A Message from SOWMA Board Chair Christopher Murphy
January 4, 2021

Welcome Steve Telesmanick

Dear Friends of SOWMA,

It is my pleasure to announce Steven Telesmanick as the new Chief Executive Officer for School on Wheels of Massachusetts, effective January 4, 2021. 

The Board and I are excited to welcome Steve to the team.  His experience and skills will be a great asset as we continue to pursue our mission to Educate Kids, Empower Families and End Homelessness - one child at a time.

Steve received a Bachelor of Science in Business and an MBA in Organizational Leadership from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, RI. He began his career at Marriott International Hospitality Company, where he held a number of roles.  While there, Steve became engaged with Marriott’s volunteer initiatives, most notably with the local YMCA.   

Volunteering at the YMCA led Steve to transition to the nonprofit sector.  He became the Executive Director of Boston’s Charlestown YMCA site.   One chief responsibility was overseeing the Dennis McLaughlin House, a shelter for women and families experiencing homelessness. Steve developed and implemented services designed to foster independence and self-sufficiency for the women & families in the shelter.

Steve later became the Chief Operating Officer at YMCA location on Cape Cod, where he helped open new youth programs.

Steve lives in Whitman with his wife Mary (an educator) and their two school-aged sons, Mason & Michael.  Steve & his family have a Shih Tzu named Remy and enjoy participating in local youth sports, family cycling, and volunteering in the community.

We are confident Steve will help strengthen our mission and meet the growing need to support the academic, social, and emotional growth of students impacted by homelessness.

I would like to thank the members of SOWMA's Board of Directors, who assisted with the extensive search, including conducting more than 30 interviews during this most trying of times.  I would also like thank the staff and Board for their support during my brief reign as Interim CEO.  They kept SOWMA operating without skipping a beat during this transition period. 

Good luck Steve.  

Warm regards,

Christopher Murphy

SOWMA Board Chair






In a year riddled with challenges brought on by COVID-19 and remote learning, especially for families and students facing homelessness, School on Wheels of Massachusetts (SOWMA) pivoted to meet a growing need for educational services.  Since the onset of the pandemic, we have recalibrated programs, reconfigured partnerships and recently appointed new Board Members and Officers to meet the growing educational needs for the state’s most vulnerable children and youth.   

This year SOWMA's services have become more important than ever.  The need for personal tutoring, high school and college mentoring and grade-level customized backpacks for Massachusetts students impacted by homelessness peaked during 2020.  More students now live in family shelters, transitional housing or in the case of older unaccompanied youth, “couch surf” with friends or relatives.  

When social-distancing mandates began in March, tutoring turned remote and children living in family shelters lost the personal weekly visits of volunteers.  Restrictions further cancelled more than 120 business and group annual school supply drives, interrupting the inventory necessary to continue serving more than 6,000 students in need.  College students displaced from dorms needed immediate safe and affordable housing.

SOWMA didn’t miss a beat. 

We purchased Chromebooks for tutoring, made possible by generous donors and a matching grant.  Families, neighborhoods and businesses sought creative ways to not only meet, but exceed the growing demand for new grade-level backpacks and inventory.  Donors, a generous public and staff members opened their doors and hearts to college students in need of temporary refuge. 

SOWMA is poised to continue to meet the growing demand for academic, social and emotional support to some of the state’s 24,000 children and youth facing homelessness.  Newly appointed Board members and Officers bring an array of professional expertise into the New Year to help ensure the state’s most vulnerable students have what they need to succeed in school. 

Spearheading these initiatives is a new Chief Executive Officer, to be announced in January.  We welcome our new stewards, who have generously pledged their time, expertise and heart to ensure our mission continues to gain momentum into 2021 and beyond, without missing a beat.  


Jordan called a local shelter home for many years after living on the streets and "couch surfing." He was 16.  He dreamed of one day using his talents and passion to become self-sufficient, yet kept those dreams to himself. Jordan had suffered years of depression, anxiety and hopelessness. He said he found solace at the shelter for the homeless as it "took me away from my problems."

A few months into the COVID-19 pandemic, Jordan was introduced to SOWMA's Bridge Program and his now Mentor Jim Whalen. His case manager first visited our office for academic materials and a writing journal to help Jordan collect his thoughts.

It was there he met Bridge Program Director Jonathan Vincent, who heard his story and soon introduced him to a business executive turned SOWMA Mentor, Jim Whalen. Jim's first words to the reticent young man were, "Right now may be your past and present, but it won't be your future."

An aspiring entrepreneur with a talent for cabinet making, Jordan was quick to show Jim hidden photos of the tables, bureaus and other furniture pieces that were stored on his phone and in his dreams.  He was first introduced to woodworking at a shop class while attending a vocational high school.  His eyes widened as he eagerly described the craftsmanship and details behind each piece he has since created and stored away. 

Jim was visibly impressed. The furniture and details were stunning. He set up informational interviews with agencies such as SCORE (Service Corp of Retired Executives) and together they researched local schools that offered business courses. They began a portfolio and Jordan started full-time work at a local tool shop.

Today, the two are brainstorming company names, researching craft fairs, Etsy and other online commerce platforms. They are talking about websites, business cards and ROI, a term that sparked joy as Jordan contemplated the meaning. 

He is living in a safe, affordable apartment, playing the guitar and enrolling in online webinars.  When he begins to feel anxious, he picks up the phone and calls Jim.

"Sometimes the only thing that keeps me going is that I want to see how this movie plays out," Jordan said as he looked mischievously at his new friend Jim.  


Hats off to our 2020 Senior Volunteers! 

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