Each month, we’ll be introducing you to a new School on Wheels staff member so you can learn more about the people who make our programs run successfully! This month, we’ll highlight Ieva Grundy, one of our Program Coordinators who manages tutoring each night at our partner locations. She is also piloting a new parent involvement workshop series at two of our shelter locations – read on to learn more!

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Where do you PC?
I am the Program Coordinator at Salvation Army Barton Center and the Salvation Army Ruth Lilly Women and Children’s Center.

What did you do before you came here?
I was a consultant with the Simon Youth Foundation, and I ran their leadership / life skills training program for teens and young adults in alternative schools.

Why did you decide to join the School on Wheels team?
I have worked with this population off and on throughout my career and when I found an organization that specifically targeted children who were experiencing homelessness, I thought it was a no-brainer. I really do believe that education is the way out of poverty and homelessness and I wanted to be a part of that.

What’s your favorite thing about your job?
My favorite thing is working with the kids. Seeing them light up when they get it – there’s just nothing like that. I also really enjoy seeing the tutors connect with kids in our program. That’s a big rush for me too.

Can you share one of your favorite tutoring stories?
There was a young lady who was struggling in school. She was smart, but embarrassed by the situation she was in. She had a hard time making friends because they moved around a lot. When she started with School on Wheels, she was very reluctant to come. As a teen, that’s pretty normal. When we started working with her, particularly in math, she connected with a tutor who was really good at math. They became friends, just through working together on math. The tutor even stayed late a few times to help her. She came in a couple of weeks later and had a B+ on her math test. We all celebrated with her, and were proud of her. She was proud of herself. Her mom said that tutoring was a huge help, and I was so glad the tutors were able to hear it. We all just got on the same page and were really able to help this girl. It was great to see.

What’s one thing that people would be surprised to know about you?
I really did not like school when I was a child. The only reason I wanted to go was to see my friends. I was just an average student. I didn’t try as hard as I could have.

Tell us more about the new workshop series you are leading for School on Wheels parents called Parent Connections.
I’ve always loved the training aspect of helping people work better with young people. For the last few years at School on Wheels, we have been holding parent workshops at least once a semester at each of our partner locations. I worked with staff members to develop parent workshops that covered a wide variety of topics related to academics, including:

  • How to talk to teachers
  • Discussion about discipline problems and how to address them
  • Accessing community services for their families

While holding these workshops at different locations, I heard again and again from parents, “This is great! When are you coming back?” Parents wanted more follow-up and more opportunities to talk about their child’s education.

Parent Connections is a new initiative that reflects the needs of our parents. Through this new program, we are able to offer a series of consecutive workshops on a variety of topics at one shelter location over the course of 3-4 weeks. So far we have completed one series at Coburn Place and have started our next series at Family Promise. We cover topics such as communication skills, attendance vs. achievement, positive and self-discipline, how to access students’ school records online, literacy for families and how learning can be a family activity. I try to instill in the sessions that the parents are the experts, they know their kids best.

Throughout the series, there’s an element of empowerment to give parents the confidence to lead the charge for their students. Many parents experiencing homelessness are vulnerable and disempowered. We try to help parents understand that everything they do at home has an impact.  We start every session by thanking the parents for coming and honoring their efforts to be a good parent to their kids. We focus a lot on encouraging an open dialogue between parents, schools, and School on Wheels to help create a better environment for these kids.

Interested in the other ways that we engage parents in our program? Click here to learn more about Ignite Learning.