254 | Cheryl Opper: Founder of School on Wheels of MA. sowma.org
School is the only normal thing for a child experiencing homelessness. - Cheryl Opper
Great ideas are hatched in lots of places. For Cheryl Opper, the idea of founding School on Wheels, Massachusetts www.sowma.org happened back in 2004 at her kitchen table while reading an article about Agnes Stevens of Los Angeles who was the founder of the charity. Cheryl was looking for a pumpkin cheesecake recipe and what she found was a calling to make a difference in the lives of homeless children. The statistics are staggering: there are over 27,000 homeless students in Massachusetts between kindergarten and high school. The average age of a homeless person in the state is just 8 years old and chances are, that child will move 3-5 times a year, leaving giant gaps in their ability to learn. Together with her army of volunteer tutors, Cheryl goes into homeless shelters to provide consistent one-on-one educational support to homeless kids. The relationship begins with the gift of a backpack, stuffed with school essentials and a handwritten note that reads: “I believe in you. You can climb this mountain. Anything is possible.”
In this interview, Cheryl looks back on the progress of School on Wheels, MA over the last 20 years. A lifelong school teacher, she is also a person of great faith who believes that “it is such a blessing that God has used my hands, my voice, and my feet to help others.” Her passion for what she does shines through in this interview and you can hear her heartbreak when she describes the children School on Wheels, MA serves. Says Cheryl: “There are homeless students in every school across our state and they are just like your child and my child. They just want to be loved. They just want somebody to show up for them and tell them that they matter. “ #homelessness #education #shelters
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