Hats off to our 2017 graduates!



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. 


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! 


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. 


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.

 Ana and Beth take a break at Bridgewater State University.



Ana met Beth eight years ago at School on Wheels during her sophomore year at Brockton High School. Ana had just arrived from Cape Verde speaking only Portuguese. She was homeless, pregnant and overwhelmed.

It was at the Family Life Center in Brockton, a transitional housing site where she was staying with her sister, that Ana met SOWMA tutor Beth. The two began a journey that changed the future of not only this expectant new mom - but her daughter as well.


Pegasystems (Cambridge) has held summer backpack drives since 2004 to help children in need have the tools they need to be ready for school. This year, School on Wheels of Massachusetts was fortunate to be chosen as the recipient of their school supply drive for a second year in a row. For children impacted by homelessness, with so little to call their own, a new backpack is a treasured gift.  Pegasystems' generous staff and goodwill allow students who have lost their homes to have the same quality supplies as their peers to start the school year.  

More than 100 Pega employees lovingly filled high quality new backpacks with everything our students need to go back to school, including calculators, notebooks, binders, highlighters, new books and a fresh start.

This year we received:

  • 178 high quality backpacks filled with high quality school supplies
  • 50 state-of-the-art calculators 
  • Six laptops to help our college students register for classes and complete course assignments
  • One kindle for a tutoring site to encourage the love for reading

We are excited to announce that 125 backpacks that Pegasystems donated have been given to Rosie’s place, a women’s and children’s shelter in Boston. “It’s our hope that these donations will help to bring confidence and motivation to the students who receive them,” said Laura Starr-Houghton, who is the Senior Director of Pegasystems. 

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