Guest Post: Help us Share the Love!

Guest Post: Help us Share the Love!

Posted February 25th, 2015 by Kris Chaney with No Comments

In honor of the last few days of the School on Wheels Share the Love Campaign, Kris Chaney, Volunteer Chair for Share the Love, shares his insights on the campaign so far and why he dedicates so much time and effort to School on Wheels.

More than 5,000 children experience homelessness in Marion County each year. School on Wheels relies solely on the donations of people’s time and financial resources to provide tutoring and academic intervention for these children throughout the year. As a result, advocates such as myself and other volunteers and donors, are participating in the Share the Love Campaign. This fundraising and awareness event harnesses the collective power of our community to help break the cycle of homelessness through education.

Kris ChaneyIn my ten years as a tutor with School on Wheels, I have seen my share of both heartbreaking and inspiring stories. It truly is incredible to see the difference that one tutor can make for one child in the span of just one hour. It is a weekly thing to see a young boy or girl come into the room for the tutoring hour (or “Homework Club”, as the kids call it) completely shut down – angry, upset, frustrated – you name it. But with just a few encouraging words and a little persistence, by the end of the hour, the child is fully engaged, having gained renewed confidence in his or her abilities. All a result of one person sharing his or her love – showing the child that he or she is important and that someone cares.

Please consider coming on board and helping out with this campaign. School on Wheels is a phenomenal organization, and with your support, we will reach our ultimate goal of breaking the cycle of homelessness in Indianapolis. And every dollar raised in February is matched, doubling the impact of your gift.

Plus, if we meet our goal of $10,000, not only are we a step closer to meeting the extraordinary needs of the children School on Wheels serves, but the kids at each site will get treated to a celebratory pizza party!

UPDATE: We’re less than $1,000 away – will you join us in the campaign today? Donate now or learn more about why others support School on Wheels.

Guest Post: What is an Education Champion?

Posted February 18th, 2015 by Maggie Stevens with No Comments

Maggie Stevens, today’s guest blogger, serves as the Director for Program Development and Undergraduate Studies in the School for Adult Learning at the University of Indianapolis. In this role and in others she has filled before, she has worked hard to celebrate service and all of the contributions that individuals bring to the table. She is also a member and former chair of the ServeIndiana State Commission and a member of the United Way of Central Indiana’s Volunteer Engagement Committee. Maggie’s commitment to the community and education have led her to serve as a School on Wheels Education Champion judge for the last two years.

This spring, for the third time, School on Wheels will honor an outstanding Education Champion, and for the third time, I will have the honor of reading nominations of some outstanding and dedicated individuals from our community.

While the person named Education Champion will be honored at a celebratory dinner and receive $1,000 to put toward their programs, this recognition is bigger than one person, one night and one check.

The Education Champion Award is a reminder that it takes all of us to educate the children in our communities. It is not only the classroom teacher or school principal who champions for our kids, but also the school bus driver, the camp counselor, the coach, the after school care provider, the tutor, the social worker or the doctor who helps our curious, adventurous, inspiring kids become strong, confident, productive adults.

So who do you know that champions education for you, for your kids or for the kids in your neighborhood? Honor that person and nominate them as an Education Champion. It’s a way to recognize the gifts that they share with our communities and our kids. It’s a way to say thank you to someone who is working for all of us. It’s a way for all of us to be inspired by and reminded of all of those who are champions for our kids.

Inspired to nominate the Education Champion in your life? Learn more about the Education Champion award or nominate your own Champion today! Nominations are due Monday, February 23rd.

Meet the Staff: Samantha Breeling

Posted February 11th, 2015 by Shalyn 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 Samantha Breeling, our Volunteer Coordinator, as part of our #SharetheLoveIndy volunteer fundraising campaign.

Samantha is probably one of the most well-known School on Wheels staff members as she interacts with all of our volunteers – but there are definitely a few fun facts that you don’t know about her and the amount of time she spends behind-the-scenes working with all of our tutors! Read on to learn more about our fearless Volunteer Coordinator.

Sam Main 1SamanthaSam Main 2

What is your role at School on Wheels?
As Volunteer Coordinator, I am in charge of recruiting, screening, scheduling, training and managing our volunteers.

What did you do before you came here?
I was in college. I went to school at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and obtained my undergraduate degree in sociology with a minor in psychology.

Why did you decide to join the School on Wheels team?
I was interviewing for numerous AmeriCorps VISTA positions, all focusing on working with underserved youth. I spoke to a lot of organizations but really connected with the mission and the people who I spoke with at School on Wheels. I also grew up about 2 hours northwest of Indy in Illinois and wanted to stay close to my family. It was a no-brainer!

What’s your favorite thing about your job?
Aside from our amazing staff, I get to interact and work with over 400 people in our community each year who are passionate about our kids. Our volunteers are selfless, caring, and truly amazing people. It is easy to get bogged down with the news always reporting on the horrible happenings all over the world. Working with our volunteers each day really restores my faith in humanity, and that’s important!

What’s one thing that people would be surprised to know about you?
I love sleeping! I can sleep 12 straight hours, wake up for an hour and then take a two hour nap. Sleep truly makes me a better person.

Can you explain the application and vetting process that volunteers experience before being able to tutor?
A person who is interested in becoming a volunteer first must fill out our online tutor application. I receive the application via email and set up a short phone interview. During the interview, I learn a little bit about the volunteer, where they have volunteered previously and why they are interested in helping our organization. We also talk about which tutoring location, day and time works best for them and I tentatively put them on the tutoring schedule. We do two reference checks – a personal and a professional, and we also do a criminal background check. Once everything comes back clear, every new tutor must attend our two and a half hour tutor training. After they have been trained, they are cleared to start tutoring on their weekly schedule!

In all, it takes about four hours to interview, vet and train every new volunteer. Each school year, we train, on average, about 200 new volunteers! It takes quite a bit of time but the thorough process makes sure we are bringing  amazing, well-prepared tutors to work with our students – so it’s worth it.

Did you love learning more about Samantha? Check out other Meet the Staff blog posts. Want to get more involved and help the kids we serve? Apply to volunteer or learn more about our #SharetheLoveIndy campaign.

Share the Love Kickoff!

Posted February 3rd, 2015 by Claire with No Comments

Our volunteers are some of the best people we know and so we were thrilled to spend an evening with many of them last week as we kicked off the 2015 Share the Love campaign. We enjoyed watching our tutors bond over shared stories about working with our kids and why they are so passionate about giving back to our community a meaningful way. These volunteers spent the evening getting to know one another outside of tutoring, writing encouraging notes to our students for ISTEP testing and learning more about how to bring greater community awareness to the mission of School on Wheels.

Check out the rest of the photos from the event on our Facebook page!

We are so thankful for our amazing volunteers and the bonds they’ve formed through volunteering with us. We can’t wait to see the impact they have during February as they help us Share the Love. You can help multiply their impact by joining us this month as well! In fact, all gifts donated in February are matched, doubling your impact. It takes a whole community to break the cycle of homelessness through education.

Learn more about the campaign by checking out our website or watching a video about how you can get involved!

Donate nowSend a ValentineTweet about it!

International Creativity Month: All About Marth

Posted January 28th, 2015 by Kris Hurst with No Comments

If you’ve listened to the news lately, you’ve probably heard of STEM. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education. This is being incorporated into classroom curriculum and after school programs around the world. Add an ‘A’ for Art to this acronym and you get STEAM. STEAM is a movement that recognizes the importance of creativity and innovation in these fields.

At School on Wheels, we added an ‘r’ to Math to create a program called MartH. MartH uses curriculum-based projects involving art to support math skills being taught in the classroom. The program is currently available to 4th grade students experiencing homelessness at Washington Irving School 14 during their lunchtime on Wednesday afternoons. Our projects review concepts including angles, lines, linear measurement, fractions, multiplication, symmetry, area and perimeter. We study artists, paint, draw and create 3-D structures – we’ve even worked with needles and thread to produce fiber art and have used candy corn as a medium to make repeating equilateral triangles.

Student art based on Mondrain's workGroup shot of all student art

For a recent project, we studied the artist Piet Mondrian whose work includes many paintings that include right angles and primary colors. Using what they learned, students then created right, acute and obtuse angles on a canvas using tape, and painted the exposed areas with primary colors. The kids added designs to their work in the form of points, angles, parallel and perpendicular lines.


In another project, the kids worked together to design a group piece using flat colored paper that fit together forming repeated straight lines that create a curve called a hyperbolic paraboloid. We studied pictures of the Sydney Opera house in Australia that incorporates these curves for its roof. The Pringles chip is also molded in this shape, and we had fun snacking on hyperbolic paraboloids.

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Hopefully, you can see by these examples that I try to make these lessons both fun and educational. Even though the projects involve math, which tends to have right and wrong answers, we find in art that there are multiple solutions to projects. We can use rules in math to create an infinite number of designs and art to generate new ways of looking at things. I am truly passionate about art and value creative ideas and expression. I also believe, as many in the STEAM movement do, that creativity is a vital part of achieving success in any field. I hope that, by participating in the MartH program, the kids I work with are able to find and value creativity in themselves.

Want to learn more about our curriculum-based programs like MartH? Click here!