Category: In The News

Apr 26

Southern California All-American lends big hand to young yoga students

Zach Banner poses with students during Trojan Zen. (Photo by Ben Wong)

LOS ANGELES — Later this month, Zach Banner’s name will be called at the NFL Draft, whereupon he’ll leave the college comforts of Southern California and begin a life of professional size and skill.

Banner is a 6-foot-9, 340-pound offensive tackle on the USC football team, is a mountain of a man that will make his living standing in front of some of the world’s largest athletes.

But in his last days as a Trojan, Banner and his teammate volunteers stood, not in the face of helmeted behemoths, but on yoga mats, twisted into poses alongside impoverished youth inside USC’s private athletic facility.

When the tiniest hands in the room reached for the sky, so did the biggest. When it was time to stand on one foot, players helped buoy their neighbors.

During the downward dog pose, an instructor encouraged the participants to make their best “dog bark.” Her students for the day, elementary school students and football players Nico Falah and Jackson Boyer, howled together before breaking into grins.

To conclude the session, kids from Los Angeles’ After-School All-Stars and Skid Row’s School On Wheels laid on their backs, closed their eyes and found their point of serenity. The players did the same, and with their breaths synced to the little lungs around them, they resembled boulders in a pebble garden.

Wide receiver Jackson Boyer and offensive tackle Nico Falah engage in “warrior pose” with kids from School On Wheels’ Skid Row Learning Center. (Photo by Ben Wong)

The kids, including those that instructors say are frequently hyper or violent, were stone-still.

This rare moment of peace with a future that has similar calm in it, is the goal of Trojan Zen, a yoga event that is the product of Trojan Outreach, Uprising Yoga and Banner, recipient of the USC Community Service Football Award.

Trojan Outreach is the community outreach branch of USC Athletics and Uprising Yoga is a non-profit that sponsors yoga life-skills programs for incarcerated youth and underserved communities.

The outreach program wanted to give an experience, and self-control tools nobody can rob from them, to those that have “so very little,” as Banner put it.

“A lot of our families come from domestic violence, eviction, being laid off,” said Allison Maldonado, an instructor at School On Wheels’ Skid Row Learning Center.

“We deal with students that are being uprooted, they’ve lost their home. Toys, anything they had before, is now taken away. It’s very difficult because they have a give-up mentality or a learned helplessness where they don’t have that grit to try,” she said. “They just have a fear that things are going to be taken away or messed up.”

McCall Hall, director of community outreach for USC Athletics, said youth in the program can get a semblance of normalcy from it.

“(They’re) trying to make something of themselves,” Hall said. “They go to school every day and don’t know what they’re going to return to. What is homework to a kid that doesn’t have a home?”

Faculty at the Skid Row Learning Center frequently chaperone their students on the afternoon walk to the Union Rescue Mission, a half-mile away. Sometimes the mission is full or closed, at which point the students, many of whom don’t have a functioning parent, have to find somewhere else to lay their heads for the night.

Yoga may not be four physical walls and a roof, but according to Gordon Ogden, a yoga teacher and event planner for Phoenix-based Walter Yoga, the practice can provide the structure for development and progress.

“When we teach the body to be still, you start to understand that union between mind, body and breath and that starts to ripple throughout your life and you become happier and in control,” Ogden said.

“Yoga teaches kids that through practice, not only they can make themselves feel better, but they can start to see improvement and changes that happen over time,” Ogden said. “That builds confidence, strength, body awareness and (positive) body image and lowers stress.

Click Here to read the full article from Cronkite News.

Mar 25

Ian On The Run


Dressed in yellow from head to toe (literally), Ian Chan, Program Administrator for local nonprofit School on Wheels, completed the Los Angeles Marathon on Sunday to raise money for the homeless children that School on Wheels serves. Chan was one of thousands who made the 26.2-mile trek from Dodger Stadium. to the Santa Monica shoreline.

Ian is running 52 marathons in 2017 to raise awareness about homeless children in California. The LA marathon was his 12th this year and Ian ran his personal best with a time of 3 hours, 19 minutes and 58 seconds. He placed 404th out of 18,864 finishers.

This is what Ian had to say about his experience so far:

“It was an incredible feeling being out there with thousands of fellow Angelenos. The love, the camaraderie, the support…just unbelievable. This was the first time I wore the full-body School on Wheels outfit for a full 26.2 miles, and I’m glad I finished in one piece! Why am I running 52 marathons this year? Over 300,000 children experience homelessness in California each year; this campaign is about giving agency and hope to a population all too forgotten and neglected. My legs are tired, my feet sore but my heart is full. Onward to the next marathon!”

In an interview with KTLA, Ian showed off his amazing costume and talked about the 3,000+ homeless children School on Wheels serves each year and the thousands of volunteers that help them get back on track with school and learning.

Donate to Ian Chan’s Go Fund Me page here.

Mar 25

USC Football brings Yoga to Youth!

Some of our students got to enjoy yoga at the USC Athletic Department with USC Football Community Service Award Winner, Zach Banner, and Uprising Yoga!
“The experience today was amazing, the kids had a great time doing yoga with Zach. It’s something that our kids don’t have an opportunity to do often, so it was a wonderful experience for them to just be able to kind of just center themselves and visit this beautiful campus and do some yoga.”
– Charles Evans, Regional Director at School on Wheels

Mar 1

Anytime, Anywhere Learning

Interview Highlights

After School Programs
School on Wheels, Los Angeles, CA.
Catherine Meek, Executive Director

Approximately 2.5 million children in the United States experience homelessness each year.

That’s one in every 30 children, one in every classroom, one too many. School on Wheels provides academic tutoring to children living in shelters, motels, cars, group foster homes and on the streets in Southern California – and anywhere, anytime learning is essential in reaching these children. School on Wheels provides homeless students stability in a time of stress and transition and helps them achieve educational success so that they may break the cycle of homelessness and poverty. CML’s Tessa Jolls interviewed Catherine Meek, School on Wheels Executive Director:

Tessa: Let’s talk about School on Wheels and the growth that you’ve been experiencing – serving 3500 children in six counties is really phenomenal.

Catherine: School on Wheels was founded in 1993, and our mission is to enhance educational opportunities for homeless kids. We don’t serve all homeless kids according to the “McKinney-Vento Act” definition; we serve the kids who are the most transient, those who live in shelters, motels, group foster homes, cars, campgrounds and on the street. McKinney-Vento covers kids who are doubled-up or tripled-up, that is, children who share the housing of others. We work with kids who move around all the time, those with the highest mobility among the homeless population. Because they move a lot, they miss a lot of school. And our goal is to shrink the gaps in their learning.

Full Interview

Feb 14

School on Wheels Welcomes New Board Member Ellen Padnos

School on Wheels is happy to announce the appointment of a new Executive Board member. Joining the Board is Ellen Padnos: “I’m thrilled and honored to have a greater role within School on Wheels. I’ve worked with the team for years and am so inspired by them and the incredible work they do.”

Ellen has supported School on Wheels for many years, and with her group, Joyful Giving has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars through their annual fundraising event to benefit School on Wheels.
“We are delighted that Ellen is joining the Board. She has been an integral part of our fundraising team for several years and I know she will continue to use her talents and her passion for our mission to help School on Wheels and our students,” said Catherine Meek, Executive Director

Prior to starting Joyful Giving, Ellen co-founded and was Editor-in-Chief of which she sold with her husband in 2013. Ellen spent her early career working in Sales and Operations at Yahoo in Silicon Valley and for USA Networks in New York.

Ellen currently resides in Manhattan Beach with her young family. She loves what she does and with over 100 active members of Joyful Giving and Joyful Givings Kids (created in 2016) is changing how her community, young and old, finds out and supports local nonprofits, not only financially but through volunteering and activism too.