School on Wheels at UCLA is the only University chapter of School on Wheels, Inc., a non-profit organization that focuses on tutoring homeless children from grades K-12. Third-year Angela Marie Sanchez founded the chapter at UCLA after having been part of the program herself in high school.
“I was homeless in high school,” Sanchez said. “My father and I ended up in a family center and the kids were tutored there. I met up with the site coordinator and told her I needed a tutor for calculus. It took her a while, but she found me a tutor, an astrophysicist student from Cal Tech.”
By having a tutor, Sanchez found the morale boost she needed in life.
“My tutor made an impact on me,” Sanchez said. “It was more about having a mentor, someone who was close to my age, who gave me advice, and who I could relate to.”
Once Sanchez entered UCLA in 2009, she made it her goal to bring School on Wheels to the campus in order to get UCLA students to help other homeless students. With her friends, Sanchez officially established the organization in 2010. Just like Sanchez, the other founders of School on Wheels at UCLA had personal reasons for joining.
“I come from a low-income family,” the organization’s College Ambassador Coordinator Maribel Soto said. “We were technically homeless as well, living with other family members. There were times I needed help with my own education and my mom tried to help me, but eventually my education went ahead of hers. I just want to make sure these students have someone to help them.”
One of the best aspects of School on Wheels at UCLA are their volunteers, who go to great lengths and challenges to make sure they provide the necessary tutoring to the homeless student population. Because of its recent establishment, the organization is still trying to find its footing. The group currently has 6 board members and 6 registered tutors. These volunteers, however, are dedicated to School on Wheels, often enduring long trips on the bus to get to their tutoring sites.
“We don’t have drivers yet or cars so our volunteers have to find their own transportation to the sites,” Sanchez said. “Volunteers also have to go through live scans, which they pay on their own. Tutors also have to go to an orientation and tutor training in Downtown LA as part of the requirements by School on Wheels, Inc.”
The volunteers’ dedication to their students and their overwhelming commitment to overcoming all their obstacles has led the UCLA Volunteer Center Fellows to award School on Wheels at UCLA the Bruin Heroes Award for Winter 2012. The organization and its volunteers are examples of the many dedicated Bruins who are doing all they can to help their community.
“You have to do a lot to do a good thing,” Sanchez said. “But it’s worth it. We want to be a voice for homeless students. School on Wheels gave me better insight to the situation I was in. It helped me realize that even if you’re homeless, you can get a stable education.”
Photo Caption from Left to Right: Cynthia Carvajal (External Affairs Coordinator), Maribel Soto (Signatory, College Ambassador Coordinator), Angela M. Sanchez (Signatory, Director), Luis Aviles (Internal Affairs Coordinator), Carlos Camandang (Signatory, Tutor Coordinator), Janethli (Administrative Assistant).