In the U.S, one in fifty children does not have a home.
Living in shelters, motels, cars, or on the street, these children undergo unique challenges within the school environment; many find it difficult to focus with other concerns on their minds, and problematic to learn when frequently transferring from school to school or otherwise having to miss class. In School on Wheels, volunteer tutors work one-on-one with these students in after-school programs or in homeless shelters, helping them to keep up with their peers so that the knowledge gap is not widened further. In addition to providing academic support to those in kindergarten through twelfth grade, School on Wheels also donates backpacks, school supplies, and school uniforms to its students.
Last week, I was paired up with a fourth-grade student at a homeless shelter in Brockton. All smiles, he was eager to get started despite the distracting noise level in the shelter. After a while, he embarrassedly confided in me that some students had made fun of him at school for being behind on his multiplication tables. One of the great parts of this program is that you are given the opportunity to be a mentor to these kids. “Well don’t you worry,” I said. “We’ll catch up to them.”
Trying to come up with a way to make math fun rather than threatening, I developed a speed-based flashcard game. Though he initially counted on his fingers, by the end of our hour-long session, the repetition enabled him to make significant progress. He seemed to have a little more confidence in his abilities, and gave me an enthusiastic high-five when he left for the night. Being able to help him overcome a few of his apprehensions was definitely a rewarding feeling.
There have been many success stories for School on Wheels from its inception. Some students have even said that if it wasn’t for the program, they would have never graduated high school. This organization strives to end the cycle of homelessness by providing adequate education to those that need it. One child at a time, they are approaching this goal.
If you would like to get involved with School on Wheels, please contact Robin Gilbert.
Have you ever tutored a child before? What was this experience like for you? Does School on Wheels seem like a something you would like to try?