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Daniela, 12, and Eric, 8, moved into an Indianapolis homeless shelter with their mother Katherine. Moving into the shelter was rough on everyone; mom had another baby on the way, Daniela was just hitting her teenage years and Eric turned his stress into behavioral issues.

Living in the shelter wasn’t easy on Daniela. At 12-years old, she wanted nothing more than her own group of close girl friends, but she had no home to invite them to. Between taking care of her pregnant mom and little brother while living in a homeless shelter, the chances of developing a friendship group were extremely slim.

Katherine wanted a better life for her kids, and she knew that obtaining an education was vital to this goal. She worked hard to save enough money to move into an apartment doing whatever work she could find, but Katherine’s exhaustion from juggling work, financial demands and her pregnancy made it difficult to help her own children with their schoolwork. Katherine was relieved when School on Wheels offered to help her kids with their education.  She routinely checked in with the tutors to check on Daniela and Eric’s progress, and took on a more active role in the lives on both children.

Daniela did decently in school before the School on Wheels tutoring began, but she had just moved schools and struggled with the new demands of the high-level pre-algebra homework. Nikki, a School on Wheel’s volunteer, committed to helping Daniela several times to sort through her homework.

Eric was a different sort of challenge for his tutors. An eight-year-old bundle of energy, Eric bounced off the walls of the shelter, and his mom struggled to handle his behavior. He frequently argued with his tutors or wouldn’t sit still, but his tutor, Scott, was committed. Scott eventually connected with Eric, and soon enough, the homework started getting done. His behavior too became less of a problem under his tutor’s strong guidance.

School on Wheels didn’t just help Eric and Daniela out with their homework. Both Eric and Daniela’s backpacks were worn thin by years of rough use and a tight budget. School on Wheels provided them with new backpacks, uniforms and other badly needed school supplies. The pair started to feel more comfortable around their peers at school.

Eventually, the family’s time at the shelter drew to an end. Katherine saved up enough to move the family into an apartment – just in time for the arrival of the new baby. Everyone was relieved to move on, but both Eric and Daniela were sad to leave their tutors. Once the children found out they were moving, they hugged each tutor after every tutoring session.

While it’s exciting to everyone when a family moves out of the shelter, it’s bittersweet for the volunteers; they know the probably won’t see the people children they have learned to care about again. Sometimes the families leave a drawing to remember them by — but the best part for a tutor is hearing the excitement in the kids voices when they announce, “We’re getting an apartment and I get my own room!”

For their protection, we aren’t showing Daniela and Eric’s photo, but there are over 3,000 homeless kids with similar stories in Indianapolis on any given night.

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