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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Kids helping Kids is growing part of SOWMA’s work.  Student volunteers of all ages bring their passion and talents to SOWMA to help those less fortunate.  Kids Helping Kids fosters leadership skills and builds community service and connection. That’s exactly what Isabel (“Izzie”) Berkenblit decided to do as part of her Bat Mitzvah project.

Izzie decided to support School on Wheels’ students through what she named the “Izzie Project.”  She combined her love for sewing with her passion for helping children and made custom-designed pillowcases for our students.  She turned to her Girl Scout troop for help – and received donated material from friend Robin Salvas, pictured above.  Izzie and her newly created team donated more than 200 pillowcases for children experiencing homelessness.

Catherine Duncan was honored at the New Year's Eve Patriots game as being the “volunteer of the year” by the New England Patriots and was presented a check for $5,000 to School on Wheels of Massachusetts by Robert Kraft.  She was honored for her work tutoring with School on Wheels of Massachusetts.

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,
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United Way of Greater Plymouth County

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School on Wheels - MA
100 Laurel Street
Suite 121
East Bridgewater, Massachusetts 02333


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