Monday, April 11, 2011

School on Wheels Part 1 of 3 - Introduction

School on Wheels.  If you are thinking that the name sounds like a simple and complete description for this Nonprofit, you'd be just as wrong as I was.  I pictured an older, used yellow bus that would serve as a traveling, temporary school for homeless kids.  Not a bad idea actually, but this organization is SO much more!  And it doesn't have a bus.

After spending a day or two in Santa Monica last year, I find myself wanting to return soon.  I remember its next door neighbor, Venice. The culture. The relaxed atmosphere. The beach and the ocean.  It's hard to imagine the concept of homeless kids here.  And yet ...

Beginning small with the dream of a retired-teacher and founder, tutoring homeless children started in a Santa Monica park.  There was a need in 1993.  It's 2011 and there is still a need (maybe more now than ever) to serve the nearly 300,000 homeless school children in California alone.

Imagine if you will, being a bright and happy 8 year old girl (the average age for the School on wheels program is just that - 8 years old).  I remember my daughter at that age.  She was all full of promise seeing everything around her in the light of Sunshine (my nickname for her).  Her goal of being a nurse (even at that age) became a reality and she is now working her dream job as a NICU nurse at the University of Iowa Hospitals. 

Well, now think 'what if'. Suppose she'd found it necessary to try to accomplish all this from the back seat of a car.  Or sharing the floor in the home of some family friend. Or in a run down motel.  Or in a shelter with 50 other people. Or maybe there's no roof over her head at all.  Would she always have been so happy?  Could she have concentrated on her school work as she constantly moved around?  Remember the statistics from a few weeks ago:  "97% of homeless children move every year!"  And here's more numbers:  40% of homeless kids change schools twice every year, 30% change schools 3 times or more.  

Most of these children live with at least one parent - and they do their best.  School on Wheels does their best too.  Covering the California counties of Los Angeles, Ventura, San Bernadino and Orange, nearly 1,500 volunteers spend one on one sessions tutoring nearly 2,000 K-12th grade children each year.  They do this at over 150 locations including libraries, shelters and bookstores. Although this is not exactly an accurate extrapolation, one might say that since 1993, School on Wheels has been involved in the daily studies of nearly 30,000 children. That's making a difference!

In addition to providing gap-necessary education, School on Wheels gives out over 6,000 backpacks filled with supplies each year.  They award 3 scholarships.  They provide bus tokens for transportation to school and back for over 3,000 children.  We should look at some of these programs a little closer.  Let's do that on Wednesday.

NEXT POST:  School on Wheels Part 2 - Programs that Serve

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