DREAM Alive Christmas Celebration

DREAM Alive Christmas Celebration

Posted December 17th, 2014 by Erin with No Comments

On December 8th, many of our Salvation Army Barton Center and Julian Center students and their families were treated to a night of games, activities, food, gifts and even face painting at the Colts Training Complex on Indy’s North West side. DREAM Alive, an organization that was started in 2001 by Tarik Glenn and his wife Maya, threw this amazing party. DREAM Alive, which stands for Discipline, Responsibility, Education, Achievement, and Motivation, has a goal of inspiring underserved youth and their families to pursue their dreams.  Throughout the school year we have had DREAM scholars – middle and high school students involved in DREAM Alive – come to Barton Center to work with our students there. Our students always enjoy the visits from their DREAM scholars.

The DREAM Alive Christmas Celebration is an annual opportunity for DREAM Alive scholars to give back to the community. Each year, DREAM Alive works with local organizations to choose families to assist during the Christmas season. DREAM Alive scholars are each matched with a student, who they purchase gifts for and then are able to meet during the event itself.


Before heading out to the complex for this year’s Christmas Celebration, Barton Center residents were treated to a Christmas dinner, donated by City Barbeque followed by dessert provided by board member Carol Chambers. The residents enjoyed this tasty and festive meal as they prepared to head out to the big DREAM Alive event.

sow signstadium

Once the students arrived at the complex they were paired up with their DREAM scholars who walked around with them throughout the evening. There were many fun activities for students and their scholars to participate in, including balloon twisting, a Secret Santa Shop where students could choose gifts to give their parents on Christmas Day, a spot for family photos and a fun photo booth, the Play 60 football toss and a craft table.

Colts tight end and Player Executive of DREAM Alive, Dwayne Allen, joined the kids on the field. Allen, who spoke at last year’s School on Wheels’ Education Celebration, looked like he was having a blast running around and chatting with many of the students. Based on the speech he gave at last year’s Education Celebration, it is obvious he knows how important a mentor or role model can be.

The night ended with lots of happy kids carrying a bag full of gifts, balloon animals and donated Chic-fil-A boxed dinners onto the bus and back home to Barton and Julian.

DREAM Alive is an event our kids always look forward to each year. School on Wheels is so grateful for DREAM Alive and their scholars for inviting us to their event and working throughout the school year with many of our students!

Want to learn more about ways that your organization can help School on Wheels students? Click here!

Tutor Spotlight: Rita Novak

Posted December 10th, 2014 by Samantha with No Comments

One of my favorite things about my job is recognizing our volunteers. They give so much of their time, talent and love to our children every week while asking for nothing in return. For this tutor spotlight I have chosen to honor and thank outstanding and long-time tutor, Rita Novak.

Rita and her granddaughter, Kathryn

Rita has been involved with our program since 2009. She currently volunteers two times per week at two different locations and is not only loved by our staff but more importantly, our kids!  She truly cares for our kids and is extremely dedicated.  Because Rita works very closely with two of our staff members at our tutoring locations, I thought they would be the best people to speak about her as a tutor.

Rita is a very positive presence at MartH. She is always very excited about the projects and works very closely with the student that pairs up with her. She also looks for ways for the students to get involved beyond the classroom, including visits to our local museums.” - Kris Hurst, Program Coordinator for MartH

“Rita praises the efforts of the child and she celebrates their successes. She keeps the child engaged throughout tutoring. If a break is needed, it’s taken and then the work resumes. Rita is very clear in the expectations of tutoring time. She goes above and beyond by organizing the child’s backpack and making sure they are prepared for school the next day. She also tells the child she’ll be back next week, to have a good week and the following week she will ask, for example, how their spelling test went. She has even gotten her granddaughter involved and she is now a tutor.” - Teresa Unseld, Program Coordinator for Coburn Place

The School on Wheels’ staff would like to thank Rita for being such an amazing, dedicated tutor for our kids!

Our next dedicated volunteer could be YOU! One hour a week can change two lives – yours and theirs. Apply to volunteer today!

Agriculture Comes to Tutoring!

Posted December 3rd, 2014 by Shalyn with No Comments

Over the last two months, we’ve had some very special visitors to each of our tutoring locations – science ambassadors from Dow AgroSciences! This is the third semester that they’ve visited our students during tutoring, bringing fun and engaging hands-on experiments that get our kids excited about science.

In the past, the Dow AgroSciences Science Ambassadors have guided our students through experiments focused on anything from extracting DNA from strawberries (check out more about that experiment here) to creating their very own silly putty. This semester, however, the scientists focused on a brand new topic – agriculture.

The activities:


Terrariums: After going over the basics of how plants grow, students created their very own terrariums out of 2-liter bottles. The Dow scientists brought sprouted seeds from a wide variety of fruits and vegetables (even cantaloupe) for students to plant in their terrariums after they added the necessary draining material and soil for the plants to grow.


Leaf rubbing: Students created their very own leaf rubbings to take home with them using leaves and crayons.


Seed investigation: Students used a magnifying glass to take a closer look at seeds that had been cut in half. Using a diagram, they identified each of the parts of the seed.


Colored flowers: Students observed how adding food coloring to water affected the color of carnations throughout the tutoring hour.

Our students truly loved having the Dow scientists come to visit during tutoring this fall. It’s definitely the highlight of the tutoring semester for many of our kids, which comes across in these thank you letters written to the Dow scientists – check them out:

Dow AgroSciences has been a fantastic supporter of our students in so many ways. We even have a long-time tutor (over four years!) who works as a biochemist at Dow and helps with science nights every year – Audrey Etter. It’s fantastic to have a partner like Dow that is involved in our program on so many levels.

Thank you so much for your time spent teaching our kids about science during these tutoring sessions, and for all of the support you give us throughout the year!

Does your business want to get more involved and support School on Wheels’ kids? Contact us to learn more about how you can help!

We are Thankful

Posted November 26th, 2014 by Claire with No Comments

This week of Thanksgiving is when many of us begin a season long focus on all that we have to be thankful for. At the same time, the inequities that exist in the world become magnified. For as many people who have an abundance of things for which to be thankful, just as many are in need — in need of food, shelter, a support system or even just a friend.

At School on Wheels we are so happy that we work with children who, though they lack a home to call their own, are counting all the things for which they have to be thankful. And that’s because of our amazing partners who provide shelter and meals to these children and their families. It’s because of our donors who help us develop the right curriculum for these students and allow us to spend one-on-one time with their parents so they can become fully invested in their children’s education. It’s because of our volunteers who dedicate almost 6,000 hours each school year to give these children the one-on-one tutoring support they need to succeed academically. It’s because of the teachers, the social workers, the advocates and the community members who come together and create a web of support for children and families experiencing homelessness.

Our children see these efforts put forth by the whole community and are so thankful.

thank you image

Happy Thanksgiving!

For ways to get involved and help the students we serve, find more information about becoming a volunteer tutor or donating today.

About Family Homelessness

Posted November 19th, 2014 by Laura with No Comments

This week is National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. Each year, local and national organizations host events and increase advocacy efforts to raise awareness about the problems of hunger and homelessness in the United States. It’s an opportunity for organizations to educate and inspire compassion surrounding these issues.

When I tell people that I work at School on Wheels I am often asked a variety of questions ranging from, “How can a child be homeless?” to “How can a family become homeless?” The truth is there is no one answer to these questions. Homelessness is often caused by the compounded effects of numerous experiences in one’s life.

In fact, a year or so ago I wrote a story for a presentation about a child named, “Michael” to describe those compounded effects. “Michael’s” story is not based on any one School on Wheels student, but is representative of the complexities that exist in the lives of our students and families. The following is an excerpt from the presentation:

Michael has been jumping around from home to home over the years. He comes from a single parent family with two other siblings, ages 5 and 8. Michael is only 10 years old and is definitely the man of the family.  He and his family have never really had a permanent home. As long as he can remember, he has always lived from house to house. This is quite normal for him. Throughout the years, Michael attended 6 different schools because of this transience.

Michael’s mother has a high school GED. She never had a lot of positive experiences in school. Growing up she struggled in many subjects, and was never really supported to go to school. As a child she witnessed a great deal of violence in the home. Her father often took his anger out on her mother and sadly verbal and physical abuse became a part of the norm. Unfortunately, as a teenager she found herself with a boyfriend who mimicked much of the same behavior as her father, but she ended up marrying him. When she became pregnant with Michael’s youngest sibling, she decided she wanted more for her family, divorced their father and went to live with family and friends. Her employment has been sporadic though the years, the low wages she earns just aren’t enough for her family to make it out on their own.

For the last six months Michael and his family have been living with their elderly great aunt. Their great aunt has decided that she can no longer have them stay with her. She can’t handle the additional expenses and already has a hard time taking care of her house and home without the addition of guests. Now Michael and his family have exhausted all of the extended family and friends that they could stay with over the years. Michael’s mom decides that there is no where else to go but a homeless shelter.

The National Center on Family Homelessness shares a similar message, “Family homelessness is caused by the combined effects of lack of affordable housing, extreme poverty, decreasing government supports, the challenge of raising children alone, the changing demographics of the family, domestic violence, and fractured social supports. As the gap between housing costs and income continues to widen, more and more families are at risk of homelessness. For families with vulnerabilities or little safety net, even a seemingly minor event can trigger a catastrophic outcome and catapult a family onto the streets.”

5000 kids

This week, take some time to learn more about family homelessness by visiting the links below and engage your family and friends in a conversation about its impact. When we can unify the community in understanding the complexities surrounding those living in poverty and experiencing homelessness then we may motivate more individuals to be a part of a solution.

Learn more about family homelessness:

The latest report from The National Center on Family Homelessness shows that 2.5 million child (1 in 30) go to sleep without a home of their own each year. Click here to read the full report and find out where your state ranks.

Click here and here to listen to first-hand accounts of students and families who have experienced homelessness from StoryCorps.

Click here to listen to an American Free Press podcast related to child homelessness.

Every year, the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention (CHIP) participates in a point-in-time count that reflects the extent of homelessness in Indianapolis during one night of the year. Click here to see the findings from the 2014 count.

The latest statistics from the Indiana Department of Education show that over 5,000 students experienced homelessness in Marion County in 2013. Click here to read the recent Indystar article that gives a full outline of the extent of student homelessness in Indiana.

Interested in being part of the solution to family homelessness? Apply to become a School on Wheels tutor or get involved with other local organizations that assist those experience homelessness!