My Heart is Not So Scalable

Photo by Mariah Tauger, Los Angeles Times, January 8, 2011

The L.A. Times just published an article profiling School on Wheels, and their south L.A. learning center that I wrote about in this blog a few months ago. The article states that in “the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second-largest, nearly 13,500 students were identified as homeless in the 2009-10 school year.” School on Wheels serves more than 6,000 homeless youths a year in the L.A. area. And as a volunteer for their organization, I tutor just one these youths.

When I started reading the article I felt a sense of pride because the kids they profiled are using the Reading Kingdom program, and it’s satisfying to contribute to their education. Knowing that the online reading program is scalable is also a nice feeling when reading about the growing numbers of homeless children in the U.S. (It’s scalable because it requires minimal adult supervision and is accessible anywhere anytime to anyone with an Internet-connected computer.)

But as I continued to read the article I felt a twinge of sadness because soon Victor, the homeless kid I am tutoring – and the one I have the most impact on – will no longer be homeless, which means that his days of being eligible for a tutor through the School on Wheels program are numbered.

“We do ask our volunteers to work with their student for six months or until the end of the school year when they move into permanent housing, however, we would like them to take on another homeless student after that time frame,” Charles Evans, Regional Coordinator of School on Wheels wrote me.

Victor and his mom would like me to tutor him indefinitely. I love tutoring him and don’t really want to stop. But as I read about the growing numbers of homeless kids I felt the weight of Charles’ request. Do I continue to tutor a kid who now may need me less than he did a year ago and less than another homeless kid? The obvious solution is to do both — continue to tutor Victor and take on another kid.

I can fit volunteer-tutoring two kids into my life, but what do I do when faced with this issue again? Unlike the Reading Kingdom I’m not scalable.

Any advice?