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School on Wheels expands to 7th school

School on Wheels expands to 7th school

School on Wheels expands to 7th school

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — School on Wheels has expanded to its seventh school and 16th partner as it celebrates 18 years of serving students experiencing homelessness in the Indianapolis metro area.

School on Wheels began in 2001 as a group of traveling tutors, who gave extra academic attention to at-risk students in shelters, halfway homes and temporary housing. The group has since expanded to schools, offering tutoring sessions during the school day for students with insecure housing.

In the 2019-2020 school year, School on Wheels partnered with Matchbook Learning, the former Wendell Phillips IPS School #63. The K-8 school has around 600 students, and School on Wheels administrators say 52 students will take part in one-on-one tutoring sessions.

One of the group’s main goals is to help students progress to the next grade and say this past year, 98% of School on Wheels students who attended tutoring for the duration of the school year were promoted to the next grade.

“Students experiencing homelessness are eight to nine times more likely to repeat a grade. So, if we can just focus on getting kids to the next step, if they can get to the next grade, acquire the skills they need for the grade level promotion, then we’re helping contribute to increasing the graduation rate for those students,” said Kelly Coker, the vice president of programming for School on Wheels.

Since WISH-TV shared School on Wheel’s story last school year, administrators say tutor applications are on the rise, with 189 new tutors entering the program in 2018.

Tutors are expected to volunteer one hour a week at a shelter or school and do not have to have a background in education. With more than 400 tutors for its current 400 students, administrators hope for more tutor applications to allow the school to reach more children.

Jean Ford has been a tutor with School on Wheels for 10 years and says the “aha” moments on the children’s faces keeps her coming back each year.

“I think everybody thinks if you’re poor you’re not smart and these kids are just as smart as everybody else,” said Ford. “I worked with a little girl last week who’s the same age as my two grandsons and she reads just as well as they do, despite not having the advantages they have had. And I think people should know that.”

To volunteer, visit the School on Wheels website. You can also contact administrators if you know a student who may benefit from the program.