School on Wheels: Making a Difference in Massachusetts

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Author Bio: Susan Finn has been involved with School on Wheels of Massachusetts since it beginnng 10 years ago. The mission of SOWMA is to educate children impacted by homelessness by providing academic support and one-on-one mentoring so children can reach their full potential.

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School on Wheels of Massachusetts (SOWMA) recruits, trains, and supports community volunteers to provide one-on-one tutoring for children in Kindergarten through grade 12 living in temporary homes such as family shelters, motels and transitional apartments. To provide stability and consistency, the tutor meets with the same child each week to reinforce grade level learning skills, work on school projects, and help boost the child’s self-esteem.

Children and families experiencing homelessness are often invisible in society. The most common image of homelessness, that of a single adult living on the street, is not representative of one of the fastest growing segments of the homeless population, which is family homelessness.

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Tutors serve as positive adult role models and mentors to help students reach their full potential in the classroom and beyond. Our volunteers come from all backgrounds and professions with one goal in mind: to help students break the cycle of homelessness through a quality education. Click here to find out how you can help change a child’s life.

Alisha, a 7th grade student at the Louison Center asked, ““Why would people volunteer their time to work with kids? I would never do that.”  But later that evening, after Alisha had spent some time helping out with some of the younger students, she smiled at her tutor to let her know that now she did understand. It just felt good to help others. Read more.

Cathy Adler, a long-time volunteer for SOWMA had this to say about her involvement, “I am consistently humbled by the work done by SOWMA staff and volunteers, and the children and families involved in this service. This is legacy work on all sides of the equation. It’s about all of us respectfully bearing witness to life’s sometimes unfairness, giving each other attention, and learning enough to understand how we can help each other, regardless of where we started, where we are now, or where we want to go.” Read more.

Cheryl Opper, Executive Director of SOWMA, says, “Really, I think the magic and the secret sauce of School on Wheels is the tutoring and mentoring. It’s the one on one. It’s the same caring adult that shows up every week for them, to let them know that they are important and so is their education.”

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The vision of School on Wheels of Massachusetts is that all children have the academic support necessary to achieve a bright and productive future that will help end the cycle of homelessness.

To learn more, visit their website: www.sowma.org.

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