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Supporting School on Wheels of Massachusetts
Friday, December 15, 2017 / 9am to 9pm
Derby Street Location, Hingham, MA
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Letter from Lindsay Opper to her mom, Cheryl Opper, founder and executive director,
School on Wheels of Massachusetts
November 16, 2017

In 9th grade, my mom brought in a new family member to live with us: School on Wheels of MA (SOWMA). After school, I would get off the bus and come home to backpack supplies dropped off on our front porch, a basement that looked like a CVS and various people gathered around our kitchen table. Many of nights I would walk downstairs to turn off the living room tv (located directly below my bedroom).

The living room was where my mom continued to work on grants & other important SOWMA materials late into the night. It become a nightly ritual for me to come downstairs and turn off Tom Bergeren’s booming voice as he announced the next Dancing With The Stars contestant eliminated. I then would clear the Lean Cuisine from the coffee table, remove my mom’s glasses from her sleeping face & set her laptop aside. Never once did my mom wake up the next day and complain about her massive workload or how tired she felt. Instead she would wake up re-energized. Ready to go out and be a voice for the kids.

 
Dear SOWMA friends and supporters, 
 
As many of you have heard by now, I will be retiring next June as Executive Director of School on Wheels of Massachusetts. This was a very difficult decision for me to make, since School on Wheels has been a huge part of my "heart and soul" for the past 14 years.  
 
It has been an honor and privilege to partner with you to serve our students and families. Our growth and students' success would not be possible without you. Thank you!!!
 
I notified our board over a year ago that I would be retiring in June 2018 so we could ensure a smooth and healthy transition for our organization. Our Board Chair, Chris Murphy, is leading the charge with the full support of our board members and key community stakeholders.  After retiring, I plan on helping unaccompanied homeless youth have a safe place to live while pursuing their education. 
 
Unaccompanied youth are young adults on their own without parent or guardian support. While School on Wheels serves these students in supporting their education, I  want to focus my time on finding housing solutions for them on the South Shore. Right now we have students living in cars, on the streets, and in adult shelters because we have no other housing options available for them in our area.  This is unacceptable and must change!!  
 
School on Wheels will continue to expand to provide high quality tutoring and mentoring services for more students in grades K- college under a new leader, and with the help and support of our amazing staff and dedicated volunteers. We will also continue to prepare and deliver thousands of new customized backpacks to children in our state who need assistance.  School on Wheels is not changing any of their services; in fact they are strengthening the quality of their trainings for volunteers, their academic services and resources, and infrastructure to launch a future expansion.
 
Please be assured, I will always wholeheartedly support the mission of School on Wheels as well as the children and families we serve.  I hope I can count on your continued support for School on Wheels as we grow our programs to serve more students in our state.  Together we can make a true impact in the lives of others!  What's more important than helping a child feel important, safe and valued? 
 
With heartfelt gratitude and appreciation,
 
 
Cheryl
 

Hats off to our 2017 graduates!

Lorenz

Lorenz 

Lorenz graduated with perfect attendance from Brockton High School despite overwhelming odds.  With the help of his SOWMA tutors and his undeterred focus, he went on to Massasoit Community College, where he graduated with honors.  Lorenz was nominated by SOWMA for the Bridgewater State University Scholar's Program.   Last month he was presented with his diploma, and BSU's prestigious "Award for Student Excellence," given for outstanding scholastic and extra curricular activities.  Read about Lorenz and School on Wheels here as Beverly Beckham captures his story - and SOWMA's - in a Boston Globe feature. 


SadieSade

Four years ago Sade arrived at the Elms College School of Nursing, nervous but excited to begin her college career.  Sade recalls walking into her dorm room with SOWMA founder and executive director Cheryl Opper, who was carrying dorm supplies and setting her up in a place she'd call home for the next four years.  Diploma in hand, Sade's now studying for her nursing boards and looking forward to a career that blends her commitment to caring for others with her new-found scientific knowledge.  Congrats to Sade! 


LucnaliLucnaliE

Lucnalie is the consummate role model for her younger sister, Lovely.  A 2017 graduate of Massasoit Community College, Lucnalie this fall will continue her education at University of Massachusetts Amherst majoring in biology.  Lucnalie and her siblings lost their mother at a young age and were raised in foster care.  Despite hardships, Lucnalie is determined to blaze a trail for her siblings to lead them to a brighter future through education and hard work. 


NicoleNicole  

Shortly after the Boston Marathon bombings, Nicole and her family found themselves giving up an affordable housing opportunity in order to accommodate a victim of the bombings.  Faced with homelessness, Nicole reached out to SOWMA after seeing a Facebook post about educational support and asked for help.  She was placed with a volunteer mentor, given customized school supplies, and taught the skills she needed to stay focused on her education.   Today Nicole is the proud recipient of a college degree from Bridgewater State University.  Read more about Nicole on NECN's feature here.  

For three years Adie has set aside one evening a week to take her four children to SOWMA's tutoring site at the  Crescent Credit Union Learning Center in Brockton.  The Center opened its doors to School on Wheels in 2014 to accommodate families in transition. There, each of Adie's children settles in with a familiar face: a School on Wheels tutor ready to review the week's academic progress and assignments.

 By Jillian Smith

SOWMA Education Coordinator 

What do you do with an hour?

That's one re-run of "Law and Order: SVU." That's how long I sit on the couch and scroll through Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and then back to Instagram, repeat. That's how long it takes me to completely fall asleep in between the thoughts of the day and ticking of my to-do list. It's four times the amount of time it takes me to get a coffee every day. It's two times the amount of time that it takes me to get ready in the morning. When I was a student, one hour felt like an eternity when I was sitting in class but when I was catching up with friends at the dining hall, the hours seemed to fly by.

I work at School on Wheels of Massachusetts, an organization that I discovered while I attended Stonehill College. They asked my classes if anyone could volunteer to be a tutor. The commitment? One hour each week.

SOWMA Executive Director Cheryl Opper with Zachary as he responds to a standing ovation after speaking at the Open the Door Gala 

Read Zachary's story as told by the Brockton Enterprise:  

 Zachary's speech delivered at the Open the Door gala on November 17, 2016 

               Good evening everyone. First, thank you for being here at such a wonderful event commemorating School on Wheels, an organization that has helped give those in need such great opportunities to succeed in their education. Of course, I myself would be one of those people.

             Let me begin by saying homelessness is not something we all imagine so accurately. Many would not imagine a child when hearing the phrase, “homeless person.” However, the situations surrounding this are all too real and serious. One of the most saddening things is that it tends to occur at no fault of the child, in situations they cannot control. That being said, I would like to share my story, my struggles, and my rising prosperity with the audience tonight, with the many opportunities and the support I have gratefully been given.

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School on Wheels - MA
100 Laurel Street
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East Bridgewater, Massachusetts 02333

508.587.9091

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