School on Wheels is celebrating an anniversary this year. It’s not just any anniversary, but a fairly important milestone. We are turning 15!

When I first founded School on Wheels, a few of my friends and I helped students at Dayspring Center with their homework. Our students didn’t have uniforms or a dress code. Technology was not being used in the classroom or during the tutoring hour. We helped the kids, but didn’t have programs to engage their parents.

sally first student

This is a photo of my first student, Miguel. While others may have noticed he was living in a homeless shelter, I noticed his smile, his laugh, and the way his eyes lit up when I walked in the room. Miguel and I worked on his homework, prepared for his weekly spelling test, and read books together. He worked hard every night and inspired me to expand the tutoring program to other locations and reach more kids like Miguel.

Fast forward to 2016.

Tutoring is now the gateway to a continuum of academic support for homeless students and their families. Each year, over 400 volunteer tutors help students finish their homework, but the learning opportunities don’t stop there. Our staff members work hard to create and incorporate multi-sensory learning opportunities into the tutor hour, including iPads loaded with educational applications, tutor toolkits with state-aligned math, science and language arts activities and creativity kits that teach students about art and help them express themselves creatively.

Our students attend almost 100 schools each year, and many of them require school uniforms. We provide our students with these essential clothing items, as well as a backpack loaded with all of the necessary supplies.

We also work with our parents as partners in this journey. Our program model incorporates staff members who are specialists in the educational needs of families in poverty. Those specialists work with parents to break down the barriers to education and build a strong foundation for parents to advocate for their kids.

If you have ever been to tutoring when I am at a site, you might have heard me mention that algebra tutoring is not my specialty. It’s not that I am afraid of numbers, it’s just that I prefer grammar to the quadratic equation. I am a story teller and love the use of language as illustration. But I can’t ignore this important number: 67,048. This is the number of tutoring hours School on Wheels has provided over the past 15 years. You can check out all our other impressive impact stats on our recent anniversary blog.

While 67,048 is impressive, the number one is just as important. It only takes one person, one dollar, one hour to make a difference. Every ONE has helped us get to where we are today and every ONE has made a difference.

This is where the saying “the more things change, the more they stay the same” comes to mind. After fifteen years, we are still fueled by people. Our volunteers, Board, advisors, donors and staff work countless hours to provide innovative and effective programming. Our belief that education is the key to breaking the cycle of homelessness and poverty is even stronger. We know that education opens doors and that education leads to successful careers, families, and communities.

I am but one person who had an idea to help a few homeless kids. It really does take a village. Those people I talked about above who fuel this ship? I know you are one of those people, and I am beyond humbled by the support, endorsement, friendship, materials, time, resources, and positive thoughts you have shared with me and my team. Thank you for believing in our mission, for strengthening our programs, for caring about our kids. Every minute, every dollar, every thought you have given is shared with our kids. Every one. Every day.

– Sally Bindley, School on Wheels Founder & CEO

These last 15 years have been fantastic, and we are so excited to be celebrating our birthday. We hope you can join us at our party on Wednesday, September 21 at our office. Click here to learn more. You can also make a donation to support our programs.