UCSB School on Wheels Tutors Homeless Youth Online

Photo Courtesy of School on Wheels

Lane Riddle

Contributing Writer

This spring, an organization called School on Wheels, a non-profit organization dedicated to tutoring children experiencing homelessness in California, opened a chapter at UC Santa Barbara (UCSB). The UCSB School on Wheels chapter offers one-on-one tutoring, digital learning access, scholarships, and school supplies to homeless youth in the Santa Barbara area. 

President of the club, Katherine Dang, is a third-year UCSB student and has been tutoring with School on Wheels since last fall. 

“I thought it would be a great opportunity to share with other UCSB students and I felt that the best way to do that was to make an organization,” Dang said. 

Dang then reached out to other UCSB student tutors, including Nathan Kang, Iman Adibi, and Dylan Choi, to start the club. The four now make up the executive board for the UCSB School on Wheels chapter.

School on Wheels tutors work with children in grades K-12 for at least one hour a week. Tutoring also continues over the summer because it is “the best time for students to catch up and refresh,” Kang explained. Not only are tutors helping with homework, but they are also providing students with a reliable and consistent mentor. 

The official goal of UCSB School on Wheels is to shrink the gaps in learning for homeless youth and provide them with the highest level of education possible. 

“As a club, we want to do more for homeless outreach in general,” said Iman Adibi when discussing the current goals of the chapter. “When you are part of the club, we want to continue the tutoring, but also do fundraisers and donations.”

Earlier this year, vice president Nathan Kang met with other School on Wheels chapters, including those at UC Los Angeles and UC Riverside. 

“We are the newest club of the four college chapters. Hopefully we can have collaborations with them, because as a new club, it’s hard to start off,” Kang said. 

“The official goal of UCSB School on Wheels is to shrink the gaps in learning for homeless youth and provide them with the highest level of education possible.”

The club hopes to plan fundraisers and engagement activities with other college chapters in the future. 

Within the School on Wheels chapter at UCSB, learning and teaching is reciprocated among tutors and students. “This club has shown us how people start from different places within the educational system and how beneficial someone being there for them can be, especially when they are experiencing something like homelessness,” said Dylan Choi. 

Choi explained how School on Wheels has also taught tutors how to deliver education in different ways, such as online. Currently, due to COVID-19, tutoring occurs fully online on a platform called Big Blue Button, which Adibi described as “a more interactive version of Zoom.” 

Choi also explained how tutoring is different for each child. “Everyone learns in their own different styles, so it is really good to learn different ways of teaching as well as how different people learn.” 

Tutors for UCSB School on Wheels are currently in the process of applying to be a tutor, attending trainings, and getting background checked. Once this two-week process is complete, tutors will be matched with a student and will begin tutoring by the end of this month. 

“I am trying to volunteer more this year. I’m pre-med and wanted to do something that serves the more underrepresented communities. I love working with kids and it seemed like a great balance between that and volunteering,” said Heather Woelk, a third-year UCSB student and first-time tutor at School on Wheels. 

The UCSB School on Wheels chapter now has over 60 tutors, who are eager and ready to start helping homeless youth in their academic careers. UCSB School on Wheels is continuing to take rolling applications through the spring 2021 quarter. To find out more details about the club or the application process, visit UCSB School on Wheels on Instagram, @sow.ucsb, or email schoolonwheelsucsb1@gmail.com.