Thursday, July 17, 2008

826 National Rocks!

I have decided to start volunteering for my local branch of 826 National. Well, I have applied, and will let you know how the interview goes, and whether they accept me. For three hours a week (or every two weeks, or whatever you can spare), I might be: 1) staffing the kitschy supply store (depending on your area: for all your superhero, spy, or ninja needs!), 2) tutoring kids in creative and expository writing, encouraging the literary arts, 3) helping with college prep, or 4) if I am lucky, they might let me help out with a workshop!

For more information on how YOU can donate to, volunteer for, or buy the products of 826 National:

826 National is a nonprofit tutoring, writing, and publishing organization with locations in seven cities across the country. Our goal is to assist students ages six to eighteen with their writing skills, and to help teachers get their classes excited about writing. Our work is based on the understanding that great leaps in learning can happen with one-on-one attention, and that strong writing skills are fundamental to future success.

After the founding of 826 Valencia, the flagship center in San Francisco, educators around the U.S. joined in to pursue the same goals in their local communities. Now 826 Valencia also serves as the headquarters of 826 National, an umbrella organization that coordinates the adaptation of 826’s tutoring and mentorship model in other cities. Already, 826 has sister centers in New York, Los Angeles, Ann Arbor, Chicago, Seattle, and Boston. Through volunteer support, each of the seven 826 chapters provides drop-in tutoring, class field trips, writing workshops, and in-schools programs—all free of charge. 826 chapters are especially committed to supporting teachers, publishing student work, and offering services for English language learners.

Because we believe the proof is in the pudding, 826 programs almost always end with a finished product, such as a newspaper, a book, or a film. This teaching model, known as project-based learning, encourages students to collaborate and to make creative decisions, and gives them ownership over the learning process. Working toward a goal, our students are inspired to revise until their work is perfect. They leave with new skills and a newfound passion for writing. And then they come back. Each 826 chapter is a warm, welcoming place where students can get things done. Maybe they’ll produce a chapbook. Maybe they’ll make a movie, or polish a college-application essay. We offer all of our services for free serving families who could not otherwise afford the level of personalized instruction their children receive from 826.

Our corps includes thousands of enthusiastic volunteers who make this all happen. Our volunteer tutors include law professors, college students, authors, retirees, and advertising copywriters. They come from all fields, but have one thing in common: they love to help students learn. The demand for 826’s services is tremendous. At many of our centers, our field trips are fully booked almost a year in advance, and the majority of our evening and weekend workshops have waiting lists. And new teacher requests for in-school tutor support continue to pour in.

Truly, this is awesome. The fact that this is associated with the slightly snide and twee McSweeney's people should not be a mark against so valuable a program. Seriously, how awesome would it be to help kids learn and read? It might not compare to the Derek Zoolander School for Kids Who Want to Read Good and Do Other Stuff Good Too, but it is pretty great. I would have loved to have had this resource as a kid. And they publish the kids' stories! Go volunteer for 826 National!