Backpacks were replaced by SOWMA's Summer Reading Bags this week as more than 280 students  bid adieu to homework in exchange for summer break -
and the scene was bittersweet.

Our eighteen tutoring sites were ripe with fresh fruit, pizza and ice cream to mark the end of another wonderful year of academic achievement.

Thank you to our volunteer tutors, program partners and sponsors like Wells Fargo, all of whom are paving the way for a brighter future for kids. 

"Here in Massachusetts, we want to help support the needs of our neighbors and ensure youth in need have access to tutoring, mentoring and
educational opportunities," said Briana Curran, VP, Community Relations and Communications for Wells Fargo.

Celebrating our volunteers with a shout out to a few in 2019!  

We were honored to celebrate our many outstanding volunteers at an awards ceremony recently, courtesy of the Fine Arts Cafe of Brockton,
a catering venue at Brockton High School where food is prepared and served by the students.  

Mr. "Quack" authored this piece about his work as a SOWMA tutor.

by Kevin Quackenbush
SOWMA tutor

His small size belied the enormous energy he brought into the room. He arrived to work on his homework and read a bit before selecting one of the many games and learning activities that peppered the shelves.

Ja’Mai’s mom made that game plan clear to him upon arrival.  Still, his nature was to immediately investigate everything and everyone in the room and engage with them. Homework was low on his personal agenda.  

At our first meeting my goal was simply to establish a rapport with Ja’Mai. In that effort I had a leg up as my name tag read, ‘Ask Quack.’  We enjoyed a few minutes of the usual reaction over the name … initial disbelief, eventual acceptance and then introducing me to kids near and far as he bellowed “Quack.”  Instantly I became known as "Mr. Quack." Each week thereafter my arrival to the Conway House was heralded with a chorus of “Mr. Quack” from the kids.

Mia Adams is a high school student and member of a School on Wheels Club at her school. She spends her evenings tutoring children.  Mia is being mentored by SOWMA board member and tutor Carol Augustyniak Marcus.  Mia wrote this piece for "The Daily Olivian," the official newspaper of Oliver Ames High School.  

This matters to me. And I hope it will matter to other students too. Last year I started tutoring homeless children for School on Wheels, and it truly changed my life. But there was one instance that affected me the most and left me with the most rewarding feeling I have ever experienced in my life. After my third or fourth week of tutoring one fifth-grade girl, I thought she would like some additional school supplies. Before the next session, I put together pencil cases full of all new school supplies for her and her two younger siblings. Filling the pencil cases for the children was just an instinct for me, and I didn’t think that deeply into it.

The Doctors are "IN!"

Tutors David Peretti and David Grimm

...met at Tufts University as graduate students in the biomedical science program.  When they graduated last May, 2018, they began the arduous process of applying to dental (David P.) and medical school (David G.).  

One night last summer, as they listened to David’s mom talk about her experience as a longtime SOWMA tutor, an epiphany struck.  Leslie Dougherty described the many ways in which her life has been enriched by the students she meets each week at a family shelter in Brockton.  Her anecdotal stories resonated deeply and by the time dessert was served that hot summer night, they each decided to begin tutoring this fall in Brockton, travelling from Boston every Monday night to help a student with homework.

Three months later we asked,  What’s your favorite part of tutoring?  

David G:  

“I like building a relationship with the kids.  It starts small and we’re strangers, but every session their smiles get a little bigger when we greet.” 

David P: 

“After being immersed in microbiology, biochemistry, immunology and all those other “ologies,” it’s nice to just come here and spell!”  

“The two Davids are the probably the funnest helpers,” said Antoine.  “They showed me math and it’s kind of easy.”  

Hats off to these two aspiring doctors, who prescribe all the right medicine every Monday night. 

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A message from Executive Director, Kathleen Graham

Our staff meetings begin with each of us describing a recent “mission moment.”  These exchanges range from a staffer who described welcoming 8-year-old twins, who arrived carrying new backpacks they gathered in lieu of birthday gifts, to another recalling the expression of a young girl who tried unsuccessfully to hold back tears as she was handed school materials sporting her favorite color or Disney theme.  Always there's a heartwarming story from a tutor or mentor, whose student has just begun to read on his own - or who recently passed the GED.  

My mission moments were plentiful during a recent School on Wheels opening at Pilgrim’s Hope, one of our new tutoring locations in Plymouth, Massachusetts.  It was I who held back tears as 6thgrader Mollie opened her new backpack and tore through the freshly-packaged contents in search of the gem – her new reading book.  Mollie shrieked with delight as she pulled out the popular “A Fault in Our Stars.”  Her mother was equally excited and pointed out that her eldest daughter had recently begun reading that very book, but had to return it to the local library just as she neared the middle of the story.  

Mollie was one of more than a dozen children who, together with their parents, joined us on this summer night in Plymouth to learn about our work, receive school materials, and sign up for our one-on-one tutoring program. Registration took place in a bright and cheerful education room at the place these children call home.  Suzanne Giovanetti, CEO of the Plymouth Area Coalition for the Homeless, welcomed School on Wheels staff and helped usher in the trunk-load of customized backpacks labeled with each child’s name and grade and packaged accordingly.  

Another mission moment surfaced that night during the dedication of the School on Wheels' Jennifer Kane Memorial Lending Library, namesake of the Plymouth resident who lost her life on September 11, 2001 while working in the World Trade Center in New York.  This Lending Library is brimming with new books, courtesy of Scholastic Books and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt - and sponsored by Jennifer’s parents, George and Faye Kane.   “A is for America” is tonight’s book of honor, a loving tribute to the Kane family and presented to the Lending Library by longtime friends of the Kane’s, Pat and Michael Sullivan.  Jennifer Kane, Pat explained, was an avid reader and strong proponent of literacy - and she was the first to lend a hand to a child in need.  It was a fitting tribute.

Soon the children are scattered about the floor, eagerly exchanging colored notebooks and pencil cases reminiscent of my own childhood exchanges of Snickers and Skittles on Halloween night.   

It’s mission moments like these where I find myself saluting sponsors like the Stratford Foundation, the Blue Hills Bank Foundation, Cape Cod 5 Foundation, the United Way of Greater Plymouth County - and you - who collectively helped to make this community a new home for School on Wheels.  

Thank you! 

Below:  Children exchange treasures, Suzanne Giovanetti with Kathleen Graham, and Pat and Michael Sullivan, a parent registers for tutoring, the Jennifer L. Kane Lending Library.  


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