April 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

Scott Geraedts. In the Skid Row Learning Center there is a table right in front of the bookshelves that has room for six students. On an average day, this is referred to as the “middle table” but on Tuesdays its name changes to “The Mr. Scott Table”. Students come to Scott Geraedts table to get help with math and reading. Scott’s soft spoken and patient demeanor help the kids feel at ease and make it comfortable coming to him for help. His flexibility in working with various students means that Mr. Scott knows all the students. He will spend the first half of his day helping with homework and reading; then, he helps the middle and high school students study algebra and calculus.

In his own words, “Tutoring is a way to give back to my community and help those who most need it. It is also a lot of fun to spend time helping the kids. I look forward to it every week.”

Allison Maldonado, Skid Row Learning Center Instructor


Region 1 – Los Angeles

Tamara Chacon. Tamara has been a tutor with School on Wheels for six months and has worked with her student, Nevia, the entire time. Tamara demonstrates the qualities of an outstanding tutor, providing consistency every week, logging her hours regularly, and using creative techniques to help her student learn and keep her engaged. Here is what Tamara has to say about her experience as a tutor:

“I began working with School on Wheels last September while looking for an opportunity to pass on what I have learned to others. I have really enjoyed my tutoring experiences since then, and have learned much from my student in the process. Visiting and working with my student is definitely the most rewarding part of my week.”

Thanks for being an awesome tutor, Tamara!

Marisol Farfan, Regional Coordinator


Region 2 – South Los Angeles

Carol Spain. Carol has been volunteering with School on Wheels for six months. She is an amazing Tutor Coordinator for a shelter in Compton. Carol has over 30 years of teaching experience which makes her great at coordinating tutors, preparing lesson plans, and interacting with students. She is passionate about education, particularly for children in underserved communities. Carol is very admirable; I’m so glad she is a part of School on Wheels!

“I was invited to join School on Wheels by a former volunteer and began tutoring in October, 2013 . I continue to tutor because I enjoy the privilege of helping students and tutors. I also experience the joy of giving to others, because it is indeed better to give than to receive. I am grateful to be part of School on Wheels’ organization to provide support for our students in need.”

Kenisha Edwards, Regional Coordinator


Region 3 – Westside

Tyler Birch. In his own words: “It has been an honor to be a part of the School on Wheels tutoring program. Dylan’s motivation and improvement have made my experience incredibly special. I have developed an appreciation for my own knowledge and have noticed myself trying to expand my intellectual knowledge more than I had in the past. Not only do I want to help Dylan to the fullest extent but I also want to strive to be the best person that I possibly can be. If Dylan is committed to learning, then I should be too. The School on Wheels program has been inspiring . I am very happy to be a part of such a wonderful organization with a mission that changes the lives of so many children.”

Blue Mc Donnell, Regional Coordinator


Region 4 – Long Beach, San Pedro

Neil Laffaye. Neil became a tutor with School on Wheels in June 2013. He was referred to me from a friend; I want to thank my friend because Neil has become a great tutor. When he was first assigned to his student, they did not get along so well. His student was not happy to have a tutor. Neil stayed with it; a month later Neil’s student began to love tutoring. He likes Neil so much now that he is waiting for Neil to show up for their sessions, eager to learn. It reminds me that consistency and persistence can make a great tutor. It is not easy to change a student’s mind about learning but Neil is a great example that it can be done.

Louis Mena, Regional Coordinator


Region 7 – San Fernando Valley

Margaret Schwarz. I was born and raised in Poland. My family is a big Catholic family with nine children; I am the oldest daughter. I had no choice but to be the most responsible sibling in our family. Both of my parents emphasized the importance of getting an education from the very beginning. They always encouraged us to study hard and expected us to do well in school. My younger sisters used to come to me for help with homework which I always enjoyed. I immigrated to the United States at the age of twenty two; I continued my education here by taking a variety of classes at a community colleges. I enjoyed taking a variety of classes ranging from English, History, Art and Drawing. I can now clearly see the advantages I had in life; I see how lucky I was to have received the education that I did. Education is a big part of the reason why I am successful today in my career and life. I am fortunate to have the luxury of being able to live in California, not having to worry about money for life’s necessities. I don’t like the thought of knowing that there are children that don’t have their basic needs being met such as not having a stable home, not having easy access to their education or struggling due to their circumstances. Every child should start life being able to receive a good education. This is why I volunteer with School on Wheels and why I enjoy it so much.

Lisette Gaeta, Regional Coordinator


Region 8 – Ventura County

Janet Chacon. Janet has been a dedicated volunteer for over FOUR YEARS! During her time with School on Wheels, Janet has worked with five different students. Chris, her current student, is in 6th grade. Shortly after matching Janet with Chris, Chris’s mother shared with me that he really, really liked his new tutor. Previously, Chris had gone through two unsuccessful matches. Janet’s level of commitment to her students is noticed right away by the students; this allows for a trusting relationship to develop and ultimately for positive change happen in her students. Thank you so much, Janet, for all your hard work throughout your four years of service!

Yadira Melgoza, Regional Coordinator


Region 9 – Santa Barbara

Nicholas Peterson. Nic has been a committed tutor in the Santa Barbara region since November 2012. He has tutored three teenage students since joining our program, all of whom needed help tackling difficult subjects such as Geometry, Algebra 2 and Physics. Nic is smart, energetic and fun to be around, which is probably why he is able to connect with his students. More importantly you can tell that he enjoys tutoring his students and is genuinely there to help them. Though he will be leaving the Santa Barbara region in a few months, we are happy that he will continue to serve our students in the Los Angeles area. We are truly going to miss him as he has been a positive presence in the lives of the students he has tutored. Thank you, Nic, for being such a committed tutor and good luck with all your future plans!

Yanira Rivas, Tutor Coordinator


Region 11 – Inland Empire

Lisa Winn. In her own words: “This May will be my first anniversary with School on Wheels. I heard about the program while searching for new organizations where I could volunteer. After attending orientation I knew I wanted to become involved. At first, I was concerned that my teaching capabilities wouldn’t be up to par and that I would stumble across subject matter too difficult for me to assist my students. However, School on Wheels has many resources to help with this; now I know where I can go to review any subject before meeting with my student. I hope I’m making as much of an impact on the lives of these children as they have on mine. It’s definitely been a life changing experience. The best part of the program is having an opportunity to be a mentor and to keep the students motivated. I let them know that I believe in them and that I’m here to support them. Mentoring helps to build and strengthen the bond between student and tutor. I’m excited about being a tutor and I’m looking forward to another year with the program. I’m happy School On Wheels has made its way to the Inland Empire.”

Steven Alvarez, Regional Coordinator


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

Renelle White Buffalo. Renelle, or to us she is known as “Buffy”, has been a volunteer since last spring and is currently tutoring her fourth student. Buffy brings a creative and positive light to tutoring. I look forward to seeing her and her student on my site visits because they are always doing something different. Whether it is a math related scavenger hunt or a spelling word contest, they are actively learning and, most importantly, enjoying each other’s company. Thank you, Buffy, for helping out in every way you can. From summer field trips to donating your artwork, you are an amazing volunteer!

“As a full time artist, I have a very flexible schedule. Throughout college I worked doing independent fundraisers. I also worked with the Upward Bound program, where I mentored low-income/first generation high school students to create the right steps towards a successful post-secondary education experience. I missed it when I moved to Los Angeles. So I looked around for a program that I would be passionate about. I found School on Wheels and have been with the program for over a year now. I came from a tough background growing up; so, I find it easy to relate to School on Wheels student and to motivate myself and others. I love being able to help the youth in any way possible to achieve their dreams as I did.”

Stefanie Aguilar, Regional Coordinator