoring. Giving individual attention to a student is not always possible in a whole classroom of kids. However, as a School on Wheels volunteer, we have that individual time to work together.”

Thank you, Lauren, for becoming a volunteer and for making such a great impact on your student’s life.

Lisette Gaeta, Regional Coordinator


Region 8 – Ventura County

George “Ed” Geis. Ed joined the School on Wheels volunteer team in August 2012. Since then, he has tutored eight students and is currently paired with three students! Even though he tutors three students, Ed tutors each student multiple days a week depending on the amount of help the student needs. Ed continues to go above and beyond as a tutor and always puts the educational needs of the children at the forefront of his volunteerism. School on Wheels is lucky to have a dedicated volunteer such as Ed on our team. We could not do the work we do without people like you, Ed! Thank you.

Terrie Soto, Regional Coordinator


Region 10 – Orange County

Keith Sakata. Keith has been an exceptional volunteer with School on Wheels for almost a year now. His enthusiasm is contagious; he is able to get even the most reluctant student excited about learning. Keith has gone beyond tutoring and started a School on Wheels student club at University of California, Irvine. The club helps recruit more volunteers, provides support for current volunteers, and plans various projects to help School on Wheels students during the school year. Keith is an invaluable part of Orange County’s team.

In his own words: “I started volunteering with School on Wheels in August 2013 and have enjoyed my time with four bright and beautifully creative students. To me School on Wheels represents a journey of spreading compassion and a love for learning. There is no substitute for the excitement I feel when students realize they can master math or science. My favorite part of that journey is getting to know the students, making them feel comfortable, and guiding them towards their own success. Such insights have led me to challenge other students on my college campus to find a heart for giving back to the community. I believe in “paying it forward” and the idea of contagious compassion.”

Lilian Pahn, Regional Coordinator


Region 11 – Inland Empire

Evan Stormer. I nominated Evan as the Tutor of the Month for being diligent and helpful in his tutoring approach with Charles. Sadly, Evan recently received a job promotion and will be leaving the state. (Congrats Evan!) He took the extra time to meet with Charles and the new tutor, help them start where he left off and even texted the new tutor to check in and give feedback.

“I have enjoyed tutoring with School on Wheels because it has given me the opportunity and privilege of helping a student in need. Through the program I have been able to share my own knowledge, understanding, and experiences with the student. It provides Charles with an additional resource that he can make use of. For this reason the program has granted me a sense of fulfillment in my own life, something that I will be able to carry with me for years to come.”

Steven Alvarez, Regional Coordinator


Region 12 – South LA Learning Center, Crenshaw District, Mid-City

Roxanna Soto. “I have been volunteering for almost a year at the South Los Angeles Learning Center. It has been a pleasure volunteering with the center coordinator Stefanie and working with the students. I have seen many students grow and develop into great community members. They take the initiative in their learning activities as well as expressing an interest in education. When I began volunteering, I liked it so much that I decided to do my California State University, Los Angeles internship at School on Wheels. Being with the Learning Center students has helped me develop in my career field of education. Thanks to Charles and Stefanie who have helped me evolve as a part of this organization.”

Stefanie Aguilar, Regional Coordinator