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.
Shea Chuey. I started tutoring at School on Wheels last spring and it has been an amazing experience. The kids have so much energy and are so excited to learn and it makes for such a fun and positive atmosphere. I am able to tutor many different ages, subjects, and age levels at the Learning Center. There really is nothing better than when a student finally understands a difficult concept and I love being able to see the growth of each student. I am currently a student at UCLA and all of the kids are very curious about college. I love being there to be able to not only help them with their current homework, but also to help encourage them in their future plans to attend college. Tutoring at School on Wheels has taught me many things about myself and about life in general and I am so grateful that these kids are able to teach me just as much as I can teach them.
Allison Maldonado, Skid Row Learning Center Instructor
Celeste Diaz. Celeste has been a tutor with School on Wheels for about six months and has worked with her student, Vanessa, this entire time. Celeste not only uses the online Academic Program to supplement her student’s assignments, but she also brings in her own ideas, such as essay composition and structure, math games and health and science lessons. This creative, well-rounded approach has kept her student engaged and motivated. Here is what Celeste has to say about her experience as a tutor:
“I wasn’t the brightest child growing up and so needed a few tutors along the way. My life at school would have not been a great experience if it weren’t for the help of tutors and professors. Therefore, I wanted to make a difference so that people can overcome difficulties and succeed. Everyone can inspire people differently, and anyone can be an inspiration. Knowing what people are going through and what people are struggling with has given me the determination and help others. That’s why working with the School on Wheels program has been one of the greatest choices I have made, and so far a rewarding experience. The School on Wheels organization has good intentions and positive thoughts that help volunteers create a story of their own. Some stories can be so powerful that it can take someone who didn’t really know what they want to do with their life and cause them to suddenly have a meaning purpose for their life. That’s why I’m glad to be a part of this organization.”
Paula Buxbaum, Senior Regional Coordinator
Lisa Guillemin. Lisa has been tutoring for six months and has been extremely dedicated. She is currently tutoring at two locations, participating in group and one-on-one tutoring. She is always willing to go the extra mile for students and does so with a beautiful smile. Lisa is a very positive person and is also very patient. She is very encouraging to students and to me as well.
“Initially, I became a tutor for School on Wheels in May, 2013, to help prepare me for working in classrooms as a substitute teacher. However, I have gained more than teaching experience during these past six months. My first student was just finishing kindergarten and living with his mother at a shelter in Hawthorne. Today, Kyle is enrolled in first grade. His teacher has determined he is academically competent for second grade level schoolwork and may advance to second grade very soon!
“School on Wheels has given me an opportunity to help inspire young students develop a love of learning. Education can never be taken away–and is the key to becoming whatever one dreams to be. Thank you, School on Wheels!”
Kenisha Edwards, Regional Coordinator
Al Smith. When I told Al that I was nominating him as Tutor of the Month, he replied that he couldn’t accept such an honor and felt that there were many more tutors far more deserving of this title than he was. To me, all of the Westside tutors are tutors of the day every time they meet with their student, but Al truly is deserving of special mention. Al has in fact, not only been nominated Tutor of the Month but I have nominated him Tutor of the Year for the Westside.
Since Al began tutoring his student Joshua, a mere six months ago, he has racked up 155 tutoring hours! Al goes twice, and sometimes, three times a week to meet with Joshua, and he often stays for nearly three hours. He not only logs his hours every week but also emails me a copy of his comments from the logs so that I can keep up with what is happening at his sessions.
I spoke with Joshua’s mum recently and she told me that if it weren’t for Al, Josh would be failing every class and would have long ago, given up on school. “Al,” she said, “has inspired Josh to want to learn and do well in school. Whatever else you do, Josh” she tells him. “Don’t you ever forget AL SMITH.”
I doubt that Josh, or any other student that Al works with, will not ever forget his kindness and dedication, nor will School on Wheels.
Thank you, Al, and congratulations on your nomination as Tutor of the Year!
Blue Mc Donnell, Regional Coordinator
Cara Reischl-Jones. I have decided to make Cara my Tutor of the Year!
Cara started as a volunteer with us back in 2005. She began as a volunteer tutor and has also been a Tutor Coordinator since 2012, overseeing a small domestic violence shelter. She then took a break from our program, but with great reason – she had a baby! After only a few months, Cara came right back and became a Tutor Coordinator for our new group tutoring at Catholic Charities. This is an emergency shelter where students come and go frequently so it takes a special kind of tutor to work with these students. As soon as we started this new group, I knew I would not be able to run it without Cara’s help. She has been instrumental in making sure we have enough volunteers to work with these students as well as making sure each student has the necessary supplies and support to succeed in school. Cara has always done above and beyond to help School on Wheels and it seems that nothing is ever too much to ask of her.
Thank you, Cara, for everything you do for our program, our students and volunteers, and for being such a valuable part of our program. It has been wonderful having you as part of our tutoring team and I know 2014 will be just as good!
Louis Mena, Regional Coordinator
Tracy Dang. Week after week, I always love reading Tracy’s logs about her tutoring sessions with Simone. Every week she details all the fun things that she and Simone work on during their sessions, from tracing letters in the alphabet, to fun art projects, and also reading together, I can see how much fun Tracy makes their sessions every week. As I have traveled with Tracy through the process of building her relationship with Simone, I can see what a transformation a few months has made in the life of her student. Simone went from a shy, reluctant student to one who is excited and eager to go to tutoring and learn from Tracy. She is willing to work hard and to conquer any task that she is given from her tutor and teachers. It has been so easy for me to work with Tracy as a tutor in my region and so encouraging hearing about all the great things that she is doing in her sessions. It is without a doubt that Tracy has made a huge difference in Simone’s life.
Desiree Ting, Regional Coordinator
Charles Lee. Charles started as a tutor with School on Wheels in August of 2012. He immediately saw the need for tutors in our program and actually started off tutoring two siblings! Throughout the course of his time with our program, Charles has tutored a total of four students. Charles is an exceptional tutor who truly goes above and beyond to help the students in our program and he is the kind of tutor I can count on! In his own words, “I have lived in the San Fernando Valley the majority of my life. I went to school at UC Santa Barbara for four years where I graduated with a Biology degree. Now I work as a pharmacy technician and go to school to take classes in preparation for graduate school. I decided to become a volunteer tutor because I understand the great value an education can have on a person. I have been assisting patients for five years at a pharmacy and I decided to give back to my community by offering help to students. School on Wheels was my first choice for volunteering because of the students unique living situations. School is demanding enough but it is near impossible to do well without having a steady roof over your head and other life concerns. I just wanted to offer my help to these students to try to help them with their education. I know that especially in today’s world an education is the only way that can lead to a promising future with positive potential. The next generation relies on the past generations to flourish in this ever-increasing complicated world. I have enjoyed my time with School on Wheels and hope to continue to be able to help the kids in the program.” Thank you, Charles, for your contribution to our program!
Lisette Gaeta, Regional Coordinator
Keyla Treitman. This year’s Volunteer of the Year for Ventura County goes out to Mrs. Keyla Treitman. Keyla has been a wonderful volunteer for over two years now. She started as a tutor and has worked with four different students. This year, Keyla has been instrumental in coordinating tutoring in the east end of Ventura County. As a Tutor Coordinator, Keyla has helped new tutors meet with their students, has strengthened partnerships, delivered supplies in the cities of Simi Valley, Moorpark, Thousand Oaks and Westlake, and she has been key in growing our program in these areas. She also has great insight on how to improve our program and offers support to current tutors. She oversees six different tutoring locations and an average of ten volunteers. Without Keyla, we would not have been able to grow as we have in this region. My thankfulness for all the help Keyla has provided is endless. I hope she knows how much she is appreciated. She is very well deserving of the Volunteer of the Year title. Keyla shares her experience below:
“Having been a tutor for almost two years, I knew how rewarding it felt to help someone understand something and to further their education. As a Tutor Coordinator, the rewards have been amped up even more. When I coordinate that first meeting between a student and their new tutor, I feel like a fairy godmother! Ding- here is the educational help you’ve needed! Ding – here is a support system for you! I have been absolutely amazed by the connections I see happen right in front of my eyes. There is something similar with all the tutors I meet. They all have such big hearts and want to help and are the most dedicated volunteers I know. The biggest reward for me, is knowing that my actions are making a difference in children’s lives.”
Yadira Melgoza, Regional Coordinator
April Price. April has been committed to School on Wheels and, most importantly, to her student for more than eight months! During these past months, she has been a weekly presence in the life of her student and has been able to provide Stefany with the stability and commitment that our students so desperately need. April tells me that she joined School on Wheels because she “wanted to connect with a local student that needed some help with homework. The experience has been extremely rewarding. I have been able to stick with one student during my tutoring experience, and I feel so lucky that I’ve had the opportunity to really get to know my student, Stefany.”
Thank you, April, for helping Stefany tackle academic challenges and helping her grow both as a student and as a person.
Yanira Rivas, Regional Coordinator
Margie Johnson. Margie has been with School on Wheels for a little over a year. In that time, she has tutored multiple students and has recently become a Tutor Coordinator for her tutoring site. She is a retired teacher that still has a passion for educating young children and you can tell that she loves doing it. Her life-long impact on her students was evident when Margie and I ran in to her former student at the elementary school where we were meeting. The student immediately recognized her and had a twinkle in her eye as she talked to Margie. They both smiled at the fact that her former student now works at the very school where Margie volunteers! Margie also shows the same care and concern for the volunteers that she now helps manage. We all appreciate her dedication and enthusiasm!
In her own words:
“I started tutoring a boy in the fifth grade. As June came around, the young boy was heading for middle school. I was then fortunate to be able to tutor his younger brother over the summer. We met at McDonalds and worked on math, reading and writing while we did science activities. I decided I wanted to be a volunteer Tutor Coordinator with the other volunteers at the school where I tutor. I now have three students I tutor; a brother and sister who are newly from Mexico and who have limited English reading and speaking, and I also still meet the student I started with over the summer. I find tutoring these children very rewarding. They seem to be eager to learn which makes the volunteering I do a wonderful experience. As a Tutor Coordinator, I have the opportunity to meet the other
tutors and their students. I highly recommend others to become involved with School on Wheels.”
Lilian Pahn, Regional Coordinator
Karen O’Keefe. Karen has been a tutor with School on Wheels for almost two years. I appreciate Karen’s calm and helpful demeanor, but most importantly, I appreciate how much she cares about the students she has worked with. Thank you, Karen, for being a wonderful tutor and a wonderful person! Here is what Karen has to say about her experience as a tutor:
“Both of my parents taught at public elementary schools in Detroit.When I was in town, I would sometimes volunteer in their classes, working with the children one-on-one or go on field trips with them. I always enjoyed it and when I learned of School on Wheels, I signed up to volunteer right away. I had at least three friends in law school that had been homeless at some point in their lives, and I wanted to help make sure that children facing such extreme trials and uncertainty are able to pursue their dreams. I also thought it’d be a pleasure to spend more time with kids. I’ve tutored two students and I was pleasantly surprised that the shelter was in a wonderful, supportive haven with a large playground, outdoor area, garden, and on-site school, and a place for families to receive the support and skills needed to have a stable, safe life. It’s been wonderful working with students and seeing them gain skills that they otherwise may not have fully mastered. I’ve been touched by their resilience, spirits, and positivity.”
Stefanie Aguilar, Regional Coordinator