Did you know that of the over 21,000 homeless children in Massachusetts, only one in four will graduate high school? With basic needs not being met and constantly moving around from community to community, it can be difficult for them to get a quality education. School on Wheels, a non-profit based out of Bridgewater, MA, is working to give these students a fighting chance at a successful future.
Originally started in California, School on Wheels was brought to Massachusetts in 2004 by teacher and child advocate Cheryl Opper after being inspired by the foundation’s mission. Cheryl began running School on Wheels Massachusetts (SOWMA) out of her own home in Easton, training tutors at her kitchen table and filling her basement with donated school supplies. Today, the organization runs out of 18 program sites and has three main programs:
- Tutoring and Mentoring
School on Wheels recruits and trains volunteers who provide weekly one-on-one tutoring and mentoring to students grades K-12. They work on reinforcing grade level learning skills, school projects, and boosting the child’s confidence, both academically and socially. SOWMA tutors work with 280 students per week.
- Backpacks and School Supplies
It’s difficult to succeed in school without the right tools. That’s why SOWMA provides a brand new backpack filled with books and supplies to every student. These materials are collected throughout the year through donations and fundraising drives. Last year alone, 2,892 children across Massachusetts received new backpacks.
- High School Plus
Graduating high school is a tremendous accomplishment for students who are homeless, but SOWMA is determined to inspire students to continue their educations. High School Plus is a program designed to help their students stay engaged in their education and pursue a college degree or vocational certificate. The program offers tutoring, assistance with SAT/ACT registration and the college application process, and much more. This program places special emphasis on “unaccompanied youth,” students aged 16-22 who are not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian. These students account for more than 50% of those enrolled in the High School Plus program. As of June 2018, the program has a graduation rate of 100% and currently has 44 students enrolled in college across New England.
School on Wheels operates out of 18 sites in 11 different Massachusetts communities including Attleboro, Brockton, Dorchester, Fall River, Middleboro, New Bedford, Norwell, Plymouth/Kingston, Stoughton, Taunton and Weymouth. Because all of their tutors are volunteers and they look to donations, both monetary and of school supplies, to support their programs, they rely heavily on the kindness of others. If you’re interested in finding out more about how you can get involved, click HERE.