November 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

Gretchen Arnason, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

Gretchen Arnason. Long commutes are a way of life in Los Angeles but Mrs. Gretchen takes it to a “whole other level”! Despite traveling back and forth from Texas while preparing for a big move, Mrs. Gretchen never let it interfere with her tutoring hours. Long flights and even longer shifts as a Registered Nurse could not stop Mrs. Gretchen from coming in to tutor. Whenever she came in, she was willing to help any student with anything. Her patience and calm demeanor were true gifts to the students and myself.

“I have been a volunteer with School On Wheels since last October. Not every day has been easy, but I always leave the learning center feeling better than I had on arrival. Being a tutor has taught me a different kind of patience. Every child learns in his own unique way. It brings me great satisfaction when I’m able to nail down exactly what method is going to work for a particular child and then watch the expression on her face as she suddenly realizes she understands a problem. I feel I have gained just as much from the children I have worked with as they have from me. It’s not possible to visit the Skid Row Learning Center without feeling the positivity oozing out of the place. I am proud to be a part of School on Wheels and give back to the community while having fun at the same time.”

Allison Maldonado, Skid Row Learning Center Instructor

Region 1 – Los Angeles

Lorena Fausto, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

Lorena Fausto. Lorena has been a tutor with School on Wheels for 9 months; she demonstrates amazing qualities as a tutor. Robert, her current student, is in the 8th grade and enjoys his sessions with Lorena. Lorena has 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. Here is what Lorena has to say about her experience as a tutor:

“I began with School on Wheels early this year to fulfill one of my New Year resolutions, which was to volunteer. I have always enjoyed working with kids; their carefree attitude and easy going nature is lots of fun. So I figured volunteering to work with kids would be perfect! My experience so far has been wonderful. I have had the opportunity to work in a group setting, as well as one on one, and even had a chance to volunteer on field trips over the summer. I am so happy to be a part of such a great organization that really goes above and beyond with helping the kids in our homeless communities.”

Thanks for being such an amazing tutor and role model, Lorena!

Marisol Farfan, Regional Coordinator

Region 2 – South Los Angeles (Compton, Lynwood, Inglewood, Watts, Gardena)

Samantha Hattick, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

Samantha Hattick. Samantha has been a volunteer with School on Wheels since 2010. In the past four years she has truly shown remarkable dedication and passion to her students. She tutors at two locations with multiple students two days a week. Samantha also donates to shelters in need and hosts dinners as well. She truly goes over and beyond tutoring and I’m grateful she is a part of our team!

“I’ve been a tutor with School on Wheels for about 4 years now.

“I love helping students master a subject that has been a challenge to them, be it geometry or writing the perfect letter “T”. The moment it all just clicks for a student and you can see their faces light up is THE MOST amazing thing and I am honored to have the opportunity to help kids have that ‘Aha!’ moment.

“School on Wheels has been such an awesome experience. I am so lucky to be able to work with such funny, kind, zany kids. Their resilience is nothing short of amazing. I often feel that the kids provide so much more to me than I will ever be able to give back to them. No matter what else is going on in my life, they always bring a smile to my face.”

Kenisha Edwards, Regional Coordinator

Region 3 – Westside

Khodayar Goshtasbi, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

Khodayar Goshtasbi. Khodayar says “Tutoring with the School on Wheels organization at the shelter has been an amazing and humbling personal experience. Beyond the joy of teaching and assisting a student with her school tasks, I have learned about people who are not taking education for granted, and striving for greatness and success through hard work and an open and hopeful mind. Our tutoring sessions are a two-way street, where we both teach each other in an interactive manner. I always exit the center with a smile and a new understanding in my mind. And for that, I am grateful to Janay, and the School on Wheels organization.”

Blue Mc Donnell, Regional Coordinator

Region 4 – Long Beach, San Pedro

Kendra Nicholson, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

Kendra Nicholson. Kendra has been a tutor with School on Wheels for almost a year now. She began tutoring at a domestic violence group home where she tutored many kids. She is now tutoring with her new student, Lizeth, one-on-one.

One of Kendra’s favorite things is giving her students their new backpacks with all the surprises that are inside. Kendra and her husband have proudly just sent their son off to college. I’m hoping that tutoring will help her recover from the empty nest syndrome. Kendra is an all around great person and has a great talent for improv comedy. You should go see her in one of her shows in Long Beach.

Louis Mena, Regional Coordinator

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

James Nitze, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

James Nitze. James Nitze applied to School on Wheels at the end of 2013 and has been with our program for close to a year. For the majority of his time with us, James worked with Angelo, a high school student. After working with Angelo, James took a short break and is now a very big help with the new group tutoring that has just started at a local church. We are grateful to have James on our team as he currently has a busy schedule which includes attending law school. James is great with tutoring all different ages and has the natural ability to work with kids. Without hesitation James is always onboard to tutor wherever there is a need. Thank you for being an awesome tutor!

Lancella Hunter, Regional Coordinator

Region 7 – San Fernando Valley

Steve Kehela, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

Steve Kehela. Steve joined School on Wheels in January 2014. He has been a committed tutor for these past ten months. Steve is consistent with his student, provides support when needed, makes learning fun and always accommodates the family. Both his student’s mom and the shelter staff have noticed a positive change in his student and attribute a lot of that to Steve’s presence.

In his own words, “I wanted to devote some of my free time to volunteering and helping others if I could. I was searching for volunteer opportunities online and came across a video about the School on Wheels program. I was moved by the stories I saw and thought that this was a way I could possibly make a difference in someone’s life. I was paired with Omarr shortly after completing the orientation program. I liked him immediately and was impressed with his energy and happy personality. We have formed a close bond as Student and Tutor; I look forward to my weekly sessions with him. It has been a joy to watch his confidence grow as his reading, writing, and math skills continue to improve. He is a very intelligent child who truly enjoys learning. What I love most about tutoring Omarr is seeing the huge smile on his face when he tackles a difficult word or math problem. He sometimes surprises himself with his ability!”

Thank you, Steve, for being the amazing tutor that you are!

Lisette Gaeta, Regional Coordinator

Region 8 – Ventura County

Norma Perez, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

Norma Perez. Norma began tutoring Perla and Areanna, twin sisters, in September. Ever since then, she has hit the ground running! Norma put together a treasure box filled with goodies as a reward system to motivate the girls during their sessions. The enthusiasm and creativity Norma brings gets the girls excited for their sessions. Norma has also fully immersed herself in the School On Wheels culture by actively participating in our first ever tutor Twitter chat. As a result she is now using Stride Academy with Perla and Areanna. For October, Norma coordinated a costume donation for School On Wheels students from a local costume business. Since she began as a volunteer tutor, Norma has gone above and beyond to enrich the lives of her students by actively searching for and using new resources to fill in the educational gaps. You are awesome, Norma!

Terrie Soto, Regional Coordinator

Region 10 – Orange County

Linda Gottlieb, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

Linda Gottlieb. Linda is an extraordinary volunteer with School on Wheels. She really goes the extra mile to help our students and our partners. She established a great relationship with the staff at her site that led to having a specialized School On Wheels Reading Program for 1st graders there. She also agreed to lead the tutors in implementing our blended learning program. She tutors two brothers, manages an entire site, and still finds time to help in other areas when needed. She does all of this with a smile and enthusiasm that is encouraging and contagious. Thank you so much for all you do, Linda! Happy second year anniversary!

“I have been tutoring with School on Wheels for almost a year and a Tutor Coordinator for the last 6 months. I have always loved working with children; teaching at the elementary level was my first career. Helping out with School on Wheels has been a wonderful and rewarding experience. It’s great to be able to provide support to children who truly need the help but also to provide support for the tutors. I have the honor of introducing the Stride Academy to many Orange County tutors. Currently School on Wheels is using Stride Academy, an online adaptive program, to help assess areas where students are struggling and to deliver practice and instruction personalized to their specific needs.”

Lilian Pahn, Regional Coordinator