We started August off with our Refer a Friend Challenge, encouraging our volunteers and supporters to invite friends, family, and others to tutor with School on Wheels! It will run the entire month. We also began the month with another move for our staff members who were stationed in our Skid Row Learning Center. We were very honored to feature Zarin and Talal, our donors of the month, who were married in June. The couple asked their guests to donate to our organization in lieu of wedding gifts. To prepare our tutors for Back to School season, we are hosting an online webinar which will provide them with a guide on how to prepare their student for the year. In this newsletter, we also featured a new digital learning tool we’ve adapted, Khan Academy, for our students to use with their tutors. It is packed with a wide range of topics that is sure to fit any student’s needs.
For July, we focused on promoting summer learning as our students begun our 2016 summer program. We featured an appeal from our Executive Director, Catherine Meek, sharing the issue of summer learning loss with our supporters and how we plan to combat it. This month, we also heard an inspiring story from one of our senior tutors, Jacklin DieBold, who volunteers in our Santa Barbara region. School on Wheels also took on a new location for its Ventura office with the help of Seabees–members of the U.S. Naval Construction Forces–to ensure a smooth transition.
We experienced a great victory in June when we were awarded $75,000 by the Viewers to Volunteers Charity Champions League! With the support of our staff members, volunteers, and team captain Kevin Frazier of Entertainment Tonight we finished in third place. We were also very honored to be added to Mohawk Bend’s menu as the featured pie of the month. Supporters were able to order a “Pizza on Wheels” and earn $4 per pie for our organization. This month we also heard success stories from a few of our former students about attending college and their experience with School on Wheels. Lastly, we prepared our tutors for the summer months and held a preparation event to make sure they had everything necessary to encourage summer learning in our kids.
April was full of events! April is National Volunteer Appreciation Month which gave us a chance to celebrate with all of our volunteers. Each regional coordinator held an appreciation event for their tutors. We also awarded over 50 President’s Service Awards to volunteers who contributed 100+ hours of service. We were very appreciative to be included in President Obama’s Education and Sharing Day when Jamba Juice donated over 100 smoothies to a partnering shelter. We also appreciated joining Ben & Jerry’s during Free Cone Day where we were able to raise funds for our kids.
Every month we highlight our star students and tutors. I am always amazed at the sheer tenacity and resilience of our students and the caring and passion of our volunteers. Please take a few minutes to read about Kaliyah who is in 6th Grade, and described by her tutor, Vivek, as brilliant, impressively curious and clever. Vivek has been a tutor since 2014. When he moved to Michigan to attend medical school, he continued to volunteer as an online tutor. Miles away, he continues to make a difference every single week.
Our students live with chaos and instability every day. They experience varying levels of trauma; some have been victims of violence and abuse; many more have witnessed it. Our studentsexperience high rates of health problems. They are sick more often than other children. They also go hungry at twice the rate of other children and have three times more emotional and behavioral problems than their housed peers.
And yet, when you read about mother and daughter tutors Susan Edelman and Clara Pitsker and how much they care about their students, or Jason Lee whose student encourages him to pursue his own dreams, you will understand that our students are fortunate to have such committed and compassionate people in their lives.
I’m inspired when I read about our star students and volunteers. I’m inspired by all our students, volunteers and donors. In my mind, you’re all stars. Thank you for caring. Your support is helping make a significant difference in so many lives.
You helped make last year the best yet for School on Wheels and our students. Thank you! 3,491 homeless students in Southern California were tutored by 2,223 volunteers in 2015. How wonderful is that? We awarded scholarships to 19 awesome students, presented the prestigious President’s Volunteer Service Award to 124 volunteers, provided backpacks, schools supplies, uniforms, bus tokens and computers to over 7,000 homeless kids, and, we raised over $2,000,000 in funds.
The only way we can accomplish any of this work is because of you, our amazing volunteers and our wonderful, most generous donors. At a time when poor and homeless children are falling through the education cracks faster than we can save them, it is a true testament to your spirit and character that so many of you come together to help homeless students. California has the largest population of homeless students in the country and twice the rate of homeless students as the national average.
Fewer than 25% of these homeless students will graduate from high school.
We know that education improves lives and that investing in education wisely is an economic imperative for this country. Thank you for being there for our students. They need you. We need you. Please continue to advocate for them – tell your families, friends, neighbors, colleagues about how many homeless children there are in the United States (2.5 million) and how invisible and forgotten they are. They have no power and no voice in our society; but you do, and you are helping to change that.
With deep gratitude,