On Monday, November 9th, six Bridgewater State University students, members of the Bridgewater Scholars Program, had dinner with BSU President Fred Clark to discuss their current progress and future plans. One student, Zachary Wright, who is studying abroad in South Korea, Skyped in to be a part of the conversation. These six SOWMA students, shared their struggles with homelessness and how BSU is helping them move beyond their circumstances through a higher education. The Bridgewater Scholars program provides two full scholarships per year for students who have experienced homelessness, yet achieved academic success.
The NECN team, students and tutors, staff, Oliver Ames High School and Stonehill College volunteers gather
for a group shot to wrap up filming of NECN’s Making the Grade segment at SOWMA’s former headquarters.
On Monday, October 19, NECN visited School on Wheels to film a Making the Grade segment featuring SOWMA tutor/student team Beth Young and Ana Lobo. Beth has tutored and mentored Ana for nearly eight years, since Ana enrolled in Brockton High School. Ana has since earned her associate’s degree from Massasoit Community College and is now pursuing a bachelor’s degree at Bridgewater State University. Ana’s nine-year-old daughter, Brianna is also a School on Wheels student, tutored by longtime SOWMA volunteer, Donald Slovin.
NECN’s Making the Grade provides a look at education-related news across New England. Morning News Anchor Brian Shactman talked with Beth and Ana to explore the impact of SOWMA’s services on the educational success of students impacted by homelessness. The interview, scheduled to air on Tuesday, November 10, focuses on the success of their academic relationship and long-term commitment to Ana’s education, and the impact of SOWMA's services on homeless students.
Brianna and her tutor, Donald Slovin, enjoying a great book together.
NECN cameraman, John Hammann shows SOWMA student Brianna how to focus the camera.
Donor generosity has made it possible for SOWMA to launch three new program sites and to enhance the quality of education for more kids in new communities who are impacted by homelessness. School on Wheels has added sites at Randolph High School and the STARR Transition House in Brockton, and expanded tutoring services into Fall River at the Roy Street Shelter.
Randolph High School
Children who live in shelter face daily challenges that others do not, like finding privacy or a quiet place to concentrate on homework, that make it difficult to focus on their education. This is why Randolph Savings Bank made the commitment to provide support and enhance educational opportunities for children impacted by homelessness in the community and enlisted other companies to follow their lead. They chose to partner with School on Wheels because of the impact SOWMA has on each and every child. “While working with their tutors the kids don’t have to think about being homeless. They have a caring adult focused on just them and they get to focus on the things kids are supposed to worry about like Math and English,” says Jim McDonough, President and CEO of Randolph Savings Bank.
With the support of local business partners, School on Wheels opened a tutoring site last year at the Randolph Community Middle School. This year SOWMA expanded the program to meet the needs of older kids at Randolph High School. The new program offers consistency to students as they move on to the higher grades. Tutoring began in October with five new students and five tutors, and SOWMA anticipates serving more children as the school year progresses.
Zachary realized the importance of education at an early age. He was raised by a single mom and his family experienced all the hardships associated with poverty, including homelessness. They lived in shelter and moved frequently. His mother passed away from cancer just before his senior year, leaving Zachary and his brother on their own. The tremendous challenges and losses he suffered strengthened his resolve to succeed academically. Throughout the chaos and instability he endured, Zachary held on tight to the one thing in his life he could control—his education.
After graduating from Brockton High School, Zachary was accepted into the Bridgewater State University Scholars Program and excelled, earning a 4.0 his first semester. The Scholars program has opened many new doors for Zachary and allowed him to spend his sophomore year studying at Kyungpook National University in Daegu, South Korea. He traveled halfway around the world to experience a new culture and to continue his education.
Zachary shared his first impressions of Daegu and the people he encountered upon his arrival. “I am finally here at my study abroad university thousands of miles away from home and my experiences so far have left me in awe,” Zachary says. “There are people from France, China, Russia, Japan, UK, Poland—so many places!” He’s thrilled with the new culinary offerings, as well, sending home photos and detailed descriptions of the wonderful dishes he’s sampled. He reports, “I will say Korean food is so, so delicious! When I leave here, I will probably miss it a lot.”
While at KNU, Zachary has a job on campus as an English Writing Center tutor, which involves helping Korean students with their English essay writing assignments. He’s excited about this opportunity to connect, get involved and make friends on campus.
Zachary draws strength from the support of those who have had faith in him and helped him “open the door” to his future. He writes home to tell us, “I don't really know how to describe how amazing it feels to be here, but I haven't even experienced all there is yet, and I have a lot of time left to make the most of it. Many great things await!”