GUEST BLOGGER: Tori Dost, Framingham State University (vdost@student.framingham.edu)

 

Unbelievably, the average age of a homeless individual in the United States is eight years old. Too often, children and their families are uprooted from their homes and forced into shelter life, through no fault of their own. However, countless organizations work to ensure that these children will, one day, be able to keep themselves and their own children out of shelters and in comfortable and healthy households of their own. One such organization is School on Wheels of Massachusetts. Its four full time staff members and five hundred total volunteers work tirelessly to achieve their vision of every homeless child breaking the cycle of poverty through education.

In the turbulent life of a homeless child, this organization provides the structure and permanence that he or she needs in order to thrive. When a child or family moves from one shelter to the next, services move with them; hence the name School on Wheels. It offers two main programs to homeless youth in kindergarten through college, including a school supply and a tutoring program. Year-round volunteers prepare backpacks, summer reading bags, and holiday learning boxes, or visit local shelters to provide tutoring services to homeless youth. Both programs aim to level the playing field, putting these youth in a position to succeed.

School on Wheels serves 200 youth at 12 sites in four Massachusetts communities, and has proven that its services can open doors for homeless youth. For students like Lorenz, one such door led to a college education. He was a student at Brockton High School when his family became homeless. He and seven other family members were placed in a motel room in Somerset, MA. Lorenz traveled 50 miles to and from school each day. Eventually he chose to be closer to his school and moved into the MainSpring Men’s Shelter in Brockton, where his roommates were two to three times his age.

During this tumultuous time in his life, his guidance counselor introduced him to School on Wheels where he received mentoring and help with his college search, applications, and financial aid forms. Despite the obstacles of moving three times in one year, Lorenz graduated with good grades and perfect attendance! After graduation, he completed a year at Massasoit Community College where he made the Dean’s List. He is now at Bridgewater State University as a BSU Scholar, a competitive program that provides full-ride scholarships for qualified students impacted by homelessness.A serious and dedicated student, he is beating the odds because of his personal commitment to his education and the on-going support and mentoring he receives from School on Wheels.

It is the bright futures of individuals like Lorenz that prove just how far a new backpack and the encouragement of a tutor and mentor can take a child. With the help of School on Wheels of Massachusetts, hundreds more children are able to take that journey.