As a tutor for School on Wheels, I made a friend in one of the students I tutored every week and learned my own lessons from him as I tried to help him learn his. I’ll call him Mark. Mark and I worked together on his schoolwork, and as we worked together more consistently, I learned that sometimes Mark had bad days that affected his ability to focus on his schoolwork. Maybe he had had a rough day at school. Maybe there had been a disagreement between family members. Or maybe Mark just wasn’t in a mindset conducive to work. When Mark was having a bad day, it was extremely difficult for him to focus on his schoolwork or even to interact appropriately with the other kids and tutors.
But over time, Mark and I worked on his ability to focus even when he wasn’t having a good day. When I was working with Mark, I tried to keep it as low-stress as possible. I didn’t want him to dread coming to tutoring. To the contrary, I wanted tutoring to be a bright spot in his day, so that even if the rest of his day prior to tutoring had been absolutely horrible, there would still be something for him to look forward to. And our time together would be something for me to look forward to as well.
School on Wheels introduced me to a lot of great kids who had to deal with a lot of bad days. Working with kids like Mark has certainly put my life into perspective, but it also taught me not to get discouraged in the face of adversity. By the time I left School on Wheels, several of the students I had tutored, including Mark, seemed to respond very positively to me. I volunteered for School on Wheels during my junior and senior high school years. During my first days at School on Wheels, I had difficulty getting the kids to even sit down, but by the end of my time there, I felt that I was able to have some positive effects in the lives of the kids and also in my own life.
For the past two years, while in college, I have been volunteering at another organization that offers assistance to homeless children called Playtime Project. This program is located in Washington, D.C., and it brings volunteers to different shelters around the city to play with the children living in those shelters. At Playtime Project, I have been able to apply many of the skills I learned at School on Wheels. During my first day at Playtime Project there was a physical fight between two children, and I was concerned whether I could make any difference in the lives of the kids there. However, my experiences at School on Wheels reminded me to keep trying. It took time at School on Wheels to earn the children’s trust and respect, and it has taken time to do the same at Playtime Project. Like School on Wheels, I volunteer at Playtime Project in an effort to help the homeless kids we serve, and with both organizations, I find I am also benefitting and learning about myself in that process.
– Max Lanosga, former School on Wheels tutor and current Playtime Project volunteer
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