It’s no secret we are fans of each staff member at School on Wheels. Not only do they have wonderful personalities, but each is skilled in her focus area. Our Education Manager, Erin Brown, is just one of our amazing team members. She uses her background as a teacher to help the families we serve with school enrollment, transportation issues, college preparation, and much more.
Erin filled this new and expanded role at the beginning of the 2016/2017 school year to help her go deeper with the children and families we serve. As Education Manager, Erin provides daily oversight of the tutoring program by serving as a liaison between School on Wheels and its program partners. Funding for this new staff position was made possible by the Kris Patton Fund, a fund of Women’s Fund of Central Indiana. Erin’s story below demonstrates the importance of having the right resources to hire dedicated staff members, like Erin, who can help families navigate and overcome the many obstacles to education that our families experience each day.
In November I met little Darren and his mom, dad, and two younger brothers during office hours at one of our tutoring locations.
Darren’s whole family had ended up in an emergency shelter after his dad lost his job. Darren’s dad, a veteran, had never considered getting resources through veterans groups, nor had the family ever depended on support services before they ended up at the shelter. Finding themselves suddenly homeless was very difficult for the whole family and as I spoke to them about their situation, I asked if I could help them with any educational issues they might be facing.
Mom said that Darren, a kindergartner, had been enrolled in a school in Washington Township, but when they lost their apartment they moved to Lafayette to stay with family members. Staying with relatives wasn’t sustainable and when the family moved back to Indianapolis, Mom tried to re-enroll Darren in his Washington Township school. Sadly, Darren wasn’t able to re-enroll in the elementary where he’d started his school career and his mom was getting worried that if they kept moving, Darren was going to have to switch schools every time – something his parents desperately wanted to avoid.
That’s when I sat down with the family to see what their other options might be. Looking for the right school in Indianapolis can be overwhelming because there are so many choices and it’s hard to know where to begin! Together we looked at the Indianapolis Public School (IPS) magnet programs that were available. The magnet programs were ideal because if the family moved within IPS boundaries, Darren wouldn’t have to switch schools because he could get transportation from any location within IPS. I took Darren’s mom on a tour of one of the schools she seemed most interested in and after the tour she was SO excited. She wondered why she couldn’t have gone to a school like that – this one had goats and mountain biking!
After our tour, I helped the family apply and Darren got in! By the time he was enrolled, his family had moved out of the shelter and into a new apartment so we had to arrange for different transportation. Somehow there ended up being confusion about where the bus was supposed to pick up Darren and on the first day at his new school the bus didn’t show up! Darren’s mom called me in a panic that morning when the bus didn’t arrive because, without a car of their own, it was going to be impossible to get Darren to school and no one wanted him to miss his first day. After a few conversations, the school sent a bus to Darren’s new apartment especially for him!
I’m thankful and thrilled that I happened to be at a meeting at Darren’s school that day and I was able to witness Darren walking into his new building with his bus driver and personal chauffer that morning. Darren had the biggest smile on his face and his bus driver said he had been that happy the whole ride to school. It’s so exciting to be able to make sure kids like Darren get the education they are eager for and deserve every single day!
Want to see even more success stories from tutoring? Check out our other Student Spotlights!