INDIANAPOLIS — Tutors typically aim to change what's on a student's report card, but School on Wheels tutors are focused on changing lives.
"We work specifically with students on the McKinney-Vento list, so students experiencing homelessness," said Karen Routt, the education director at School on Wheels.
It's a nonprofit that's celebrating its 20th year. This year they're in 20 schools helping kids in pre-kindergarten through high school reach their academic goals and stay up-to-date with schoolwork. School on Wheels has never been busier than during the pandemic.
“Economic uncertainty and job loss that our families have experienced — it has just flipped a lot of our families upside-down," said Routt.
It's also left some children falling behind in the classroom.
"It's just that extra bonus time where they get individual attention," Routt said. "Their needs are being directly heard and addressed.”
School on Wheels comes to schools where there are students experiencing homelessness. They hold individual 45-minute sessions with the students to offer personalized tutoring.
It's in schools all over Indianapolis, like Matchbook Learning at Wendell Phillips.
"Serving some of the highest poverty students in the district with some of the most challenging needs is what we do," said Dr. Amy Swann, the CEO of Matchbook Learning.
School on Wheels helped revamp the school in 2018.
"Wendell Phillips 63 was the longest failing school in the city," said Swann.
Hard work turned things around.
"It's not one of those partners that just, 'Hey, I'm going to give you a check,' or, you know, 'Hey, we're going to just give you some materials or something,'" said Swann. "They actually come in and do the work beside us."
"School on Wheels goes above and beyond," said Natalia Ramos, the director of enrollment for Matchbook Learning. "It's not only the tutoring for the students, but it's the support for the families. If a family is in need of food or any other needs, we can work with School on Wheels."
The program relies heavily on volunteers that provide.
"The relationships are what it's all about," Routt said. "The kids get to know their tutors, and it's a caring adult who comes in who can give individualized attention."
School on Wheels is currently looking for tutors and monetary donations. More information about becoming a tutor can be found online.
You don't need a background in education to be a volunteer tutor and can be as young as 14.