In today’s busy world, it never seems like there’s enough time in the day.  At School on Wheels, our staff is fortunate enough to experience the impact of our mission by participating as tutors, joining over 400 dedicated community volunteers.  During tutoring, an hour truly makes a difference in the lives of children affected by homelessness.  For this month’s blog, we’ve assembled 8 heart-warming stories that remind us of why we work so hard to keep our program going!

Tutor helping boy make studying fun with use of whiteboard

First Steps

As a very new volunteer with School on Wheels, I think the thing that really impressed me was the compassion and commitment that my fellow tutors and program coordinator showed. When students arrived for tutoring, it was clear that they were entering a loving environment with familiar faces who were generally concerned about the students’ day. It was really special to see that commitment from day one, and wonderful to know that I was entering into a volunteer experience with people who really believe in the kids and the relationships that they build.

– Anne West, Volunteer Tutor

During a recent tutoring session at IHN, I noticed a middle school aged girl sitting away from everyone else. It was clear that she was not having a good day. I made her my student that day, and it turned out to be a really fun hour. We went back and forth reading and doing a Mad Libs exercise. She was smiling and laughing by the end of tutoring.

-Amy Stankiewicz, Operations Manager


Learning Together

Earlier this year, I was tutoring a 7th grader who was struggling with his multiplication tables.  I walked through several ways he could work on this, including writing down all the tables and reviewing them regularly, speaking the tables out loud (i.e. “four times eight equals 32”), and drilling with flash cards.  He steadily improved over the few weeks we worked together.  Then every day I was there, at the beginning and end of the tutoring hour, I would call out his name along with a multiplication problem.  He had to stop and think a couple times, but he always had a big smile, and he almost always got it right.

– Kris Chaney, Volunteer Tutor

A few weeks ago, I tutored a girl in sixth grade who had been in the homeless shelter just one night.  She was very nervous to meet with me.  She had a lot of math homework to do which is not my best subject.  But after talking, we both bonded over our struggles with mathematics.  On my iPhone, I found a YouTube video explaining the Cartesian coordination system, x-axis and y-axis and reflections.  Not only were we able to finish all her homework but we started on the next day’s assignments!  She and I both left with big smiles and a feeling of accomplishment.

– Elizabeth Murphy, Development Director

One of my favorite memories of tutoring actually started out fairly negatively. I was working with a 5th grader who was exhausted after a day of ISTEPs and wanted nothing more to do with school work of any kind. After five minutes of talking about his day, it was revealed that what truly frustrated him about the ISTEPs was the “stupid” prompt. I asked him what he would have wanted to write about instead, and thus we embarked upon a ten minutes discussion of the merits of Call of Duty versus Grand Theft Auto (two games I was surprised I actually knew anything about). When we’d highlighted a few key differences, I suggested that he might jot them down and what followed was five whole minutes of impassioned writing! Not only did the student do what he swore he never wanted to do again, he was actually excited about it! It was fantastic to watch as he lit up when he realized that not all writing has to be boring!

– Kate Eberle, Volunteer Tutor


Changing Each Other 

When I volunteer to tutor, it’s normally at the end of a long work-week.  What really amazes me each time is that I enter the tutoring-hour worn out from the week behind me, but I leave refreshed and energized by the positive attitude that these kids have!  Each time I tutor, those students give my perspective a much needed adjustment: My problems and stresses float away and that one hour is all about them!

– Alex Keys, Marketing and Community Outreach Specialist

The most memorable experience I had recently was when I tutored a little boy in November. At the end of our session, he started crying. I was shocked that he was crying because he was engaged and happy for the entire hour. When I asked what was wrong he said, “I wish next Thursday weren’t Thanksgiving because I don’t want to wait two weeks to see you again.” Our presence is a constant in the lives of kids who only know change. It’s important and impactful.

– Sally Bindley, Founder & CEO

The last time I tutored, I worked with a first grade girl, Angelica.  We hit it off the second we met.  She was incredibly bright and focused.  She worked on a two-sided worksheet that had multiple steps and was fairly challenging.  She checked and self-corrected her work, pausing to ask me questions regarding capitalization.  Once her homework was complete, we found an engaging book to read together.  We took turns reading as we laughed about the story and joked together.  I was so impressed with how well she read.  Angelica told me that she had to work hard in school because she wanted a good job when she grew up.  I told her that with as hard as she worked she would have an amazing job.  Towards the end of the hour she looked up at me and said, “you know, I’m homeless.”  I was speechless for a moment and finally said, “That must be really hard.  But you have a lot of great people who are here to help you.”  We always say that School on Wheels’ kids are just like every other kid, and they are.  But as I sat there, I was hit by the reality of her situation.  I also felt privileged to meet this bright, hard-working girl who will go far in life.

– Kate Hussey, Executive Vice President

Inspired?  Learn how to become a School on Wheels tutor, or support our programs.