Meet the Staff: Shalyn Getz

Meet the Staff: Shalyn Getz

Posted May 20th, 2015 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 Shalyn Getz, our Program and Communications Specialist. Although some people haven’t met Shalyn, many people recognize her name because she sends out Chalk Talk, our monthly enewsletter. Read on to learn more about her, how she balances working on both the program and communications sides of School on Wheels and her Friday lunchtime program!

headshot     shalyn3     shalyn1 

What is your role at School on Wheels?
I do so many different things! As the Program and Communications Specialist, I split my time between programs, where I design curriculum for the iPads and Tutor Toolkits, and communications, where I manage our social media, website and email communications. If you don’t like/follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn, you should! I am also the Program Coordinator for the STAR (Striving Towards Academic Readiness) lunchtime program for kindergarten and first grade students at IPS 54.

What did you do before you came here?
I was in college – I studied religion and sociology at Middlebury College in Vermont. I also worked in a childcare center, which is where I found out that I love working with young kids!

Why did you decide to join the School on Wheels team?
When I was in college, I completed a Summer VISTA term at an organization called Chicago HOPES, which provides tutoring services to students living in Chicago-area homeless shelters. Working at Chicago HOPES was a fantastic experience that helped me realize what I’m truly passionate about – leveling the playing field and making sure each student has a quality education. As I was applying for VISTA after college, I saw a position open at School on Wheels, talked to some of the staff, and knew it would be a great fit for what I wanted to do.

What’s your favorite thing about your job?
I love working with the kids at ALL of our different locations and watching them grow – especially my STAR kids. It has been a great experience to have some of my students start the program last year in kindergarten and watch them grow as people and as students this year in first grade. They’ve come so far in such a short time! I also love being part of our communications team here at School on Wheels. Spreading the word about our programs and sharing stories about the individual successes of our students is one of my favorite things to do.

Can you share one of your favorite tutoring stories?love
Even though I’ve been working at School on Wheels for four years, I think one of my all-time favorite moments at tutoring happened this year. I feel like I tell this story to everyone. One of first graders, a very quiet, reserved little girl in the STAR program, came up to me when I went to pick up the kids in their classrooms and gave me a card that read, “You make me want to go to school. I love you.” It made me want to cry, but at the same time, it reaffirmed for me why the relationships that we build with children in our programs are so important. They are going through so much, and being a constant person that they know will show up every week gives them a bit of stability.

What’s one thing that people would be surprised to know about you?
I have a HUGE sweet tooth! It’s so bad. Sometimes, all I want to eat is ice cream and cookies. I have to restrain myself because I really am a healthy person!

What is the biggest project you are working on right now for School on Wheels?
Well, I have a few big things going on right now. On the program side, I am wrapping up the second year of our STAR lunchtime program.  It’s been such a great year – the tutors at IPS 54 have worked so hard to create relationships with our students and help provide them stability. And next year, we’re expanding the program to second grade! It’s all very exciting. Over the summer, I will also be working on creating new videos in our Tutor Tips series, including some brand new videos covering some of the most popular iPad apps at tutoring! On the communications side, we are getting a brand new website that will help us better communicate about our programs and homelessness in general. I am really excited about it!

Can’t wait until next month to learn more about our staff? Check out our other Meet the Staff blog posts here!

The Homestretch Documentary: Reflections

Posted May 13th, 2015 by Shalyn with No Comments

If you haven’t had a chance to watch it yet, The Homestretch is a documentary film that follows the journeys of three homeless teenagers in Chicago – Roque, Kasey and Anthony. It shows their struggles and challenges as they fight to stay in school, graduate and build a future, all without a stable place to stay at night. Many of our staff members have had a chance to view the film and we found it to be a powerful window into the lives of students experiencing homelessness. Below are some of our reflections:

The Homestretch

“What struck me most about The Homestretch was Roque’s story. Each kid they focused on had another layer of difficulty in their life (anti-LGBT views, abuse, foster system) and in Roque’s case it was being an undocumented student. You begin to realize how hard it would be to really pull yourself out of that situation without being surrounded by people willing to help pull you out. Luckily he had that in his teacher. I can imagine that most homeless teenagers do NOT have that kind of support. And even with the help he had, he still found it very difficult to navigate the system. It was heartbreaking but inspiring.

I also was struck at some of the amazing help that IS out there for kids in Chicago. One of the students was able to graduate from a program in a year and get a job in IT. I hope there is a follow up story on these kids one day.” – Erin Brown, Program Manager

The Homestretch documentary was fantastic because it really humanized the issue of homelessness, and particularly youth homelessness. Sometimes people believe that teenagers who end up homeless have simply run away from home without cause; we’re not often given a glimpse into the actual situations that cause a teenager to leave home. The film, however, did a fantastic job in showing the outside factors (immigration, LGBTQ rights, foster care and abuse, mental illness, family relationships) that all play a role in the often complicated situations that lead a student to leave home.

My hope is that watching the film and getting a glimpse into the lives of the students featured – Roque, Kasey and Anthony – helps to break down the stereotypes that people hold about students who are experiencing homelessness. These three kids are great examples of fantastic young people who are headed for success!” – Shalyn Getz, Program & Communications Specialist

“The Homestretch Documentary is an eye opening look into the true struggles that many children and families in our country/communities face on a daily basis. There are two main points in this film that really resonated with me and my experiences in working with children and families experiencing homelessness. The first is that no two families or individuals have similar stories. All three of the teenagers in this film were in their situations for different reasons, many completely out of their control. There is a misconception regarding homelessness and what it actually looks like. The Homestretch shed light on the complex nature of homelessness. The second is all of the amazing and caring people who helped each teenager along their journey. From the homeless shelter, teachers and social workers each played a key role in helping the teenagers survive and change their life story for the better!

I see many inspiring, caring and dedicated members of our community working with children who are facing homelessness in our city. Each and every one of them makes an impact and that, to me, is the most important part.” – Samantha Breeling, Volunteer Coordinator

If you did not have the chance to watch the original broadcast of The Homestretch, you still have a chance! The documentary is streaming online until tomorrow, May 14 – click here to view the film. We hope that you will watch the film if you haven’t already, and that you will join us in this important conversation about youth homelessness by spreading the word to your family and friends! Feel free to leave a comment with your reflections below.

Creating a Group Work of Art

Posted May 6th, 2015 by Shalyn with No Comments

Last month, we held our Annual Fundraiser – the Education Celebration, which was a resounding success. One focus area over the last few years has been integrating art curriculum into tutoring, and this year at the event we wanted to show that side of our program to attendees. To make this possible, our event planning team approached Kris, our Program Assistant and MartH Program Coordinator, and asked her to put together a group project that involved the kids at each of our partner locations. Below, Kris shares a little bit about the experience of creating the group piece:

Original Art created by MartH students

Our event planning team approached me to do a project with our kids for the Education Celebration similar to a math and art project I had done in our MartH program. The MartH project was based off of the work of Piet Mondrian, whose work includes many paintings that feature right angles and primary colors. During MartH, the students created right, acute and obtuse angles on a canvas using tape, and painted the exposed areas with primary colors (learn more about the original project here and check out the example above!). Our entire staff loved what the kids created so much, that they wanted to create a larger piece to be featured at the Education Celebration based on the same concept.

The project we created for the kids to complete during tutoring was similar to the original MartH project, but instead of each student creating their own piece, the kids at each location worked together to complete one canvas. We purchased fifteen canvases to represent our fifteen programs (including both STAR programs and the MartH program). All fifteen canvases were laid out in a grid pattern and I taped off quadrants on each canvas so that they created one overall piece, but could also work as individual pieces of art.

Members of our program team took the canvases to each site and worked with each student to complete one quadrant of the canvas. The students each chose a color, painted their quadrant, then created designs on their canvas while the paint was still wet. The kids were excited to paint and make their ‘mark’ on the canvases. There was so much creativity in what the kids created – designs ranged from a cobra by a 1st grader to a famous quote by a 12th grader. It was so cool to see all the various designs and energy put into each canvas. Each site came back with something unique and different, but once we pulled the tape off and put all fifteen canvasses together, it created something even more special – a complete work of art created by all our students.

The completed work of art was a hit at the Education Celebration. A huge thank you to Kris and all of our students for making this unique work of art possible!

The completed work of art Get your set of cards today!

Additionally, even if you weren’t able to see the work for yourself at the Education Celebration, you haven’t missed out! The piece was so beautiful, we created a set of 15 cards based on the art that showcases each of the unique students and partners we serve. These card sets are available just in time for Mother’s Day – and today is your LAST CHANCE to purchase them to receive them by Sunday!

Click here to make a donation in honor of Mother’s Day and get your pack of cards today!

Meet the Staff: Asia Reynolds

Posted April 29th, 2015 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 Asia Reynolds, one of our Program Coordinators who manages tutoring each night at our partner locations. This year, she has been overseeing tutoring at our two new school sites in Washington Township and has some great results and insights to share about the school expansion program – read on to learn more!

Asia Reynolds   asia3   Asia Reynolds

Where do you PC? 
I am the Program Coordinator at Wellspring Cottage, Greenbriar Elementary and Foxhill Elementary.

What did you do before you came here? 
Before I started at School on Wheels, I had recently graduated from the University of Indianapolis. I had also been a Program Specialist for Girls Inc. of Greater Indianapolis for about three years.

Why did you decide to join the School on Wheels team? 
I was (and still am) eager and determined to make a difference in the lives of students facing homelessness. I am a huge advocate for children facing adversity and I was certain that School on Wheels would be a wonderful opportunity for me to make an impact on this population of youth.

What’s your favorite thing about your job?  
The fact that I can wake up every morning knowing and believing in my heart that a student needs me to be his or her voice. To know that I am not only guiding students towards academic success but that I am teaching them valuable life skills along the way humbles me and brings me great joy!

Can you share one of your favorite tutoring stories? 
One day as I was wrapping up the tutoring session, a kindergartener started to frown when I announced that it was time to line up to board the buses. Seeing disappointment in his face, I walked over to him and asked why he was so sad. He said that he was not ready to leave tutoring and even though he loved his family very much, School on Wheels was also his family. This melted my heart as I realized that for so many of our children, seeing the familiar faces of the tutors each week and the encouragement that they receive from tutoring means so much to them!

What’s one thing that people would be surprised to know about you? 
People would be surprised to know that I tend to get nervous speaking to large groups of people. I am also a huge LeBron James fan!!!

Can you share some highlights / stories from the recent School on Wheels school expansion to Greenbriar and Fox Hill Elementary Schools?
For me, a huge highlight from the program expansion has been the praise that School on Wheels has received from the parents of students at our two new schools. These parents feel so much support from our staff and appreciate every workshop and positive phone call made to them regarding the amazing progress in their children’s academics. They feel more confident speaking to teachers and other school personnel due to the successful parent workshops we’ve held this year.

Another highlight has been the progress that many of the students have made since the beginning of the school year. A lot of this has to do with the positive praise and support that they receive weekly from their tutors. I can really see a confidence boost in many of the students who previously felt discouraged because of their academic performance. The recent school expansion has been a positive experience for students, parents, and many tutors!

We’ve had so many successes in our school expansion so far this year!

  • We have served a total of 36 students between both Greenbriar and Fox Hill Elementary Schools.
  • We have logged a total of 189 Ignite Learning consultations between both schools which includes in-take meetings, communication with teachers and parents, and parent/family workshops.
  • 92% of our students at Greenbriar Elementary have maintained a C- or better or improved in two subject areas from quarter 2 to quarter 3.

Interested in learning more about our school expansion and hidden homeless initiative? Click here to learn more.

2015 Education Celebration Recap

Posted April 22nd, 2015 by Claire with No Comments

We want to offer a huge thank you to the 400 people who attended our 2015 Education Celebration and to all of our sponsors who made our evening a success! We enjoyed a fantastic and inspiring evening.

Below is just a glimpse of some of the most memorable parts of the evening, thanks to M. Rinaye Photography.
Our speaker for the evening, Steve Pemberton, author of A Chance in the World: An Orphan Boy, a Mysterious Past, and How He Found a Place Called Home, shared his story of overcoming adversity as a child. His message resonated with everyone in attendance and many left with the realization that each of us has the potential to impact the life of a child in a way greater than we ever realized.

We were honored to present awards to many individuals and corporations who have made a huge impact in the lives of School on Wheels’ kids and the greater Indiana community:

2015 Corporate Partner of the Year: Dow AgroSciences
Dow supports our programs in a multitude of ways, including bringing Science Ambassadors to tutoring to provide children hands on science activities and helping us select the best way to incorporate science and technology through a generous grant.

2015 Philanthropists of the Year: Jan and Craig Royal
Jan and Craig have embraced the School on Wheels mission personally through gifts of financial and in-kind support, through their company that provides tutors, books, and school supplies, and through their family where son Dan has served as a volunteer tutor.

2015 Tutoring Team of the Year: Ernst & Young LLP
Ernst & Young has staff serving our students at both the Julian Center and Dayspring Center. Additionally, they led a backpack and gift card drive as a part of our 2014 #FallforSOW drive that pitted corporation against corporation in the spirit of helping the children in our city who need it the most.

2015 Tutor of the Year: Rita Novak
A former teacher, Rita believes we are all lifelong learners and has been a tutor since 2009. Rita goes above and beyond as a tutor and engages her family members as tutors, supporters and volunteers. She arranges field trips for our students and tutors at THREE locations every week.

2015 Education Champion: Dustin Ecker
The Education Champion award recognizes an individual who has devoted his or her time, expertise and focus in supporting youth and championing education. Individuals recognized for this award are nominated by community members in Indiana.

Dustin Ecker is a 2010 graduate of IUPUI and is currently a 4th grade teacher at Grassy Creek Elementary School in Warren Township. As a teacher, Dustin strives to reach out to families and build relationships that will extend beyond the classroom. Dustin works year round to engage the entire family in his students’ academic success with impressive results. Dustin received a $1,000 award that will benefit the students with whom he works.

SoW-CE15-PRV160School on Wheels youngest supporters were also honored at the event. Chase, a tutor for the past two years, and Robbie, who has donated his birthday for the past three years to raise supplies and support for our students, are amazing examples of how kids in our city are giving back in big ways. Emcee Rafael Sanchez even managed to get a picture with these young philanthropists.

Thank you, again, to everyone who attended the event and helped us celebrate education and the accomplishments of our students, donors, corporate partners and community members. With your generosity, we were able to raise over $200,000 to support the academic intervention programs that assist Indianapolis’ most vulnerable children.

Your support helps kids like Abby, a fifth grade student who was failing two classes during the first quarter this school year. But by quarter two, she raised her grades and is now passing all classes. Within one school semester, her GPA has increased from a 1.2 to a 2.3 and she continues to work hard and attend tutoring every week.

And your support helps kids like Danny, who has attended over 120 School on Wheels tutoring sessions in the past year and a half. In that time he has improved his grades from straight Cs to now all As and Bs. This second grader currently has a 3.5 GPA, has Outstanding behavior, and has 100% perfect attendance so far this school year.

Thanks to our sponsors for helping make this event possible:

Thanks to our Sponsors!

The Education Celebration may be over, but there are many ways you can get involved! Make a contribution to help us provide programs to more students like Abby and Danny or apply to tutor next school year!