Want to help School on Wheels achieve our mission through advocacy?
In this webinar, our staff discuss the ways you can help to promote School on Wheels on social media and in your community. As a volunteer, you have a greater impact than you know! This workshop explains the various ways you can spread the word, advocate for homeless students, and encourage others to get involved.
About the Presenters: Lisa Pullins works as an AmeriCorps VISTA for School on Wheels as a Communications and Branding Associate. After receiving her Bachelor’s in Planning, Public Policy & Management, she shortly began working at School on Wheels in November 2016 to focus on capacity building for the organization.
Sinead Chilton has been involved with School on Wheels since 2004. She is responsible for marketing, media, branding and fundraising events. As the Marketing Director for School on Wheels, she has spent many years promoting School on Wheels and is also a volunteer tutor.
Question: “My 7th grade student just started a new middle school in January and is having difficulty catching up. She wasn’t enrolled for a couple of months because the family was moving and they are on different material. How can I help her?”
Cathie Alter: I think it’s important to confirm that change is difficult for everyone, but many times it turns out to be better than what you had in the past. I recommend spending time talking about her new school, teachers and students. Let her know that you’re there to help her, and if you work together, she’ll catch up very quickly.
Pat Bayha: Oftentimes, the English vocabulary and social studies material will be online. You can work on it as you tutor weekly. Vocabulary tests are easy to create, as well.
Amanda Carr: As the other tutors emphasize, it’s important to let your student feel supported. Since students miss so much school as they move, they can often get overwhelmed. Work with your student on the subject(s) she needs the most help with. Often this might be math, since mathematical principles are built upon progressively.
You might also see about getting permission to contact your student’s teachers. Usually they will meet with students and ensure they receive any work they’ve missed and help them get caught up. They might have material for you to review with her. Remember that teachers are busy, however, and may not respond to your request.
Last, remember you can’t complete all of the student’s homework each week. Your tutoring hour is best spent on making sure she understands the most fundamental concepts in math and English language arts.
Have a question for our Ask a Tutor feature? Email askatutor [at] schoolonwheels.org or use the #AskATutor hashtag on any of our social media sites.
Thank you to Pat Harvey and CBSLA for highlighting our work with homeless students in Skid Row.
LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) – On any given night, there are roughly 47,000 homeless people in Los Angeles County, and many of them are children who simply want to be loved and to learn.
“We want the neighborhood to hear that there’s kids around, and we want the kids to feel safe, and to let them have a voice,” said Allison Maldonado, who runs the Skid Row Learning Center for School on Wheels.
School On Wheels works with homeless children to ensure that they don’t fall behind on their education, regardless their circumstances.
“Due to their current situation, they fail to see the connections between why it’s so important to stay in school and get that education,” Maldonado said. “They’re so focused on the now: ‘I need to eat tonight, where am I going to sleep tonight.’ They’re not as focused on learning for the test next week.”
The center helps as many as 45 students daily by providing a full meal and one-on-one time with a tutor. Most importantly, it provides a safe, quiet place for students to get their schoolwork done and stay caught up.
“Falling behind early has lifelong ramifications,” tutor Chris Chambers Goodman said. “So to the extent that we can at least help students try to keep up, we’re really doing a great service to the community.”
Once the kids finish their work, they get ready to make the walk back to the Union Rescue Mission, where many of them live.
“You do what you can in the time that you have them because you don’t know how long they’re going to stay,” Maldonado said.
While it’s only a quick three-block walk, it’s full of sights and sounds that can last a lifetime. But it’s also full of hope, something that’s not lost on the students or the people on the streets. As they walk, the children yell, “kids coming through!”
“It’s letting the kids yell and get all of their anger out,” said 8th grader Ashanti, who volunteers with School on Wheels. “And it’s also letting everybody on the streets know that they can stop what they’re doing before the kids get over there, and the kids can see them.”
Last year, School on Wheels worked with more than 2,200 volunteers and tutored nearly 3,500 students.
“As much as it’s hard to know that they are in this situation, the only thing we can do is remind them how to get out of it,” Maldonado said. “What they can do for themselves to grow and persevere and, most importantly, to break the cycle of homelessness.”
Diane Lopez – Wanting to do something in the field of education, I would have never thought about tutoring homeless children. Sometimes people forget that homelessness is something that affects everyone, and children are not immune to it. I am so glad that I found School on Wheels because it fills me with such warmth that I cannot explain in words. Seeing my student smiling and growing in her studies keeps me wanting to make sure she gets the best tutoring I can give her.
Region 5 – Hollywood, Silverlake, Pasadena:
Erna Taylor – I had just come out of an 8 1/2 year retail job at a scrapbooking store, and I was looking for something to do. School on Wheels caught my eye as an opportunity to work with children again. I had been a storyteller for many years, so this seemed perfect. I love words and books, and learning is very important to me. I also come from a big family, so working one-on-one with a child has been a great experience for both me and my student.
Region 6 – Inland Empire:
Deborah Myers – Education has always been important to me. Someone once told me, “Never stop learning,” and I took that message to heart. When I came across a notice for School on Wheels, it seemed like a perfect fit for my interests. I chose to work with high school boys in a group foster home. Even though their circumstances present a unique challenge, it’s especially thrilling when I can connect with a student to help expand his knowledge, and through education, help him to build dreams for a future.
Skid Row Learning Center:
Jesse Polen – Every Thursday, you will find Mr. Jesse sitting at Table 1 (a.k.a. Mr. Jesse’s Table). He takes on the tough but fun task of working with three or four 1st and 2nd graders at one time. Throughout this time, he not only helps the students complete homework but assists them in raising their scores. Mr. Jesse makes sure the sessions are fun, yet efficient, and is making a lasting impact on these children!
Justin Helps – Tutoring with School On Wheels is a welcome change of pace after spending the work day in the world of adults. It is the highlight of my week. It is also very rewarding to see the understanding “click” for a student, and this has proven helpful to my work at Khan Academy. I’m honored to be involved with an organization like School On Wheels, which enables me to have this experience and know that the student benefits as well.
“Stephany (3rd Grade) is such a sweet girl. She’s always one to give gifts, such as rocks, to show how much she appreciates you. She’s hesitant about learning or practicing, especially her multiplication tables, but always strives to do better. I try to make each lesson fun for her, and it really keeps her engaged. It is genuinely exciting to see her do her multiplication tables much faster now. I look forward to our next challenge. Diane Lopez–Tutor
David (10th grade) “I’ve been privileged to work with at least 30 students over the past year at a group foster home in Pomona, but David stands out. When I met him in May, he was quite small for his age and kept to himself, and the older students frequently picked on him. However, he did apply an effort to his homework, which was not true for all of the other students. To encourage student participation, I developed a study quiz game. David didn’t play in the beginning, but eventually, it became one of his favorite things to do during our sessions. It turns out that he is very good in math and spelling! This got the attention of the other students, and before long, they were trying to get David to join their teams. David’s confidence grew, and when he successfully graduated the program in November, I believe he left feeling better about himself and his future.” Deborah Myers–Tutor
Skid Row Learning Center:
Abraham (3rd grade) “Abraham comes in every day enthusiastic and exuberant. He gets his homework done and takes the time to help other students around him. Most days, it’s common to see multiple smiles at whatever table he’s sitting. A joy to tutors and peers alike, Abraham is the epitome of Student of the Month.” Jesse Polen–Tutor
Vincent (9th Grade) “My son has really improved his grades a lot since starting his online tutoring and he has developed an outstanding attitude toward learning as well! Vincent looks forward to working with his online tutoring teachers, who are very patient and extremely helpful. He really likes computers now and spends his free time on Khan Academy, YouTube, and other programs and websites. He really enjoys learning.” – Vincent’s Mother
Every year School on Wheels nominates volunteers to receive the President’s Volunteer Service Award. Award recipients receive an official President’s Volunteer Service Award medal, a personalized certificate of achievement, and a congratulatory letter from the President of the United States. Below, find a list of this year’s award recipients. Congratulations to you all!