“How do you know you are making a difference?”

We hear this a lot at School on Wheels. For 16 years, we have been providing one on one tutoring to homeless students. We have been working with parents to help them navigate the school system so they are engaged in the success of their kids. We have been busting barriers that interfere with homeless students’ access to education. Did you know that homeless students are four times more likely than their non-homeless peers to repeat a grade in school? Not our students! 96% of School on Wheels students are promoted to the next grade. Let me tell you about one of those students.

file-1Many years ago I met a little boy named Ronnie. I went to see Ronnie every day at the shelter where he lived with his family. I helped him with his homework and his spelling words. I brought him a backpack and school supplies. I met with his mom and discussed school choice options so she could send him to the best high school for his interests and not just the school closest to the shelter. Ronnie was bright and caring. He was a hard worker. His mom and I were a team. We talked daily about his homework and upcoming tests and what he needed to focus on in school. Over the years, I have stayed in touch with Ronnie and his family – attending school productions, graduations, and serving as a job reference. That little boy is now a man. Yesterday he turned 24 and for his birthday he decided to get a tattoo – a permanent reminder of the what is most important to him. On the inside of his right wrist he had inscribed two names – his mother’s name and my name.

Ronnie is just one of the more than 5,400 students we have impacted since our founding. I can tell you that he was a straight A student, that he stayed in school and graduated, that he served as a School on Wheels tutor at the same shelter where he lived as a boy. I can also tell you that he got a great job at a Fortune 10 company and paid for his mom to go back to school. I can tell you that he is committed to giving back to the community and is now spending a year with AmeriCorps as a Volunteer in Service to America. This is the story of just one kid. How do we know we are making a difference? I’d say we have made a permanent impact on Ronnie’s life. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at his wrist.

“Words cannot describe how much I love this woman! This simple act of devotion to her doesn’t even come close to what she deserves. She helped me grow and become the adult I am today! I love you so much Mom #2!” – Ronnie on his 24th birthday at the office of School on Wheels.