Category: Advocacy

Nov 28

Whether home is a van, a motel or a garage, L.A.’s suburban poor children learn to survive

Thousands of families experience homelessness on any given night in America, leaving many children stricken by the grief of instability and unpredictability. There is a saying in Skid Row, “homeless but not hopeless.” But where does your hope come from if you’re the mother of four young, energetic children crammed in a motel room suitable for one or two people? How do you survive days when your kids go to bed hungry? Where does your hope come from when you’re an 8-year-old child whose only concept of home includes a revolving door?

A recent four-part series by Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez on child poverty, especially as it relates to education, provides a painfully clear window into the lives of these children. The short film that starts the series is especially powerful, and a must watch for anyone who wants to understand the daily stress and trauma these children face.

I wish we lived in an America where homelessness didn’t exist; where kids could go to school without worrying about where they will sleep at night or if they will have enough food; where kids wouldn’t take on the burdens of adulthood. An America where kids could be kids – laughing, running, jumping, learning – the way they were meant to be.

So what can we do? We can start by speaking up, advocating for change, and accepting nothing less. Our friends need us, and we must deliver.

To view/read the full series:

Part 1: Hidden in L.A. suburbia, wrenching poverty preys on children and destroys dreams
Part 2: For the principal with the most homeless students in L.A., the reality of poverty is personal
Part 3: Whether home is a van, a motel or a garage, L.A.’s suburban poor children learn to survive
Part 4: For children trapped in poverty, breaking free is getting harder

Jul 20

25 Back to School Needs

It’s back to school season, and our students are in need of brand-new school supplies now more than ever! It is important that our students, no matter the difficult obstacles they are currently facing, are provided with the same educational materials as their peers. Below is a list of the TOP 25 school supplies our students need to kick off the school year.

If you would like to host a back to school supply drive and are interested in receiving our print/promotional materials, please feel free to access them here or email donate@schoolonwheels.org with your request and mailing address. Your generous donation means so much to our students. Please take the time to fill out our material donation form when donating/hosting a back to school supply drive.

We have two drop off locations. Please feel free to drop off any brand-new school supplies to either our Ventura or Los Angeles office Monday – Friday between 10 am to 4 pm. Our Los Angeles location is: 3150 N San Fernando Rd, Ste B Los Angeles, CA 90065 and our Ventura location is 303 N Ventura Ave. Suite D Ventura, CA 93001.

 

  • Pencil cases
  • Markers/Colored Pencils/Crayons
  • Pencils/Erasers/Pencil Sharpeners
  • Wide-Ruled paper
  • Backpacks: bright colors, characters, cartoons
      

 

 

  • Pens/Mechanical Pencils/Erasers
  • Binders
  • Homework folders
  • Flash cards
  • Graphing paper
  • Mini staplers & staples
  • Book covers
  • Subject dividers
  • 3 x 5 Note cards
  • Backpacks: Jansport, solid colors, patterns
 

 

 

  • Pens/Mechanical Pencils/Highlighters
  • Binders
  • Graphing paper
  • Laptops
  • Mini staplers & staples
  • Scientific & graphing calculators
  • Book covers
  • Subject dividers
  • 3 x 5 Note cards
  • Backpacks: Jansport, solid colors, patterns
 
Jul 5

25 Ways to Support School on Wheels

For 25 years we have relied on the kindness and support of people like you to keep our programs running;  you have a greater impact than you know!
Here are 25 ways to support School on Wheels that you might not have thought about:

 

Volunteer

  1. Volunteer
  2. Refer a friend to volunteer
  3. Intern

Share

  1. Like, share, and comment on our social media platforms
  2. Share your volunteer story
  3. Share our latest news and events
  4. Read our annual report
  5. Give us a positive review on Yelp
  6. Watch and subscribe to our YouTube channel
  7. Share any resources on homelessness –  info@schoolonwheels.org

Advocate

  1. Sign up your student for our summer program
  2. Advocate for children and youth who are homeless
  3. Attend our events
  4. Join our mailing list
  5. Tell your co-workers and friends
  6. Pass out flyers at your local coffee shop, library, school and office
  7. Refer families who are experiencing homelessness: https://www.schoolonwheels.org/need-tutoring/ or contact 805-641-1678

Donate

  1. Create a fundraiser on Facebook
  2. Host a back to school supply drive
  3. Donate new school supplies
  4. Donate technology to our digital learning centers
  5. Help a student we support to succeed in school  – Donate
  6. Become a recurring donor
  7. Use Amazon Smile when making a purchase on Amazon and select School on Wheels as your charity of choice, and we’ll receive a portion of the proceeds
  8. Sponsor a student for an entire school year

Jun 20

Separation of Children and Parents

Safety and security don’t just happen. They are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear.”
– Nelson Mandela

As a nonprofit dedicated to supporting children experiencing homelessness, we understand the anxiety and trauma families suffer living in homeless shelters, but we cannot begin to imagine the stress and fear children and parents are enduring by being separated and held in tents and detention centers.  

No matter what our opinions are about immigration policy, surely we can all agree that children have no control over their situation. Children are fragile and vulnerable. The impact of separation on them is unconscionable. We can’t unsee images of babies and children being taken from their parents to be used for political reasons. There is no protocol in place for keeping track of parents and children concurrently, for keeping parents and children in contact with each other while they are separated, or for eventually reuniting them. Surely a nation as generous and compassionate as the United States can find a way to prevent separating children from their parents.  

If we are to protect our civility, our values, our worth as a society, we must first protect our children… all of our children.

 

Catherine Meek
Executive Director

 

May 17

Interview with PEACE Fund Radio

On today’s show, Jason Richter and Dustin Burford join Adrian and Ethan in the studio. Adrian chats with Natasha Bayus, the Education Director and Lisa Frias, the Student Support Coordinator of School on Wheels, a nonprofit in Los Angeles working to bring educational opportunities to homeless children.

In this interview, Natasha and Lisa talk about the history of School on Wheels and how it has progressed over the years along with discussing the increase of homelessness in Los Angeles.

More than one million public school students in the United States have no room to call their own, no desk to do their homework, no bed to call their own at night. State data collected by the National Center for Homeless Education shows over 1.3 million homeless students in the 2015-2016 school year.

Here in California, as housing costs continue to soar, more and more children are suffering the severest of consequences: No place to call home.

Since 2014, the number of homeless children in California has jumped 20 percent. In the most recently released data, 202,329 young people are living in cars, motels, shelters, on the street or in crowded homes shared with other families. That’s over 3 percent of the enrolled K-12 students, more than twice the national rate, but the actual numbers are almost certainly higher.

In school, these homeless children face daunting challenges and require social services and academic help perhaps more than any other group. Faced with extreme poverty, stress and exhaustion, these children are far more likely to struggle academically and drop out of school than their peers.

Listen to the interview at the 34:00 mark here.

Jan 23

DIY Girls Use Their STEM Skills For Good

Written by Zarina Yunis

 

Startled by the alarming increase in homelessness in the past year, 12 Latina girls from San Fernando High School have taken it upon themselves to search for ways to help the homeless. These students are part of a program called DIY Girls, which “empowers girls to be confident makers and creators of technology,” according to the DIY (Do It Yourself) Girls’ website.

On a daily basis, these girls witness homelessness on the streets. They wanted to help the homeless families; however, donating money was not an option for their own low-income families. Despite their inability to contribute money, the girls weren’t about to let this obstacle prevent them from helping those who are less fortunate.

“With all the already existing programs in place to help end homelessness, we felt as if something more needed to be done to provide temporary relief to those who are displaced,” Paola Valtierra said in an email interview. Valtierra is a senior at San Fernando High School, and this will be her second year in the DIY Girls program.

Motivated to help the people in their community, the DIY girls got to work. They came up with the idea to create a solar-powered tent that could also function as a backpack. This one item could efficiently serve multiple needs and conserve space. The team of girls met frequently to work on the solar-powered tent, and a year later, they finished designing their prototype.

At times, the competition in the STEM field was intimidating for young Latina women. Evelyn Gomez, the executive director for DIY girls, recalls her experience at UCLA, getting her master’s degree in aerospace engineering. “I was often the only girl in the class and definitely the only Latina in the class. It felt like kind of imposter syndrome,” Gomez says, describing a feeling of chronic self-doubt even in the midst of evident success.

Nonetheless, the girls were determined to make a difference, regardless of their gender or race.  They have not only made a positive impact on their community, but they have been role models for many other girls and have inspired them to pursue their passions. “Remember that there will always be obstacles in life but push through them because the outcome will be worth it,” Valtierra said.