“…I even got an award for ‘Most Improved’ because on the first day, I didn’t talk to nobody. And then as the program got further along, I was just everywhere.” – Mia, School on Wheels student and high school Junior, talking about her TeenWorks summer experience.

When we first met Mia, she was a shy, timid high school freshman who didn’t talk much and largely kept to herself. She and her family had just moved into one of School on Wheels’ transitional living facility partners, and Mia and her three siblings enrolled in our tutoring and academic support services program soon after.

Mia had a hard time adjusting to high school as a freshman. By the time her sophomore year rolled around, the COVID-19 pandemic and extended out of school time only exacerbated some of her struggles.

“Some of the challenges I faced [during COVID] were like us working on the computer. Because I can’t really learn nothing off of the computer so it’s going to be very hard for me to learn something. I have to have somebody face to face with me to learn something” Mia said.

School on Wheels Education Manager Brittany recognized that Mia was having a hard time and was determined to help her get the support and guidance she needed to stay on track with her academics during this incredibly stressful and traumatic time. Mia soon became more comfortable around Brittany and built trust with her, which eventually led to Mia feeling like she had enough support to make a decision that really scared her! 

Mia is a 21st Century Scholar, which is a statewide program that provides up to four years of undergraduate tuition to income-eligible students, as well as step-by-step guidance and support to make sure students succeed in college and receive support to finish their degree. Students must first complete certain academic requirements and graduate with a high school diploma to be eligible for the scholarship in college.

As Brittany was checking Mia’s progress toward her 21st Century Scholar track earlier this year, she also talked about summer programs like TeenWorks and suggested it might be a good fit for Mia. Although Mia was incredibly nervous to apply, she knew that TeenWorks would be a great opportunity to learn more about all the different types of career paths, expand her interests, develop new skills, and earn money. Plus, she was confident that Brittany would help guide her through the nerve-wracking application process!

Together Brittany and Mia got to work chipping away at the application and helping Mia prepare for her interview. Brittany not only helped Mia work on her resume, encouraged her to think about people who could write letters of recommendation for her, and spent time working on interview skills, but she also picked Mia up on a Saturday morning and drove her to the interview! 

Brittany had planned to wait in the car, but Mia was so nervous that she asked if Brittany could walk her to the door. On their walk from the parking lot to the entrance, Brittany reminded her of all the preparation she had done, and it paid off because Mia came out of her interview more ecstatic and confident than Brittany had ever seen her. In the following days, Mia learned that she had been accepted.

“I was nervous but I was shocked because it’s like, I got the email saying, ‘You got accepted!’ and I was like, ‘I wasn’t ready for this! I wasn’t prepared or anything like that.’ So I was like, ‘Oh, jeez, I got to wake up earlier than I usually have to.’ But it was good!” Mia said.

Despite the initial nerves and self-doubt leading up to the start of the program, Mia flourished throughout the six weeks. She was placed on a team that worked at a daycare, Pride Academy.

Mia enjoyed her time with Pride Academy and loved working with all the kiddos there. When asked to describe a typical day at the daycare, Mia said, “Basically, what we did was helped the kids. We helped some of the Pre-K kids get ready for kindergarten, we cleaned up around the daycare, got stuff organized. We went on field trips with the daycare, so we went skating and bowling and stuff.”

Most notably, Mia opened up in a whole new way. The once shy and timid freshman we first met transformed into a confident individual who strengthened her communication skills so much so that she won a ‘Most Improved’ award at the end of the program. 

Brittany asked Mia what she thought helped her improve this skill so much. Mia quickly responded that it was the kids at Pride Academy and the teens she worked alongside that helped her get out of her “shy bubble.”

When she reflected further, Mia said, “I could be shy and won’t talk to nobody but I can overcome that. Because it’s so much better if you don’t just sit there.” 

Beyond spending her days working with the kiddos at Pride Academy, the TeenWorks program also provided opportunities for Mia to engage in professional development. The teens participated in mock interviews, worked on updating their resumes, and heard from guest speakers around the community who shared some tips and knowledge from their respective careers.

Although Mia was sad to see the program end after the six weeks, she’s already looking toward the future. If Mia couples a second year of the program next summer, she’ll be eligible for two college scholarships through TeenWorks!

Mia and her fellow TeenWorks team members also impressed the owner of Pride Academy so much that she offered them all an opportunity to work directly with the daycare if they choose. While Mia is still considering all her options and really wants to work with Pride Academy, Brittany reminded her that school must still be a priority over everything else.

Mia’s future is bright thanks to her own determination and hard work. With the continued support from those around Mia like her mom, Tamra, her teachers and mentors, and Brittany, we know Mia will continue to thrive and be able to celebrate her achievements.

Mia is just one of the thousands of students we’ve supported during their educational journey since our founding in 2001. You can help us impact students just like Mia by applying to be a volunteer tutor just one hour a week or by donating to our tutoring and academic support programs.