Scrutinizing consumer reports for the perfect backpack. Eagerly awaiting your child’s classroom and teacher assignment. Turning bargain shopping for school supplies into an artform. Yes, getting the kids off to school can be stressful, but it is typically a really exciting time for a family--a time of anticipation, new beginnings, and hope for the future.
Now imagine not knowing how you will ever afford a backpack or school supplies. Imagine not knowing which school your child will attend because you aren’t sure where you will sleep tonight. Unfortunately, this is the reality for nearly 5,000 homeless students in Indianapolis. The barriers and challenges facing homeless students can be incredibly overwhelming, but there is one local organization trying very hard to erase some of those barriers.
For the past 15 years, School on Wheels has been striving to provide one on one tutoring and educational advocacy for school-aged children impacted by homelessness. The non-profit, founded by Sally Bindley, serves as a “homework club” for some of the city’s most vulnerable students and also assists with backpacks, uniforms, and other educational needs. School on Wheels also assists the parents of homeless students who face their own host of challenges, and tries to empower them to be their child’s best educational advocate.
In the organization's first year, they were able to tutor at one shelter and reach about 50 students. This past year, however, School on Wheels operated in 13 partner locations and served just under 430 students. That kind of reach relies heavily on volunteerism. “We couldn’t operate without volunteers”, said Volunteer Manager Samantha Breeling, “They are the heart and soul of what we do. They are the wheels on the school of wheels.” Volunteers can serve as volunteer tutors but also in administrative and support roles. This is an opportunity for the whole family to get involved. Children ages 11-13 are allowed to volunteer along with their parent or guardian, and children age 14 and older are allowed to volunteer alone with parental permission.
As you prepare your own family to head back to school, it is a great time to reflect on the challenges other local families may face at this time of year. If you feel fortunate enough to be in a position to help, School on Wheels wants you!
Do you have what it takes to be a volunteer?
Volunteers are asked to commit to one hour a week for one Semester. School on Wheels tries very hard to accommodate the schedules of its volunteers with tutoring shifts available during the day as well as later evenings.
Volunteers are required to submit to a background check, complete a tutor application, and participate in a short phone interview. If accepted, volunteers will attend a two and a half hour tutor training.
Complete the application here:
Not ready to volunteer yet but want to stay connected? Follow School on Wheels on social media:
Creative Media Editor
A recent transplant to the Midwest, Megan still gets excited by the first snow flurries of the season. Although her husband’s job as a private school administrator brought them to the area, Megan feels more at home in Indy every day. While she isn’t chasing after her two children or working her day job as a social worker, Megan enjoys drinking craft beer, photography, playing soccer, and fantasizing about all of the Pinterest projects she will one day complete