Nov 5, 2020

2020 - A Year of Challenges

Children experiencing homelessness have always been among the most invisible and neglected individuals in the USA, and COVID-19 has significantly worsened their fate.  Schools have moved instruction online and this has exposed the huge digital divide between rich and poor: roughly one-in-four households in LA county with school-aged kids lack access to both broadband internet and either a laptop or desktop computer (the greatest levels of disconnection occur among Black and Latinx families).  The magnitude of the pandemic on our students' education is expected to be staggering.  So you with the trauma responses we expect our students to manifest.  These will not be seen or even understood for some time.

When the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions were imposed in March, we immediately went into crisis mode, reaching out to students, and surveying shelters as to internet access and hardware available for students, and providing books, school supplies, worksheets, activity and hygiene kits to more than 3,000 students.  We also contacted all active tutors, encouraging them to stay in touch with their students via phone, Facetime, or other communication methods.  Most importantly, we began the huge pivot to online tutoring: we have distributed over 500 Chromebooks and Kindles; we trained all our staff members to administer online tutoring; and we continue to train volunteers to tutor online.

We spent the Summer locating as many students as possible to position ourselves-and them-for success this year.  We expanded our visibility in the community, working with local, regional, and county education departments, school districts, and shelters to ensure appropriate protocols for students to engage in learning and meet with their tutors online; we provided access to digital programs to fill academic gaps and teach critical technology skills.  We helped create study areas in motel plazas and reveled in the longer-term bonds we saw between tutors and their students.  We encouraged this with a Summer Rewards Program that motivated 307 students to complete at least six online tutoring sessions to receive a Chromebook or other device.

Thanks to funders like GlobalGiving, we continued to roll out our ABC Literacy Program, knowing that reading provides not only a critical academic footing but also an escape from a terrible reality.  We are proud to say we have enrolled 260 students in this literacy program so far this year and 70% of them improved 0.63 of a grade level.  And we worked on ways to add a Social and Emotional Learning component to the tutoring time, to lessen some of the harsh impacts of the trauma they are suffering.

Jul 16, 2020

Annual Report 2019

Since 1993, the mission of School on Wheels has never wavered: to enhance educational opportunities for children, kindergarten through twelfth grade, who are experiencing homelessness. Our goal is to shrink the gaps in their learning and provide them with the highest level of education possible. Our program serves as a consistent support system for our students during a time of great stress and fear.

School on Wheels exists so that children experiencing homelessness have an opportunity for success through education. Our work has always focused on bringing academic resources to the children who need them most. For them, relentless racism and this pandemic represent a catastrophic loss of learning. We can no longer ignore the enormous inequities and inequality staring us in the face; the persistent digital divide, so starkly visible now, has greatly impaired our students’ ability to continue learning. Our work now is more important than ever.  Catherine Meek, Executive Advisor & Board Member

Please visit our website for our full report and to watch a video from our Executive Director, Charles Evans.





Dec 30, 2019

Hope for the Holidays

Student and Tutor
Student and Tutor

I promised myself as soon as I graduated college I would give back to my community in some way. School on Wheels was there for my family when we were homeless so they were the first organization I thought of. Tutoring is now the highlight of my week! 

-Rue, volunteer tutor

What a privilege it is to have Rue as part of our team. She knows firsthand the struggles students without a home can face; she was homeless as a teenager. With her mom and two sisters, Rue moved from shelter to shelter, nearly failing her freshman year of high school as a result. She persevered and—with the help of teachers, tutors, and mentors—graduated from high school, beating the odds stacked against her. Rue graduated from UCSB with a degree in political science in 2018. She currently works in development at UCSB and tutors at a shelter in Santa Barbara. Her student thinks she is the best. We think so too. Thank you, Rue, for your time and talents and for proving that one person can make a difference!

Because of you, fabulous tutors like Rue are providing our kids with the tools they need to succeed, not only in school, but in life.

School on Wheels is the only nonprofit in California dedicated to the enhancement of educational opportunities for children and youth experiencing homelessness.

In 2018 we accomplished big things and we hope to do the same in 2019. In 2018 we provided one-on-one tutoring to over 3,600 with the support of 2,321 volunteers.  We provided nearly 40,000 hours of access to digital learning for our students and distributed 5,500 backpacks filled with school supplies.  Please read our annual report to hear more about our program and how your support is invaluable to the success of the students we tutor living in homeless shelters, motels, vehicles, domestic violence shelters and group homes throughout Southern California.

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