August 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

Kiran Goraya, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

Kiran Goraya. “Helping improve the lives of underserved children has always been a goal of mine. While I’ve made small steps in achieving it through prior work, School on Wheels allowed me to dive in and feel like I’m really making a difference through their amazing hands-on programs.
Once I actually started volunteering, it became so addictive. I wasn’t prepared for such incredible, bright, funny kids who have infectious energy. Volunteering has added as much joy to my life as it has theirs, and I look forward to seeing these kids grow each and every day.”

Kiran Goraya, Tutor


Region 1 – Los Angeles

William Nuñez, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

William Nuñez. William has been a tutor with School on Wheels for only four months; yet, he has demonstrated amazing qualities as a tutor/ mentor. He has taken his role as a tutor very seriously and takes advantage of his time with his student. Alex, his current student, will be entering 7th grade this fall. Alex enjoys his sessions with William. When Alex needs extra help, William is always willing to meet him twice a week to ensure his student understands the material he is struggling with. William demonstrates the qualities of an outstanding and creative tutor: providing consistency every week, logging his hours regularly, and using creative techniques to help his student learn and keep him engaged. Here is what William has to say about his experience as a tutor:

“Last year after I graduated from Cal Poly Pomona I decided to take some time off from school before I pursued my teaching credential. This is how I came across the School on Wheels organization and I am thankful I did. Tutoring Alex has been lots of fun and rewarding; he is now like a little brother to me.”

Thanks for being such a magnificent tutor, William!

Marisol Farfan, Regional Coordinator


Region 2 – South Los Angeles

Karen McCarthy, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

Karen McCarthy. Karen has been tutoring for only four months. She is already a dedicated Tutor Coordinator and tutors as well. Karen assists School on Wheels at a very difficult shelter in Compton 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. Karen is an awesome addition to the School on Wheels family. In her own words, Karen says:

“I spent years in a corporate environment while also taking care of my family. Ten years ago, I retired and took a job teaching at a local university one day a week to keep busy. Every morning I would wake, take my dog for a walk and reflect on my life.

It was during these walks that I came to realize that I had an opportunity to help others. I joined Peace Corps for two years teaching children in a developing country. During my service, I realized that teaching children was my passion.

I have been tutoring for School on Wheels for just a few months. Serving the community has been rewarding for me personally. The children I work with have given me so much. I can only hope I have given as much to them in return by making a positive impact on their lives.”

Kenisha Edwards, Regional Coordinator


Region 3 – Westside

Amy Burns, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

Amy Burns. Amy says, “Tutoring for School on Wheels has taught me a lot about myself and about what it takes to be a good teacher. By tutoring different subjects, I have discovered what my strengths and weaknesses are. I’ve also learned what types of preparation I need to do before sessions to make sure I am the most effective during the tutoring sessions . I have come to find that the most important thing I can do to prepare for tutoring is to mentally detach myself from the busyness of the day and any worries I may have. This allows me to give Samantha my complete and undivided attention when I am with her. The more engaged I am with her, the more engaged she is in the material I teach. I try to make sure that I apply this wisdom to all aspects of my life now, including my relationships at work and in my personal life. To get positive responses from people, you have to give them your attention and your time. I am so thankful that School on Wheels has given me the opportunity to learn how to more positively influence the lives of those around me.”

We are so thankful to have a wonderful volunteer such as Amy!

Blue Mc Donnell, Regional Coordinator


Region 4 – Long Beach, San Pedro

John Fortier, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

John Fortier. John is the Tutor of the Month in Region 4 because he has recently come back to tutoring with School on Wheels. I’m so glad he has! John was matched with a new student Gabriel ; they have turned out to be a great match. John is retired and has the time to give Gabe the extra help he needs. John has made an impact on Gabe’s family too. He found out that Gabe’s mom needed help with her GED; so John has stepped up and is tutoring her too. Thank you, John, for going the extra mile by helping this student and his family.

Louis Mena, Regional Coordinator


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

Claire Hillis, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

Claire Hillis. For the past six months Claire has been an amazing tutor. She is a first grade teacher and loves helping School on Wheels students! Currently, she is also working towards her Master of Education degree. Claire enjoys working with her student Anthony at a shelter in Pomona. Claire has become indispensable to the parents there too, answering their questions about parenting and education. She is such an asset to School on Wheels, always willing to help both students and their parents.

Loreena Garcia, Regional Coordinator


Region 7 – San Fernando Valley

Theresa Fiddler, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

Theresa Fiddler. Theresa began tutoring at a local shelter last October. Her current student Belle will be a tenth grader this fall. They have focused their energy on studying geometry and biology.

Theresa became involved with School on Wheels with the hope that she could help students reach their full potential as young scholars. She wants to be part of a greater effort to extend quality educational opportunities to students from all backgrounds. Her objectives as a tutor are both to instill her student with a love of learning and to help her achieve her academic goals. Volunteering with School on Wheels has been an incredibly rewarding and humbling experience for Theresa. She is excited to see what academic adventures Belle’s sophomore year will bring.

Besides volunteering, Theresa works as a Case Manager assessing threats to public figures. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, staying active, and spending time with her dog, Marley. Thank you, Theresa, for being such a wonderful tutor and positive role model for Belle!

Lisette Gaeta, Regional Coordinator


Region 8 – Ventura County

Ladan Sheikholeslam, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

Ladan Sheikholeslam. Ladan just reached her six month anniversary of becoming a tutor! Although she has only been volunteering for six months, Ladan has already tutored 6 students, usually tutoring two or three students at a time. She goes above and beyond to help students struggling with math. Not only does Ladan help her students excel in math, she has also taken on the role of a mentor with some of the students she no longer tutors each week. She truly embodies the recipe for a perfect tutor, with her firm guidance, dedication to helping her students, and the fun and enthusiasm she brings to learning. Thank you, Ladan, for being part of the School On Wheels team!

Terrie Soto, Regional Coordinator


Region 10 – Orange County

Michelle Lippman, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

Michelle Lippman. Michelle started her School on Wheels journey three years ago in South LA. She has now joined us here in Orange County as a Tutor Coordinator for our brand new blended-learning lab at Project Hope Alliance offices in Costa Mesa. Michelle firmly believes in the mission of School on Wheels and she is enthusiastic about implementing our new blended-learning program in OC. She really takes her new role as a TC seriously: for a whole month, she was devoting 10 hours a week to tutoring and supporting our volunteers. She is always thinking of ways to improve our program to serve more students and to offer the best experience for our volunteers. You can definitely say that she goes above and beyond what is required and we are so grateful to have her on our team.

Lilian Pahn, Regional Coordinator


Region 11 – Inland Empire

Jesse Morales, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

Jesse Morales. I am so happy to nominate Jesse as Region 11’s Tutor of the Month. Jesse was eager to start volunteering and was immediately engaged with the students. Jesse has been great at communicating with staff and the students. He continues to be a resource by checking in to see what is available on our Tutor Center and searching online. He has helped the students tremendously with the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) as they prepare for adulthood and their many options after high school.

Steven Alvarez, Regional Coordinator


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

Gwen Roberts, School on Wheels Tutor of the Month

Gwen Roberts. “I loved school when I was a child. For me it was an escape from what people would describe as an unfortunate home life. I spent most of my youth living in situations much like the situations that School on Wheels students have. Later, I became a teacher because I liked to see “the lights go on” for a student. It’s been a joy and a privilege to experience that moment during my thirty years as a high school mathematics teacher. I was motivated to work with School on Wheels because I wanted more of that feeling…….being there for the moment a student understands a new concept and makes a connection to the excitement of learning.”

School on Wheels has been fortunate to have Gwen as a tutor since last July. Congratulations, Gwen, on your one year anniversary as a volunteer. More importantly, thank you for all you have done for the students and for all you continue to do.

Stefanie Aguilar, Regional Coordinator