Support for Students Devastated by Homelessness

by School on Wheels, Inc.
Play Video
Support for Students Devastated by Homelessness
Support for Students Devastated by Homelessness
Support for Students Devastated by Homelessness
Support for Students Devastated by Homelessness
Support for Students Devastated by Homelessness
Support for Students Devastated by Homelessness
Support for Students Devastated by Homelessness
Support for Students Devastated by Homelessness
Support for Students Devastated by Homelessness
Support for Students Devastated by Homelessness
Support for Students Devastated by Homelessness
Support for Students Devastated by Homelessness
Support for Students Devastated by Homelessness
Support for Students Devastated by Homelessness
Support for Students Devastated by Homelessness
Support for Students Devastated by Homelessness
Support for Students Devastated by Homelessness
Support for Students Devastated by Homelessness
Support for Students Devastated by Homelessness
Support for Students Devastated by Homelessness
Support for Students Devastated by Homelessness
Support for Students Devastated by Homelessness
Support for Students Devastated by Homelessness
Support for Students Devastated by Homelessness
Support for Students Devastated by Homelessness
Support for Students Devastated by Homelessness
Support for Students Devastated by Homelessness
Katie and Chynna
Katie and Chynna

In 2021 School on Wheels provided one-on-one online tutoring support to 1,700 students like Chynna, with the help of over 1,200 volunteers, like Katie. 

“Where you are right now does not mean you will be there forever. I was homeless and even at my lowest point my tutor pushed me in a nice way to keep up with school and focus on my future. When I got the first acceptance letter to college I felt indebted to Katie, I don’t think I could have done it without her.” – Chynna.

Chynna was in 5th grade and her family had been experiencing homelessness for a couple of years. Moving from place to place, she had attended seven different schools by the time School on Wheels tutor Katie met her in 2009.

Life and school had never been easy. Chynna was embarrassed at school because she didn’t have the same things as the other kids and was teased because her clothes were old and didn’t fit. She was angry that her family couldn’t afford new clothes, but she was more upset about the fact that she couldn’t go to slumber parties or leave the domestic violence shelter she was staying in to play jump rope outside with her school friends who lived nearby. The shelter looked like all the other apartment complexes except that it had gates around it. Chynna never told her friends in the neighborhood why. She was smart and got good grades but had missed a lot of school and knew she needed help catching up, especially in math. She was determined to go to college.

At first, Katie and Chynna bonded over music, Alicia Keys, and their love of books. They also shared frustration with math; over the years they worked on mastering it together! With Katie’s help, Chynna began to focus on school instead of her living situation.

“I helped Chynna with study skills because they were a challenge for her. Especially living in a shelter. I helped her prepare for tests and gave her tips to stay organized. I also helped her to advocate for herself at school. I attended her parent-teacher conferences and asked her teachers for advice. By asking for help at school, I modeled positive behavior for Chynna and she started staying after school to ask her teachers for help when she needed to.”

Many years later, this fearless duo has weathered personal triumphs and tribulations, including the death of Chynna’s father, the births of Katie’s two children, and Chynna’s family finally finding permanent housing. Their friendship is deep:
“Chynna is a resilient, strong, and smart young woman and it’s been one of the biggest joys of my life to know her. She was one of the first people I told when I found out I was pregnant and she was one of the first people to meet my son after he was born.”

“Katie’s heart is really pure; she is a beautiful person—inside and out. She is the type of person we need on this earth.”

Katie says “being a School on Wheels tutor has helped me better understand the true challenges of living in poverty. I have a stronger sense of how important education is to help families break the cycle of poverty, but at the same time I now have an awareness of how poverty can make it so much harder to focus on education.”

We asked Chynna if she had any advice for other students experiencing homelessness:

“If you need help and you can get it, School on Wheels cares and will actually help you with school. Like Katie, School on Wheels finds the good in everyone. Take all the help you can get and don’t be prideful; tutors are expensive and this program provides them for free! I think School on Wheels is a great program. They found me the perfect tutor.
I wouldn’t be where I am today without Katie. She helped me graduate elementary school, middle school, high school and college, and her work isn’t done.”

Today Chynna is a recent college graduate from CSUN with a degree in public health and a minor in civic and community engagement. She returned from studying abroad in Ghana when the pandemic hit and currently works to help educate people about vaccinations through her work as program coordinator at Young Invincibles.

Chynna was recently on a very special panel—see the short video below. She was also interviewed on The Kelly Clarkson Show with her tutor, Katie and our executive director, Charles Evans.

Katie and Chynna are still firm friends. You can support more student/tutor matches like Chynna’s and Katies here and you can apply to become a volunteer tutor here.

Links:

Share on Twitter Share on Facebook

Since 1993, School on Wheels (SOW) has served the educational needs of children experiencing homelessness in shelters, motels, group foster homes, campgrounds, vehicles, or on the street, working to remove the barriers that stand between them and their education by providing volunteers who work with them on the one-on-one basis they so desperately need during a time of great stress and fear.

These children are the ones most impacted by school closures – an action that has removed stability from their lives and separated them from caring adults who can help tame their trauma responses. This under-resourced community lacks computers and internet access. The persistent digital divide, more apparent now than ever before, has greatly impaired our students’ ability to continue learning.  Before COVID-19, students could access lessons at school, and work with their SOW volunteer tutor at libraries, book stores or coffee shops.  Now the issue of computers and internet access has become a major challenge for them as they continue to stay in over-crowded shelters and motels. 

Over the past 18 months, we pivoted along with the rest of the world to an online existence, finding ways to adapt our programs – even improve some aspects in order to support our students despite the challenges. This year, we hope to tutor 2,000 students experiencing homelessness, reconnecting them with the education they need to escape a life of poverty, primarily through our high-impact tutoring services and also through the ancillary support that addresses specific needs (school re-enrollment, devices and internet access, school supplies). We adapted our practices for the pandemic circumstances – and in doing so found new and important ways to help our students, such as supporting their social emotional needs, bringing their parents into the process to foster a love of learning, providing Chromebooks/devices, and improving their proficiency with digital tools and strategies.

In order to optimize our return to normalcy, we developed and distributed online surveys to our partners, families, and tutors to assess their thoughts, opinions, and feelings regarding in-person and distance learning, and also to gain insight into safety measures, comfortability, and capacity to implement in-person tutoring. While the full responses are not yet in, we anticipate continuing to tutor on a primarily remote basis for the rest of the year. We intend to use the time carefully: we are participating in in-person pilot tutoring programs, working with children living in Skid Row and other large shelters, taking all required precautions and CDC guidelines into account. Our plan is to tutor these students in socially distanced pods, using volunteers who have been vaccinated/tested. This will allow us to assess new tutoring strategies as we move (hopefully) towards in-person tutoring in the new year.

Our focus work will target multiple fronts:

  • We will continue to expand our Literacy Program for students in grades K-4. Literacy is the single most significant predictor of future academic success, such that helping children with this key subject – especially at this stage – will have important implications for the rest of their lives.
  • We will continue to enhance our Believe/Understand/Succeed (BUS) Program for older students, providing these youth with a dream of the future that is compelling enough to keep them pursuing school – and the path to get them there.
  • We will continue our practice of offering Chromebooks/kindles/devices and internet access to the students who need them.
  • We will continue to improve the socio-emotional supports we provide our students; and we will continue to support parents in the educational process.

Our major priority will always be to help our students in any way we can in the face of the uncertainties and challenges enveloping the entire world.

Share on Twitter Share on Facebook
Student working on laptop
Student working on laptop

Your support ensured our students and tutors did not give up in 2020! 

View our 2020 Annual Report to see how your passion for learning helped kids experiencing homelessness stay connected to their education.

Since 1993, the mission of School on Wheels has never wavered: to enhance educational opportunities for children in 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.

When schools closed, our students lost the single greatest source of stability in their lives. With its structure and normalcy (as well as food and caring adults), school was a respite from the trauma of homelessness. The largest school district in the nation, LAUSD, reported that more than 13,000 middle and high school students consistently disengaged from their online classes in fall 2020, with an additional 56,000 who did not actively participate on a daily basis. They also found that two in three students are falling behind in both literacy and math. These are the children we serve.

Links:

Share on Twitter Share on Facebook

In a year fraught with uncertainty, it can be challenging, yet essential, to note glimmers of hope. Hope comes when volunteer tutors support students in their formative years. Hope comes when donors and supporters fund programs that enhance marginalized communities. Hope comes when frontline workers dedicate themselves to serving their community. We give thanks for all these glimmers of hope and we give thanks for your support—not just of School on Wheels but of any of the thousands of organizations working to make our community a better place.

We want to express our deepest gratitude to our community of supporters. Your time, talents, and contributions have allowed us to match more than 2,000 amazing kids in 2020 with their very own tutor. Because of you, our students got the support that they wouldn't have received otherwise. May this act as a reminder that a little hope goes a long way. 

We are working towards restructuring our work to meet the demands we expect to arise as schools slowly start to re-open. We have reconnected with as many students as possible, making sure they have the equipment and connectivity they need for online learning. We are working with homeless shelters to ensure appropriate protocols are in place so that students can engage in learning and meet with their tutors when quarantine ends. While the days ahead will continue to be filled with uncertainty and change, our resilience and commitment to help the most vulnerable children in our communities will never waver. Your partnership and generosity give us hope that we will achieve our mission.

Links:

Share on Twitter Share on Facebook

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.

Share on Twitter Share on Facebook
 

About Project Reports

Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.

If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating.

Get Reports via Email

We'll only email you new reports and updates about this project.

Organization Information

School on Wheels, Inc.

Location: Los Angeles, CA - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @schoolonwheels
Project Leader:
Sinead Chilton
Ventura, CA United States
$5,782 raised of $75,000 goal
 
69 donations
$69,218 to go
Donate Now
lock
Donating through GlobalGiving is safe, secure, and easy with many payment options to choose from. View other ways to donate

School on Wheels, Inc. has earned this recognition on GlobalGiving:

Help raise money!

Support this important cause by creating a personalized fundraising page.

Start a Fundraiser

Learn more about GlobalGiving

Teenage Science Students
Vetting +
Due Diligence

Snorkeler
Our
Impact

Woman Holding a Gift Card
Give
Gift Cards

Young Girl with a Bicycle
GlobalGiving
Guarantee

Sign up for the GlobalGiving Newsletter

WARNING: Javascript is currently disabled or is not available in your browser. GlobalGiving makes extensive use of Javascript and will not function properly with Javascript disabled. Please enable Javascript and refresh this page.