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Newsletter February 2010
Having had the honor of working with School on Wheels for several years in many capacities - volunteer tutor, Board member, Operations Officer, and now Executive Director - I have an incredible amount of optimism about where we are and where we are going as an organization.  I know that may sound counter-intuitive considering our country's economic situation and the growing number of homeless families and children we are seeing every day.  Like many nonprofits, we are confronting huge challenges as donors cut back on their giving while the need for our services is growing. 
We are facing other issues too:  our beloved Founder, Agnes Stevens, has left on her journey across America and we have to relocate our busy Learning Center in Skid Row.  I believe that School on Wheels will not only survive these circumstances, but will move forward with renewed energy, excitement and enthusiasm.   My optimism stems from watching the strength and courage of our homeless students in the face of daunting circumstances; from understanding the incredible generosity of money, time and spirit that our donors and volunteers continue to give; and, from working with a Board and a team of amazing staff members who think of innovative and resourceful solutions to very tough problems every day.  At School on Wheels, we know that when people come together as a committed community, we can tackle the challenges of helping homeless children and their education. 
At a time when everything can seem bleak and insurmountable, School on Wheels continues to provide hope to our most vulnerable children.  Last year, we served more homeless students than ever before - over 6,000.  We could only do that because of you, our supporters, our community.  We are deeply grateful.  As we continue our journey together, let us stay strong, committed and focused on our mission of enhancing educational opportunities and shrinking the gaps in the education of homeless children from kindergarten through twelfth grade. 
I invite and welcome any ideas and suggestions you may have that will help our students and our organization.  Please contact me any time if you'd like to share your thoughts.
Kind regards,
Catherine Meek
Executive Director
2009 ACHIEVEMENTSachievements
When we look back at 2009, we - our community of donors, volunteers, Board and staff - accomplished much.  We have far to go and much to do, but let us take a moment to celebrate what we did achieve.
Program Results 

  • 1,500 volunteers tutored approximately 2,200 children.  Other volunteers fixed computers in the shelters, provided legal services, built databases, threw parties for the children -  in total, we had the privilege of almost 90,000 volunteer hours last year.
  • We provided 6,230 backpacks filled with school supplies.   
  • We funded over 550 school uniforms.
  • We distributed more than 3,000 bus tokens to children who would not otherwise get to school.
  • We facilitated over 100 enrollments into public schools. We assisted parents in filling out the necessary paperwork and in gathering records such as birth certificates, immunization records and transfer papers from previous schools, without which their children will be denied admission to school.

 financials 2010

We are so fortunate to have donors who care deeply about homeless children.  Foundations like NBC Universal Foundation who funds our new Believe, Understand, Succeed program developed for homeless high school youth; The Mark Hughes Foundation, who has funded us unfailingly for the last five years;  the Mark S. Taper Foundation, who supports our Learning Centers in Skid Row and South Los Angeles;  Amgen Foundation who  has generously supported our growth, both with substantial funding and employee volunteers, in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.  Organizations like the LAX Culture Committee of Southwest Airlines who hold an annual golf event for us; Third Street Elementary School and Temple Judea who give us thousands of backpacks, filled with school supplies; individuals like Fred and Shirley Sill who contribute monthly and have been with us since our beginnings; and, Bob Morris and Steve Dahlberg who host a delightful holiday party for over 200 of our students every year.  (Click Here to see the complete listing of our 2009 donors).
One of our tutors, Alicia DelFoss, was recently contacted by her student's teacher to thank her for helping her student improve from his last report card grade of "F" to A's and even an A+ on his last exam.  The 8th grade student's teacher also noted that he was making new friends and actively participating in class.  Now that is a success story!  "What I feel is that a little effort can make such a huge difference in a child's life," says Alicia. So do we Alicia, thank you. Read more tutor stories here.
kidsIn 2010, our challenge is to help more homeless children go to school, stay in school and achieve in school.
  • Serve over 6,000 homeless students.
  • Recruit and retain 1,700 volunteers.
  • Raise $1 million dollars in funding.
  • Provide at least three scholarships to our students. 
  • Survey our students and their parents about how School on Wheels can help them more with their education.
  • Collaborate with other organizations, educating our communities about who homeless children are and how they can help them. 
lindajuneThis year, we will be also be undergoing a significant move, physically and emotionally. Our Skid Row Learning Center, where we have been since 2000, is no longer available or appropriate for us. Two of our wonderful sup-porters, Josh Fein and Cliff Neiman, have spent untold hours helping us find and plan for a new location.  We are excited about the prospects of an expanded center, where we can help more students living in skid row.  And we are thrilled that our good friends at OfficeMax will be completely furnishing the new Center and computer lab.  We will let you know when our plans are final.
We were so excited when Sam Duncan, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of OfficeMax, visited with Agnes Stevens, our students and our team at our skid row Learning Center in January.  Sam spoke with about 25 of our older students, encouraging them to succeed in life through work hard, education, and perseverance.  He surprised Agnes, our students and School on Wheels with many outstanding gifts.
 "What you and your team do for our kids is amazing and appreciated. Our trip to your center was a giant energy boost to me. Our wonderful country is so lucky to have people like you and everyone at the learning center. Your commitment of time and energy to what you believe in makes companies like ours want to help in any way that they can. I give you my commitment that we will help you and your team at the Learning Center. All of you are heroes in my mind. Thank you again for helping our kids. It was an absolute honor for me to meet everyone at the center."
Sam Duncan, Chairman and CEO of OfficeMax
As we look at where we have been and where we are heading in 2010, it is important to remember who we are serving and why we do so.  As noted in the report: America's Youngest Outcasts: State Report Card on Child Homelessness, there are currently over 290,000 homeless children in California  and the percentage of kids who are homeless in the U.S. is greater today than at any point since the Great Depression.  In Los Angeles alone, there are almost 14,000 homeless kids from Kindergarten through Grade 12 enrolled in the Los Angeles Unified School District - one of 80 school districts.  Over 20% of homeless school-age children are not attending school.   This is why we are here.  Every child needs an education to have hope and a chance for success, and the homeless child is no exception.   If School on Wheels can close the gap for these kids, our program has the potential to help stop the cycle of homelessness and to relieve school districts of a tremendous capacity and re-source burden.  Click here to read more.
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In this newsletter, you will read about the major accomplishments we achieved in 2009 with your help.  You will also find out about our plans for 2010.....big plans for big challenges.  Those of you who know us understand that our passion and dedication to help homeless students get the education they need will drive us to accomplish these goals. 
 The enhancement of educational opportunities for homeless children from kindergarten through twelfth grade.  Our goal is to shrink the gaps in their education and provide them with the highest education possible.
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School on Wheels YouTube
'I love the fact that School on Wheels focuses on one thing, homeless children and that the services provided are related to its mission. Other nonprofit organizations tend to provide a scatter gun approach and try to do too many things. By focusing on the kids, School on Wheels is successful. - 'Renee Longan, School on Wheels Volunteer Tutor Coordinator. 
IN THE NEWSinthenews
Fight Homelessness with Education, School on Wheels staff and tutors interviewed for this great piece by Gregg Caines.
Upcoming, March 6th 2010 - Surprise Vacations, Fine Living Network.  Our very own top tutor Tamar Chafets is honored in this show,
Click here to read more and to find out the show times
Tenured Tutors 2010
Thank you to all our amazing volunteers.  Click the link to see just a few of the 1,500 volunteers that donate 1 hour every week to work with homeless children in our community.