Month: August 2018

Aug 29

25 Years of Shrinking Educational Gaps

Originally published in Ventura Breeze

In 1993 a retired school teacher, Agnes Stevens, was so deeply moved by the number and plight of homeless students she saw that she dedicated her life to setting up a nonprofit to help. School on Wheels has been providing one-on-one stable tutoring relationships ever since.

August marks the 25th anniversary of local nonprofit School on Wheels. School on Wheels began in Santa Monica with one tutor and now operates in six counties throughout Southern California. In 2010, it opened its flagship Skid Row Learning Center and since then has opened five Digital Learning Centers a in Compton, San Fernando Valley, Boyle Heights, Venice and Chino Hills. In 2017, 2,029 volunteers spent more than 100,000 hours tutoring 3,370 homeless kids. More than 5,000 backpacks, school supplies, uniforms and bus tokens have been distributed to children in need in the past year. Their Resource Center is located in Ventura.

“When I was 16 we were homeless in Los Angeles and we spent nights sleeping on buses and trains and finally moved into a shelter in Skid Row,” said Josephine Bailey McLein. “That’s when I found School on Wheels. Their center had internet and I could do my homework somewhere I felt safe. I worked hard to get all the requirements for college, but I never told anyone at my high school I was homeless. I am now a junior at USC majoring in human biology and my mom and sister finally have an apartment. School on Wheels encouraged me to keep up with my school work and to follow my dream of going to college.”

As California’s housing shortage intensifies, the number of homeless children continues to climb. Since 2014, the number of homeless youth in California has jumped 20 percent, to more than 202,329, and accounts for nearly four percent of the overall public school population, according to the California Homeless Youth Project.

“While childhood homelessness and poverty are daunting, I truly believe that when people come together around a shared belief, change is possible,” says Catherine Meek, executive director of School on Wheels.

Today, hundreds of volunteers work one-on-one with children whose homelessness prevents them from receiving the academic stability and help they desperately need. The heart of the School on Wheels’ program is the volunteer tutors who come from all backgrounds and professions, with a shared goal – to reach out to a child, to teach, to mentor and assist in his or her educational life. The mission of School on Wheels is to enhance educational opportunities for homeless children from kindergarten through twelfth grade. Tutoring in six counties in Southern California, including Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.

Sinead Chilton, Director, Development & Marketing School on Wheels, Inc. told the Breeze. “I met Agnes Stevens, the founder of School on Wheels at a volunteer training in Ventura in 2003. I knew straight away that I would know her for a long time and that her mission was an important one. Up until then, I didn’t realize that children were homeless in Ventura never mind the rest of America. School on Wheels has always had a presence in Ventura County and over the years has helped thousands of children in the county with backpacks, school supplies, one-on-one tutoring and mentoring. I still volunteer today and I think the mission is as important as ever.” 

Aug 20

Nonprofit Organization Celebrates 25 Years Of Service To Children And Youth Experiencing Homelessness

“While childhood homelessness and poverty are daunting, I truly believe that when people come together around a shared belief, change is possible,” says Catherine Meek, executive director of School on Wheels. “Twenty five ago Agnes provided us with a conduit for this change and we are honored by the support of volunteers and donors to keep making a difference in the lives of students like Josephine.”

Read the full article at Santa Monica Daily Press.

Aug 10

Tutor Anniversaries August 2018

We would like to give a huge shout out to all of these amazing tutors who have volunteered with us for a year or more! We couldn’t impact the lives of thousands of children without you.

Eight Years
Jennell May

Five Years
Nancy Ayon
Jonathan Bauer
Raquel Abreu

Four Years
Adi Hacker
Norma Perez
Pamela Rice
Beatrice Epping

Three Years
Jennifer Kehs
Sean Luong
Amanda (Amy) Miller
Susan Lawi
Audrey Waight

Two Years 
Owen Fahey
Josie Azzam
Nadine Jackson
Chloe Uhls
Son Ly
Judy Garcia
Constance Chiang
Michael Strauss
Hana Catudio
Jason Wright
Jocelyne Lopez
Usha Idnani

One Year 

Gloria Reyes Luera
Sean Suwanaloet
Cyrus Vachha
Alexandra Psarakis
Timothy Dodd
Tracy Coe
Matt Wong
Ching Chan
Kelly Tartan
Chloe Fries
Ajay Jain
Ellyse O’Halloran
Nataley Morua
Riki Aihara
Sheri Fox
Varun Chakravarthy
Chloe Cho
Gary Tavetian
Laura Alvarado
Dorrie LaMarr
Abraham Flores
Annie Phan
Erika Wu
Aubrey Reynolds
Savannah Pinedo
Melinda Gevorgian
Tameka Clark
Sarah MacMillan
Rebecca Mkrtchyan
Emily DeArkland
Jordan Safty
Lisa Strommen
Dianelli Gomez
Robert Hayley
Eric Erbstoesser
Nicole Williams
Carol Kile
Haritha Krishnarathnam
Joshua Hall
Penny Lu
Mazal Sarafian

Aug 10

PBS SoCal Partners with School on Wheels

This summer, our Comunidad Cesar Chavez families participated in a PBS SoCal’s 5-week STEM Parent Academy. During the workshops, both parents and children took part in learning about mathematics and science concepts through the use of technology and PBS KIDS online games, videos, and hands-on activities.  Most importantly, our parents also learned strategies to become engaged in their children’s learning at home. In order to provide more access to technology and to further foster a passion for learning, the attending families received tablets from our generous PBS SoCal Partners. Thank you PBS SoCal for providing our families such an unforgettable educational experience. We look forward to continuing our partnership throughout our sites.

Aug 7

Students of the Month – August 2018

Online:

Ethan (9th Grade) – Even though Ethan has been working hard as an older brother and taking care of two younger siblings, I admire his enthusiasm for participating in the Summer Program. At first, he was hesitant about reading books that were written before the year 2000, but the Summer Program has made him more open to reading different kinds of books, such as The Hobbit. Throughout the summer, we’ve had a lot of fun talking about the books we’ve read together. Ethan especially enjoyed making text-to-self connections and identified strongly with the character Wade Watts from the novel Ready Player One because of how Wade overcomes the challenges he experiences. After summer, I look forward to seeing Ethan continue to develop his love of reading and continue to make different types of connections when he reads! – Natalie Platon, Ethan’s Online Tutor

 

Region 1:

Communidad Cesar Chavez Students – Because we mainly group tutor at a short-term shelter, we only have the kids for a limited time before they move to more permanent housing. It’s tough to get tutoring done in a fairly noisy, fluid environment with kids of different abilities, but I’ve found multiplication flash cards are the most useful tool. 75% of the students we help have trouble with their times tables, and since multiplication is the cornerstone of math, the kids see immediate results. My favorite part of the year is during the summer, when we develop interactive science projects. They include projects such as dry ice, launching water bottles, anatomy, botany, paper airplanes, and making dinosaur fossils. The kids go nuts for this stuff!
– Evan Panas,
Tutor

 

Region 10:

STEM of Wheels Students – We immensely enjoyed working with the students in STEM on Wheels. Their completed projects for our daily challenges were proud moments for both them and us. Whether it was building a bridge to cross a river or trying to program a Sprite to dance about the room, the kids demonstrated logic, background knowledge, reasoning, and most importantly, a sense of fun in completing their projects. We cheered as Daniella’s group’s little car inched its way up the inclined plane; we laughed with Bryan in his attempt to design his candy “cell” into a face; we groaned while doing our healthy exercises; we watched excitedly as Natalie’s dog chased a cat around the screen like she’d coded it to do. It was quite the summer program, full of amazing kids.
STEM on Wheels Tutors

Aug 7

Tutors of the Month – August 2018

Region 10 – South Orange County:

Mathew – To go to the summer camp and share some of our knowledge of the biomedical, engineering, health, and coding fields was a rewarding experience: it put smiles on the kids’ faces, it put smiles on our faces, and overall, kids had a good time doing our hands-on projects. It was amazingly exciting to see our students start to discover new passions and interests while experiencing STEM as a whole.

Ashley – Each day we did a different activity that related to engineering, biomed, health, or coding. Many of the students learned things that they had never seen at school before, including Scratch and K’nex.

Michael – I could already tell that the organization required dedication and and passion. I soon realized the power of teamwork and the possibilities that could arise from the combined goodwill of multiple volunteers.

Jason – There was no doubt that the curriculum — which consisted of engineering, biomed, health, and coding — was exceptional, however, what made this program so successful and the experience worthwhile were the irreplaceable connections made during the course of the three weeks. Given the thier harsh lifestyles, it is not fanatical to presume that education is not their first priority, therefore, such intimate connections between the tutor and the students may be more impactful to the children’s lives than any lecture. I hope that we have comparably influenced the children.

 

Region 1 – East LA:

Evan Panas – I started tutoring with School on Wheels a little more than 5 years ago when I noticed some free time that could be more productive. I felt SOW offered the best bang for my buck. The greatest part about helping kids is that they’re eager to learn, and information adults take for granted amazes them. They are excited to see you every week. It’s satisfying to provide a little stability in their chaos-ridden lives. Since we do this as a group, I would be remiss to not also thank my fellow tutors Niru Madduri, Alonso Quintero, Brenda Ramirez, and Marisol Sacramento. And a special thanks to Sasana Kachirsky who coordinates at another shelter and is never-ending supply of inspiration. Also, many thanks to our past and present regional coordinators who offer wonderful support to all their tutors: Paula Buxbaum, Marisol Farfan, Daisy Arce, Cecelia Olivas, Louisiana Wermer, and Ian Chan.

 

Online:

Natalie Platon – It’s been lots of fun participating in the Summer Program this year! I’m glad that online tutoring gives me the opportunity to still work with Ethan even though he moved away from Skid Row a few years ago. By using Google Hangouts and our smartphones, we’ve had great discussions about what we’ve read; Ethan is now making more text-to-self, text-to-world, and text-to-text connections and has progressed when it comes to thinking more deeply about the underlying message behind a story. The Summer Program has also motivated him to read more as well, and we’ve read several books so far. Ethan has even gone to the library himself to read more books on his own! I’m very thankful to be able to still connect with and tutor Ethan even though he’s moved several times.

 

Skid Row Learning Center:

Lisa Yu – I began volunteering because I just want to help out a bit. Being homeless is hard enough but being homeless and trying to keep up with school as well?! Wow, now that’s a challenge. I tutor at the Learning Center so I never know what to expect. Sometimes a student needs help with a math problem. Often, he or she just needs encouragement to power through an assignment. There is nothing like seeing the glow of accomplishment on a student’s face after having just persevered and finished. Other times it has nothing to do with school but with just listening empathetically.

What amazes me is the energy that hits me every time I enter the Learning Center. Wow! I just love the unabashed enthusiasm, curiosity and resilience of these students. At times the energy seems to visibly bounce off the walls. Huge kudos to the resident team that keeps everyone focused! Thank you, School on Wheels, for really taking to heart the “no child left behind” credo.

Region 7 – San Fernando Valley:

Michael Weiser – I am happily married for 38 years and have two beautiful and incredible daughters and one grandson who we all adore. I have had a rewarding 40-year career in the entertainment industry, and have reached a point in my life where I decided that because I have been so fortunate, I need to recognize the opportunities I have had by giving back somehow.
While searching sites for non-profit organizations that might be appealing I stumbled across School on Wheels, and it all felt right. And because of School on Wheels, I have had the opportunity to meet 9-year-old Nikoli, who is an amazing, funny, and a very smart young man who has a real desire to learn. Nikoli loves video games and would like to be a video game developer when he is older. I am honored to have this opportunity to spend time with Nikoli every week, and to see the improvement in his math and handwriting skills!!