Meet the Staff: Kris Hurst

Meet the Staff: Kris Hurst

Posted October 29th, 2014 by Sarah with No Comments

Each month, we’ll be introducing you to a new School on Wheels staff member so you can learn more about the people who make our programs run successfully! This month, we’ll highlight Kris Hurst, who has been working at School on Wheels for over three years. She recently had a very exciting visitor to her math and art lunchtime program – read on to learn more!

Kris 2 kris1 Kris 3

What’s your role at School on Wheels?
I am the Program Assistant and MartH Coordinator. I assist with curriculum development, volunteers and uniform distribution as well as run the Math and Art (MartH) program at Washington Irving School 14.

What did you do before you came here?
I had positions in both the social service and arts field. I have been a Case Manager for the Office of Family and Children, Reunification Family Case Manager for Child Protective Services and Child Care Worker in a group home. I also worked at the Indianapolis Art Center in the Education Department for 10 years.

Why did you decide to join the School on Wheels team?
Education and youth have always been key areas of interest for me. School on Wheels works to level the playing field for underserved youth and I believe in working towards that goal.

What’s your favorite thing about your job?
I love planning lessons for the kids in my program and seeing their faces light up when they are excited about a project.  With everything going in our kids’ lives, I hope that my students are able to learn in a creative and comfortable environment, take away new ideas, and that their time spent with myself and the tutors is both educational and an escape from their everyday stresses.

What’s one thing that people would be surprised to know about you?
I really enjoy non-fiction and documentaries.

Can you tell us more about the MartH program and your exciting visitor a few weeks ago?
Mrs. Pence's Gift
The ‘MartH’ program uses art to support math skills being taught in the classroom. This is a Wednesday lunchtime program, available to 4th grade kids experiencing homelessness at Washington Irving School 14. Students learn about the relationships between the two subject areas. Our projects support concepts including angles, lines, measurement, fractions, multiplication, symmetry, area and perimeter.

First Lady Karen Pence visited our classroom on October 1st. She seemed to really enjoy looking at projects the class had completed as well as interacting with the students. We presented the First Lady with a  string art project involving multiplication that all the kids had a hand in.  Mrs. Pence is a former art teacher and was really inspired by the ways the projects integrate both disciplines. The kids enjoyed having a special visitor and went out of their way to interact with the First Lady.




Guest Post: How We Can Be the Solution

Posted October 22nd, 2014 by Kelly Coker with No Comments

On October 8, School on Wheels hosted its first ever Education Panel. This panel, Beyond the Headlines: Be the Solution to Education Barriers, was presented by SPOKES, School on Wheels’ community outreach and advocacy group, in partnership with the Butler University College of Education and Clowes Memorial Hall. Panelists from the medical, educational and social work fields joined together to discuss the hurdles our children, particularly those living in poverty, are facing while offering ways that individuals with any background or ability can help. Thanks to Kelly Coker, one of the members of SPOKES, for sharing some key points and her insights from the evening.

Beyond the Headlines Panelists

Beyond the Headlines Panelists

Sometimes the barriers to education our youth face can seem insurmountable. However, when Beyond The Headlines kicked off and the panelists began to discuss the situations our youth are facing, the conversation soon turned to empowerment and those obstacles seemed so much smaller by the end of the evening.

Dr. Wanda Legrand, Deputy Superintendent for Academics at Indianapolis Public Schools, was the first to speak and focused on how IPS is currently working to address the needs of homeless and low-income learners. “Our goal is to take down the barriers so transitions and meeting benchmarks are easier.”

Dr. Aaron Kalinowski, Chief Executive at Pedigo Health Center at Horizon House and Midtown Medical, talked about the physical challenges faced by these same students. “Chronic homelessness creates toxic stress and damages a child’s chance of learning.”

Dustin Ecker, Fourth grade teacher, explained that his homeless and low-income students often come to him so far behind.  It takes extra effort and extra measures to help close the gaps they are facing.

Crystal Haslett, McKinney-Vento Liaison in Washington Township schools, made us aware that sometimes simply identifying a homeless student is an obstacle to providing help. Students often hide the challenges their families are facing, and schools don’t offer them the very services that would benefit them.

And, Caitlin Gamble, Director of Policy and Research for Hoosiers for Quality Education and the Institute for Quality Education, accurately painted a picture of the challenges faced by state representatives as they work to provide the best policies in the education field. “They cannot be experts on every topic, or every issue within a specific topic.”

beyond the headlines

After the panelists outlined the obstacles they see in each of their professions, the panelists went on to provide insight on how to be part of the solution. They made some great suggestions that on ways that anyone can get involved, including:

  • Step up and ask, “How can I help?”
  • Help make your state representative an expert on education and barriers to low-income learners. Call. Write them.
  • Donate a school uniform, which is one of the biggest barriers for students attending school.
  • Step in to a classroom and help maintain high expectations for these students.  Tutor them, and expect them to do well.

As I walked out the door from Beyond The Headlines, I was empowered. When it comes to education, there is something I can do. There is something everyone can do. The overwhelming sense I got as the panelist spoke was…simply do something. No matter how big, or how small, anything helps. Step up and ask…what can I do? If you ask the right person, you will certainly get an answer!

- Kelly Coker, SPOKES member

If you missed the panel and are curious for more highlights, visit Laura Stelsel’s blog for Kappa Delta Pi about our event or check out some of the evening’s #bethesolution conversation that took place on Twitter.




Video: Reading Comprehension Strategies

Posted October 15th, 2014 by Shalyn with No Comments

Have you ever read a book with a student (or even your own children), and realized that they were listening to the words but were having a difficult time understanding what was happening in the story? These kids were having difficulty with reading comprehension, a complex skill that students commonly struggle with.

Reading comprehension is an extremely complex thinking process that requires students to take the words and sentences that are written, understand what they mean independently and then process their meaning when they’re connected together. To many of us, reading a book and understanding what’s happening in the story may seem like second nature – we’ve been doing it so long that it’s automatic. But for students, it’s a skill that takes a lot of time and practice to become good at, and it’s one of the most vital skills for success in school and life.

Every single time you read with a student, whether it’s during tutoring or in your own life, you’re helping them develop this fundamental skill. It’s not as difficult as it sounds!

Check out our most recent Tutor Tips video below for some great ideas on simple strategies and questions you can use with students to help them improve their reading comprehension every time you read together!

Want more great tips on how to help students with reading comprehension? Check out our “9 Secrets to Help Kids Read Better” blog post or the reading strategies in our Tutor Tips and Techniques!




The Results Are In! #FallforSOW

Posted October 8th, 2014 by Claire with No Comments

Helping kids succeed is truly a community effort, and luckily we get to see the Indianapolis community rally around the kids we serve every day. The passion for education that exists among individuals and corporations in our city is amazing, and our latest campaign, #FallforSOW, was a particularly impressive example of the support our kids have.

#FallforSOW was developed by SPOKES, School on Wheels’ community outreach group.  Through social, networking and educational events, SPOKES works to engage the Indianapolis community in a dialogue regarding the challenges faced by homeless youth as they strive for educational success. SPOKES also helps fill some of School on Wheels’ unmet needs by hosting supply drives, recruiting tutors, serving as advocates in the community and participating in fundraising efforts and events.

This year five corporations joined us for this two-month-long challenge that kicked off August 1, encouraging their employees to collect backpacks and gift cards to help us secure school supplies. These companies posted pictures of what they had collected each week, sharing these images on Facebook and Twitter, and challenging their employees to give even more. Clearly these employees stepped up to the challenge because the results of the drive, which ended September 30, are in and we have some very special winners to congratulate.

Fall for SOW Results

Ice Miller collected the most gift cards, bringing in $490

Royal United Mortgage collected the most backpacks, bringing in 109 backpacks

Other participating corporations included Ernst & Young, Kite Realty and Wilson Kehoe Winingham. Together these corporations, along with Ice Miller and Royal United Mortgage, raised $965 in gift cards and donations as well as collected 173 backpacks. Thanks to efforts like this, we are able to equip our kids with the right supplies to give them what they need to succeed each school day. Thank you to the participating companies and to SPOKES for helping students experiencing homelessness achieve academic success! We couldn’t do it without you.

Inspired to get more involved in supporting our kids? Check out other ways that people have given creatively or learn more about SPOKES today!




Guest Post: 2014 Serve Indiana Award

Posted October 1st, 2014 by Leon Golden with No Comments


School on Wheels is proud to announce that on October 1st we accepted the 2014 Serve Indiana Award for Excellence in Volunteer programs at the IUPUI Campus Center. Serve Indiana is a state office that exists to advance service and volunteerism by informing, connecting, and promoting opportunities and resources that enrich the lives of Hoosiers. We are very lucky to have such dedicated volunteers that work to enrich the lives of the homeless children and families we serve each week. We were honored to have been nominated by volunteer Leon Golden, a three-year veteran tutor at Salvation Army Barton Center, who exemplifies the commitment and passion we seek from the Hoosiers who help us meet our mission each year. Thank you, Leon!

2014 Awardees

2014 Serve Indiana Award Winners

Currently in my third year as an Indy School on Wheels tutor, I’m excited that this organization has won the Serve Indiana Award for Excellence in Volunteer Programs. I was pleased to offer my nomination because of the great work that School on Wheels does with children in our community impacted by homelessness. This award will no doubt further School on Wheels’ mission and make a real difference in the lives of these precious children and their parents.

The importance of education and its role in providing students with the tools to realize their dreams is something dear to my heart; particularly, children faced with multiple challenges fighting an uphill battle. These children need people who will advocate on their behalf, and even more than that, people who will be there to provide help on homework, mentorship, and serve as a source of stability in their oftentimes turbulent lives. Indy School on Wheels is an organization that does an exemplary job of meeting many of these children’s needs.

While the challenges I’ve faced in my own life have not been of the magnitude that many of these children have faced, I do relate to many of them on some level. The role played by many of the adult figures in my life that helped me to succeed, is now a role that I have the opportunity to play in a child’s life.I’ve been thrilled to see School on Wheels extend their programs to IPS schools, with plans to add additional programs in the future.

2014 School on Wheels Staff

School on Wheels staff members and Leon!

I’m thrilled to be a School on Wheels volunteer and I’m proud to be associated with such a great organization!

- Leon Golden, School on Wheels Tutor

Want to get more involved with our programs? Apply to tutor today!