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.
Laura Dambuleff. Laura Dambuleff works in the music industry and loves what she does. She’s used to nurturing other people’s talents so when a friend told her about the work School on Wheels does in the downtown area, she was immediately intrigued. She saw this as an opportunity to make a difference in a kid’s life and knew it would have an impact on her life, too. In September of last year, Laura started working with Abraham, a hard-working high school student who lives in a large shelter. Abraham is a budding basketball star and Laura was thrilled when he invited her to his first game so she could cheer him on. Because of Laura’s positive influence, his future plans now include college. “My experience so far has been wonderful, from the training I received to every moment I spend with my student. I love Abraham’s sense of humor and he’s a great student. I’ve made some wonderful acquaintances through this program too, which is awesome! It warms my heart to be part of School on Wheels.”
Paula Buxbaum, Senior Regional Coordinator
Vishnu Rammohan. Vishnu has been an awesome tutor for five months and has made great progress with his student, Isaac. He has shown dedication by continuing with Isaac when his student moved to another location shortly after their initial session. Vishnu motivates Isaac to think about the future and furthering his education, which has made him excited about attending the UCLA College tour. I’ve had the opportunity to witness one of Vishnu’s sessions with Isaac and they have established a great relationship. Vishnu has been another great addition to School on Wheels!
Kenisha Edwards, Regional Coordinator
Holly Dietrich. In just six months, Holly has gone from a first-time School on Wheels tutor, to a fully-fledged angel! Every week, Holly meets with her ten -year-old student at the library near to where she and her mom live. She logs her tutoring sessions every week; it’s great to read the comments she writes as she always mentions that they work on lessons and worksheets from the School on Wheels Academic Program.
Some of you may have already meet Holly as, not only is she a tutor, but she is also a Tutor Coordinator. She helps facilitate tutoring sessions, delivers school supplies and recently came along to a “Westside Meet and Greet” where she helped advocate on behalf of our program. This month, she will complete a special 40-hour domestic violence training so she can better help students we work with at these locations.
What a bundle of energy she is. Thank you, Holly – you are amazing!
Blue Mc Donnell, Regional Coordinator
Nima Kharrazi. Nima is a crazy and zany guy. This is probably why his student enjoys her tutoring sessions so much. He is a pretty busy guy being a Special Projects Coordinator at a major company, yet he always seems to find time for his student when schedules change and the family moves locations. Nima adapts easily and now tutors his student in a coffee shop.
Sometimes it is the little things that make tutors stand out to me. In Nima’s case, it’s that every time I have to call him, for any reason, he seems to always answer the phone with a “smile” and has a minute to answer my questions. Nima is just an all around great guy. I’m so glad he is part of our Region 4 Tutors. Thank you, Nima.
Louis Mena, Regional Coordinator
Alana Johnston. Alana has been a wonderful and hard-working volunteer tutor with School on Wheels since November of 2011, and she is incredibly dedicated to her student, Gabby. Putting in extra volunteer time, as well as having taken Gabby on several field trips, most recently they went to the Page Museum and La Brea Tar Pits. In addition to being a superb tutor, Alana’s vibrant, sunny, and positive personality always brightens the lives of the students, families and the staff members at the shelter where she has been volunteering every week for the past eighteen months. As the case manager at the shelter, Jennifer once told me, she always looks forward to Tuesday afternoon; because that’s the time Alana is there to tutor her student, Gabby.
Steve Hibbert, Regional Coordinator
Jennie deForest. Jennie deForest has enjoyed being a tutor for School on Wheels since 2011. Jennie and her student, Martha, are always working hard and always laughing and smiling, really enjoying their sessions. She is very dedicated to Martha, spending the occasional weekend at the library to work on a project. Jennie studied clinical psychology at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology in Los Angeles. She is a marriage and family therapy intern for a counseling agency in Burbank, and works as a behavior interventionist for special needs children throughout the San Fernando Valley. Jennie is thankful to School on Wheels for its work to help others access educational resources and achieve their personal goals. And, we are all thankful to Jennie for being such a great tutor!
Lisette Gaeta, Regional Coordinator
Pieter Turley. Since his first session over eight months ago, Pieter has been fully invested in his weekly tutoring sessions with his student, Johnny. Pieter has kept good track of Johnny’s progress and noticed right away when he saw an improvement in Johnny and helped him earn Student of the Month for February of this year. He takes a genuine interest in his student’s interests. From their first couple of sessions, Pieter learned that Johnny was interested in being a politician when he’s older. Pieter right away asked me if it was acceptable for him to have a politician meet Johnny as a way to inspire him further to reach his goal. Pieter now interns for Das Williams, Assembly Member for District 37, and plans to have Das Williams meet with Johnny. Pieter also got Das Williams to provide recognition awards for Ventura County tutors in appreciation for their dedication in supporting the education of homeless children. Thank you for all your wonderful help, Pieter!
Yadira Melgoza, Regional Coordinator
Rebeca Shin. Tutoring since November 2012, Rebeca believes that “education is an essential tool that helps in all aspects of society. That is why I believe every individual, regardless of their circumstances, should have access to this valuable resource”. She has been tutoring her student, Yubi, for almost half a year now. Though it took a while before Rebeca began tutoring, I am glad we were able to find her a student whom she has been able to build a relationship with for this many months. Except for a few breaks during the holiday season, Rebeca has been a consistent presence in Yubi’s life, meeting with her every week and helping Yubi tackle 4th grade math and language arts. When you see Rebeca and Yubi together, you see a bond that is only able to take place when a tutor has created that special space, where the student feels comfortable to share their shortcomings and frustration but, above all, you see two people enjoying the time they spend together to help each other grow as a student and tutor, and as human beings in general. Thank you, Rebeca, for being part of our team!
Yanira Rivas, Regional Coordinator
Frank Rutherford. Frank has been with School on Wheels even longer than I have. He was one of our very first tutors in Orange County and has been one of the most patient and dedicated tutors in our region. He is willing to tutor in any capacity, at any location, any grade level, multiple times a week! He is currently tutoring three different students and he still takes time to help other students in the room when needed. We have been so lucky to have someone as committed to our program as Frank!
In his own words:
“After several tutoring assignments through School on Wheels, it is obvious that there is no typical student assignment. There are those who require minimal help to keep their grades high, and then there are those that have fallen several years back in their academics and are struggling to achieve or maintain C’s and D’s. My personal preference is tutoring math and science at the high school level, but I also get enjoyment helping elementary students to keep their grade level up so they will be ready to take on their high school assignments. I appreciate School on Wheels for the opportunity to meet and hopefully help our future generation.”
Lilian Pahn, Regional Coordinator
Karen Basquez. Karen has been a tutor for School on Wheels for almost two years. As School on Wheels was not present in the Inland Empire at the time Karen became a tutor, she would commute to Pasadena to meet with her student. As of last year, she started tutoring in the Inland Empire where there was quickly a great need for new tutors. She is dedicated and committed to her student and our program. She is always on time and takes the initiative to find ways and resources to help and encourage her student and is truly a great role model. As a Regional Coordinator, I am blessed to work with an individual so passionate and committed to our cause and it definitely makes our job of reaching more students a lot easier.
Grette León-Fernández, Regional Coordinator
Helen Martinez. Since Helen began tutoring with School on Wheels, she has gone above and beyond. Helen helped me start Saturday tutoring at two different locations and is a continuous support to those students and me. I cannot thank her enough for being an amazing volunteer and I appreciate everything she does. Here is what Helen has to say about her experience as a School on Wheels tutor:
“As an undergraduate from UC Riverside, I became an active member of Lambda Theta Alpha which is a community and academic based sorority. I first read about School on Wheels through an e-mail sent out by UCR’s Chicano Student Program and then from a Sister who also became a tutor. After my first Saturday tutoring session, I realized this was my calling. I enjoy giving back to my community and specifically giving back to students in need. I have a great passion for education and, because of this passion, I plan to become an attorney for public interest with a focus in education. I will be enrolled in law school this upcoming August, possibly in Boston. I am currently working full-time and am an active member of Lambda Theta Alpha as an alumnus and participate in other community service activities around the city. My brother recently joined me on Saturday and I am absolutely grateful that he too enjoys attending and helping these students.”
Stefanie Aguilar, Regional Coordinator