July 2013 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

Kelsey Ritzel. Many teachers can’t wait for dismissal time so they get a break from the students, but not our Mrs. Kelsey! After working hard every day as a teacher, Mrs. Kelsey still takes the time to come to the learning center every week to work with the lower elementary students. Her vast amount of knowledge has helped many students improve their reading skills. We also have some new tools and games available thanks to her advice and suggestions! When asked about her experience, Mrs. Kelsey had this to say:

“Last August I moved to Los Angeles from Maryland and, while I found the transition exciting, I also found myself without a job, thousands of miles from my friends and family, and feeling like I didn’t have a purpose. I felt I could make better use of my time as I anxiously waited to hear about jobs, and so I began looking for volunteer opportunities. I found School on Wheels in my search and it seemed like a great fit. I am an elementary special education teacher so the opportunity to work with kids was a huge draw to the organization. I was also drawn to School on Wheels because of my father’s work with the homeless population as a social worker and the experiences I had throughout my childhood as a result. Since then, I have found a family within the Skid Row learning center and I look forward to my weekly visits with the kindergartners. Their obvious excitement every time I walk through the door makes whatever cares I had vanish and I always leave with a smile on my face. Though I have since begun teaching full time and I have settled comfortably into my new LA life, School on Wheels will remain a source of inspiration in my career and in my daily life.”

Allison Maldonado, Skid Row Learning Center Instructor


Region 1 – Los Angeles

Phillipe Beauvais. In his own words: “I was first introduced to School on Wheels by a good friend of mine. I immediately became interested in donating my time to such a great organization. I wanted to be able to influence children at a young age and motivate and encourage them to be the best they could be. I have been volunteering at SOW now for six months, and the amount of joy and satisfaction I feel every week has been the driving force to be the best tutor I can be for Matthew. I am committed and a strong believer that School on Wheels provides a great foundation, molding our youth to be the best they can be, and I am proud to say I help contribute to such a great cause.”

Paula Buxbaum, Senior Regional Coordinator


Region 2 – South Los Angeles

Joline Munoz.Joline has been a very patient and dedicated tutor for seven months. She has been willing to tutor multiple students in different locations. Joline is also very flexible in terms of location and grade levels she tutors. She contributes to School on Wheels in other ways by spreading the word of our program at her school and workplace. Joline is an awesome tutor and a great addition to School on Wheels!

In her own words:

“I joined School on Wheels in the Fall of 2012 because of my great desire to give back to the community by helping others. My education was made possible by the generosity of others and one of the best ways to show my gratitude is to use it to give others the chance at the same opportunities. My experience with working with students as part of the School on Wheels program has been very rewarding. Though scheduling of sessions can be challenging at times, getting the chance to see the my student progress after a few session, and to see that being a positive role model in their life helps to keep them motivated, makes it all the more worth it.”

Kenisha Edwards, Regional Coordinator


Region 3 – Westside

Allison Etkins. Allison came to School on Wheels in October of last year and began tutoring Sa’Doryan, a five-year-old boy, who lives with his grandmother. Sa’Doryan, a lively little kid, had trouble concentrating and difficulty learning. In the seven months that Allison has been working with Sa’Doryan, he has improved tremendously not only in his schoolwork but also in his ability to concentrate and focus.

Allison makes the most out of each tutoring session, bringing with her worksheets from our Academic Program and fun educational games to play with Sa’Doryan. She calls me regularly to check in and let me know how things are going or to ask for some advice. In her tutor logs, she writes detailed accounts of her tutoring sessions and its fun to read the inventive ways she has of engaging Sa’Doryan.

Here is an example of one of Allison’s tutoring comments. “We played “ending sounds bingo” with Sa’Doryan, (prior to the session I created bingo cards with various images on them and put the ending letters of the images in a bag). We took turns choosing letters from bag and Sa’Doryan put a bingo dot on the images that ended with the letter we chose from the bag. He initially had difficulty understanding/listening to rules of the bingo game, but eventually understood and played two bingo games with minimal prompts.

Thank you, Allison, for putting so much effort into helping Sa’Doryanm and for all of your volunteer hours.

Blue Mc Donnell, Regional Coordinator


Region 4 – Long Beach, San Pedro

Sherry Lynn Grguric. Sherry is Region 4’s tutor of the month simply because of her patience and kindness. Sherry has been a tutor with School on Wheels for over three years now. She is an attorney and a very busy lady, but this past year, she has been tutoring the same student, Zakai, despite many challenges. There were challenges with the time and day for the sessions, so Sherry opened her Saturday mornings for her student. Then we had trouble getting her student to Saturday sessions, but with Sherry’s patience and persistence, we figured it out and they are back on track and meeting every Saturday. This past week, Zakai had her Awards Ceremony at her school and she requested for her tutor, Sherry, to attend. Of course Sherry made time in her busy schedule and went along to the ceremony. While there, Zakai’s teacher stopped Sherry to thank her. She let her know that, since Sherry has been tutoring Zakai, her grades and her behavior have both increased dramatically. I know that Zakai is very happy with her tutor and I know we are very lucky to have her.

Sherry, thank you very much for all you have done for Zakai, and continue to do.

Louis Mena, Regional Coordinator


Region 5 – Hollywood, Silverlake, Pasadena, Glendale

Lorraine Dominguez. Lorraine has been a tutor with School on Wheels since September 2011 and has made a tremendous impact on the lives of her students. She is a committed and devoted tutor to all of the students with whom she has been matched. Lorraine has been working with her current student, Jashawn, for almost a year now and they love working together. As a result of their sessions together, Jashawn’s grades have improved andhe is now doing a lot better in school. Jashawn’s new confidence in academics and improvement in his grades speaks volumes to the dedication that Lorraine has to help him achieve in school. We are so thankful to have Lorraine as a tutor in our program!

Desiree Ting, Regional Coordinator


Region 7 – San Fernando Valley

Chris and Laura Moon. Chris and Laura have been amazing tutors from the moment they started. At first, Laura was only going to accompany Chris to his tutoring sessions but when I presented them with the option of tutoring siblings, we all knew it would be great match. In Chris’s words, “As a high school student, I was first searching for a program to just gain volunteer hours. However, as I have tutored Samanthia, I have begun to realize that School on Wheels had more to offer than just something to put on my college application. School on Wheels really gave me an opportunity to make a difference for underserved families in my community. Samanthia is a bright and intelligent girl who excels in reading and writing. Although she may be easily distracted as times, she tries her best at completing her math homework with my help. My mother was a teacher in Korea and has always enjoyed teaching children. She enjoys working with Samanthia’s little sister, Sarriya. They love working on the alphabet and basic arithmetic. My mother and I hope to be the best tutors and friends possible for Samanthia and Serriya in the future years to come.” Thank you both for your continuing hard work and dedication!

Lisette Gaeta, Regional Coordinator


Region 8 – Ventura County

Diane Maag. Diane has been such wonderful volunteer to work with since the beginning; she’s been with us since November of 2011. Diane is dedicated, provides great feedback of her tutoring sessions, and has a wonderful way of engaging students. So much so that when her first student returned to the area after being away for about nine months, he requested if he can work with Ms. Diane again. Diane gladly accepted and tutored two students each week. Thank you, Diane, for your great dedication to your students. Below is what Diane had to say about her experience.

“I have been working with School on Wheels for a couple of years now and have enjoyed every moment. The students I have had the honor of working with have taught me so much. I always look forward to seeing the smiling face of my student weekly. Helping to make homework a bit less daunting, providing support for long-term projects, and brushing up on some basic skills is how tutoring sessions are typically spent. Students are always so quick to show their appreciation for any help offered. In addition to the wonderful activities provided to tutors on the School on Wheels website, I love creating games that are specific to the students needs. For instance, I have used student vocabulary in a match game or hangman. I have also created a bingo game that incorporates current math lessons. Multiplication war is a way to practice basic skills in a new way. When the game does not exactly hit the mark, students use the opportunity to fine-tune the game for me. This adds an element of creativity and keeps me on my toes. Working with the student to develop activities allows me to further customize activities to a student’s interests making every week new and interesting. I am grateful to School on Wheels for allowing me the opportunity to work with students every week.”

Yadira Melgoza, Regional Coordinator


Region 9 – Santa Barbara

Elizabeth Kohne. Elizabeth has been an amazing tutor and role model for her student, Monica. Being a full-time UCSB student and holding a job has not kept her from attending every session with her student since October of last year, and she plans to meet with her student throughout the summer break as well. When she joined the program, Elizabeth made a commitment to be a consistent and positive role model for her student and she is doing a fantastic job at it. I want to thank Elizabeth’s uncle, who is also a tutor with us in the Los Angeles area, for inviting Elizabeth to join the program. On top on being a phenomenal energetic tutor for her student, asking for additional books and resources to use with her student when she needs to, Elizabeth is very independent, resourceful and responsible. Thank you, Elizabeth, for being part of our program and keep up the great work!

Yanira Rivas, Regional Coordinator


Region 10 – Orange County

Ana Nieves. Ana started her experience with School on Wheels as an intern last year. I was immediately impressed by her eagerness to learn, not only about our program and students, but also about the issues of homelessness in general. She researched and published a Scholarship Bulletin for our families in Orange County to have a resource. Even after her internship was over, Ana continued to tutor her student and she continues to be a tutor coordinator for School on Wheels to this date. She is dedicated and reliable and I honestly could not do my work efficiently without her. She is always willing to help in any way she can, even at a moment’s notice. We are so thankful to have her as a Tutor Coordinator!

In her own words:

At School On Wheels, I have had the opportunity to meet great individuals ranging from the staff, who are awesome, to the students and families. On this journey, I have not only taught students course material but also I have learned so much from them. Their passion to learn and succeed is the fuel to continue and attempt to help the children of the community reach their educational goals.

Lilian Pahn, Regional Coordinator


Region 11 – Inland Empire

Vincent Paterno. Vincent enjoys being at the shelter helping the kids and it shows. He goes beyond the role of the tutor to enhance the experience of the students during the tutor session by learning about the student’s favorite superheroes and breaking into friendly conversations. He is dedicated to the well being of the students to the extent that he arrives at the shelter promptly after a long day of work and shows no sign of fatigue around the children and is engaging and fun! He also enjoys making simple drawings about things the children enjoy, like a portrait of Batman. I am proud to be tutoring with tutors such as he and I hope I get the opportunity to meet more individuals like him.

In his own words:

“Given the sporadic nature of an emergency shelter, I am exposed to more comings and goings. I realize that I only have a small window with the students here before they leave, so I have to treat each session like it is going to be the last I’m going to have with them. This inspires me more to connect with them and leave them with something more than what they came in with, whether it be learning or just having fun. Thank you School On Wheels for giving me this opportunity to be part of your cause.”

Alberto Anaya, Tutor Coordinator


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

Joseph Soulsby. Joseph has succeeded in attending all but one of his tutoring sessions on time. He has kept his tutoring log diligently and I appreciate the extra work he puts into planning his sessions around themes to better engage his student. Joseph has been a wonderful addition to School on Wheels and I am thankful for his commitment to our program.

In his own words:

“For me, tutoring Elijah has become the most anticipated part of my week. Balancing fun, big picture topics with basic skills practice is an inexact science. One must be willing to abandon or modify plans that prove to be theoretically clever but don’t hold the student’s interest. I can usually energetically dive in to a session, but must ease into lessons and cut back on rigor if Elijah’s had a long day. When I get a fact wrong, I am humble in accepting corrections from my 1st grade pupil and I strive to improve my tutoring strategies.”

Stefanie Aguilar, Regional Coordinator