Q & A with Amanda Carr, Trainer/Floating Coordinator

School on Wheels, Inc.

Q: Where are you currently working and what are your main responsibilities?

A: I’m part of the volunteer engagement team at School on Wheels, which is the only nonprofit exclusively dedicated to tutoring homeless children in Southern California. My official position is trainer/floating regional coordinator; in this split position I work with volunteers in various capacities. As trainer, I am in charge of volunteer training and continuing education initiatives, including a monthly workshop series and an introductory training session. As floating regional coordinator, I assist in connecting volunteer tutors with students and communicating with parents, shelter staff, and other School on Wheels partners.

Q: How long have you worked with volunteers and how do you utilize them?

A: I’ve been working with volunteers in various capacities for over two years now. School on Wheels is a volunteer-driven organization, and we simply could not do the work we do without our talented, dedicated volunteer tutors and supporters. Our volunteers make a year-long commitment to tutor a homeless student at least once per week for one hour, and many of them tutor more often and stay with us longer–some for three, four, even ten years! But tutoring is not the only way our volunteers contribute to our organization. Some do backpack and supplies drives, others help with canvassing and outreach, and still others offer their expertise to present our monthly online workshops on tutoring tips and techniques.

Q: How were you introduced to DOVIA-LA and what do you find most beneficial?

A: I was introduced to DOVIA through a colleague, and we attended our first meeting in May–Unlocking the Mysteries of Volunteer Retention. Having the opportunity to network and share ideas with other volunteer managers in a supportive, interactive setting was such a valuable experience, and I look forward to future meetings.

Q: Will you share a memorable volunteer story?

A: Too many to choose! Our volunteers have a profound impact on the lives of the children we serve. For example, one of our second-grade students was doing work at a kindergarten level and was going to be held back from the third grade until one of our regional coordinators placed him with two personal tutors. In a matter of months, he was working at the first grade level, and the school agreed to pass him on the condition he kept receiving tutoring. He continues to improve. We highlight volunteer stories every month in our newsletter and on our website. You can read more about our June Tutors of the Month here (or by visiting this link)!

Q: Do you have any tips for volunteer managers?

A: Communication is essential. All our staff make a point to respond to volunteer queries within a 24 hour period. However, it’s also critical to reach out to volunteers to check in even when they don’t initiate contact. Making volunteers feel supported and valued keeps them engaged with the organization, and it’s just as important to touch base with volunteers who are doing well as it is to troubleshoot problems when they arise.

Q: Do you have any hobbies that help you maintain work/life balance?

A: I’m a yoga addict! I attend classes at least three times a week, and I find it’s a wonderful way to decompress and center myself. I also love to cook—and eat. Italian food is my specialty.