Jan 16

Ask A Tutor Tuesday – 1/16/2018

For this month’s Ask A Tutor post, some of our tutors share their tutoring resolutions for the upcoming year. What are yours?

I tutor exclusively at shelters where homeless families stay for a few months. In the past I have focused almost completely on the students. However, they will only see me for a few months, and what they need is encouragement and help from their parents over the long term. So this year I am going to try to focus some of my attention on the parents and impart to them the important of consistently having their kid(s) do their homework and providing them with some resources to help them do that. Also, to consistently interact with their kids to teach them life skills and that there is nothing wrong with getting wrong answers, for each time is a chance to learn something new.–Richard Bennett

My 2018 tutoring resolution is to be consistent with my weekly tutoring sessions at Comunidad Cesar Chavez and not miss any sessions when the students are at school. If I do have to miss a session, I want to keep it to a minimum. I know the students I tutor look forward to our weekly sessions, and they always need help with their homework. Being consistent as a tutor will definitely help them close their academic gaps! –Natalie Platon

My 2018 resolution would be to use more resources such as Khan Academy and Teach My Monster to read to make sure my student gets to her reading grade level! I know that with the resources and my drive we will accomplish it!–Riley Hennessey

Thank you to all of our tutors for making 2017 an amazing year at School on Wheels. Here’s to an even better 2018!

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.

Jan 9

Angela Sanchez, a blossoming L.A. writer, was once homeless – L.A. Times

Scruffy Dog of the children’s book “Scruffy and the Egg” was not always scruffy. He used to have well-groomed chestnut fur and a bright blue collar with a shiny gold tag. He used to be Fluffy Dog.

In her debut as an author and illustrator, L.A. native Angela Sanchez tells the story of the dog’s transformation as he loses his family and home, navigates life on the streets and befriends and adopts a lost egg.

The cohesive, expressively drawn book, which Sanchez crowdfunded and self-published last year, has a surprisingly optimistic tone considering its exploration of difficult circumstances and homelessness.

The book is also partly autobiographical.


Sanchez, 26, grew up in Glendale, where she shared a two-bedroom apartment with her father, an architectural draftsman by trade.

For a single dad with no safety net, familial support or four-year degree, the Great Recession was a devastating financial earthquake.

Sanchez was a junior at Herbert Hoover High School in fall 2007 when an eviction notice appeared on the door of her apartment. A week before Thanksgiving, police officers came knocking.

“At the time I didn’t fully understand what the prospect of going homeless meant,” Sanchez recalls. “My dad had lived in that apartment for 25 years. I had lived there all my life. It was home. To lose it was a big blow.”

Sanchez and her father spent the 2007 holiday season hopping from one motel to another. By January their credit ran out and they landed in an emergency church shelter. The rules of the shelter were strict and comforts minimal. They slept on military-style cots a few feet from strangers. There was no privacy, no shower and no breakfast.

The high school junior kept her homelessness a secret from everyone at school except a supportive principal and a handful of advisors who helped her with her college admissions essay.

“I didn’t tell my teachers because I wanted to be treated like every other student,” she says. “I didn’t want to drag homelessness with me into the classroom. At school I got to be the smart kid. That was my identity. I didn’t have to worry about anything else.”

On the weekends, Sanchez and her father had nowhere to go during the long hours when the shelter was closed.

You don’t realize how much time you spend in your home until you don’t have one anymore.Angela Sanchez

Jan 9

Vittorio’s Ristorante Brings Joy to Homeless Children – Palisades News

For 62 homeless children who live in shelters in Long Beach, Torrance, Sylmar, Los Angeles, Canoga Park and Venice, December 18 was one of their happiest days in 2017.

After the kids were bused to Vittorio’s Ristorante on Marquez Avenue and served a lunch of pizza and garlic rolls, Santa came with wrapped gifts for each child. In addition to the toys, each youngster left with a large decorated cookie.

Marie Steckmest, who organizes an annual Holiday Spirit Toy Drive through Palisades Cares, sees that half of the toys collected go to these children. “This is one of my favorite events of the year,” said the former Citizen of the Year.

Hank Elder, a member of the Sons of the American Legion (SAL), said that his organization paid for the buses.

“For the first time, SAL members decorated Vittorio’s with Christmas decorations in anticipation of the Homeless Children’s Christmas party,” Elder said.“I saw a miracle. I cannot think of anything in Pacific Palisades as special as this event this time of year.”

Elder said that each age-appropriate gift is chosen for a child and then wrapped. The goal was for each child to receive four gifts.“These were most likely the only ones the children would receive for Christmas,” Elder said.

Steckmest and Elder pointed out the two people truly responsible for this event: Vittorio’s owner Mercedes Pellegrini and her daughter Vanessa, who have sponsored it the past seven years.

“We are so blessed and grateful to everyone who comes out to help wrap gifts, give gifts and volunteer that day,” Vanessa said.

This celebration came out of pain, after Vanessa was diagnosed with CNS (central nervous system) lupus in December 2010 and hospitalized for two weeks.

“We weren’t sure I was going to pull through, since the disease was attacking the blood vessels in my brain,” Vanessa said.“ My mother, being a devout Catholic, prayed to Nossa Senhora de Aparecida in Brazil. She performs miracles, according to local legend, and so my mother prayed.”

(Her mother was born in São Paulo, Brazil, and met her husband Ron while he was traveling to Rio de Janeiro for Carnivale. The couple married and Mercedes came to the United States, where she started Mercedes’ Continental Delights, a bakery in the San Fernando Valley. In 1984, she opened Vittorio’s Ristorante with a partner, but when Giovanni Mazzola left to open a new restaurant in Malibu, Mercedes kept Vittorio’s.)

Mercedes’ prayers were answered and after a few weeks of intensive care in the hospital, Vanessa was sent home, well on the way to recovery.

“As an offering, we both promised to give back to the less fortunate children, who are innocent and often times are the victims of circumstance,” Vanessa said. “I had worked with School on Wheels since 1999 and I was intimately involved with kids who were living in abused homes, homeless shelters and transitory houses. These were the children that were forgotten, and so, the Holiday Luncheon was born.”

School on Wheels provides academic tutoring to children living in shelters, motels, cars, group foster homes and on the streets with the hope of having them achieve educational success, so they can break the cycle of homelessness and poverty.

Vanessa, who attended a parochial school in the Valley and then graduated from Pepperdine, told the News in a December 26 email, “I’m still fighting the battle [with lupus].” She works with her mom in the restaurant and at the Palisades office of Pacific Union Realty (formerly Gibson International). She has two sisters, Sabrina and Pia.

“The luncheon is an amazing day for us, for the kids and for the community!” Vanessa said. “We have no plans to stop this wonderful tradition.”

Read the article on Palisades News here.

Jan 4

December Newsletter 2017

School on Wheels kicked off December with Program Administrator Ian Chan’s 52nd marathon of the year, which he finished at the Skid Row Learning Center. Board member and former student Angela M. Sanchez also had her first children’s book launch for Scruffy and The Egg, an adventure featuring an abandoned dog, a lost egg, and the search for family. We also had a very generous donor of the month; artist Fabienne Wen, known as Wondermei, generously hosted a volunteer appreciation event on December 2nd at her studio in Marina del Rey. Volunteers chose up to $100 of merchandise as thanks for the important work they do as tutors and mentors for homeless children. Lastly, we had our annual holiday beach party at Paradise Cove in Malibu where over 200 students came and picked out presents and had a fun day at the beach.