826 National is a nonprofit organization that provides strategic leadership, administration, and other resources to ensure the success of its network of eight writing and tutoring centers. 826 centers offer a variety of inventive programs that provide under-resourced students, ages 6-18, with opportunities to explore their creativity and improve their writing skills. We also aim to help teachers get their classes excited about writing. Our mission 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. Last year our tutoring centers — located in Ann Arbor, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, DC — served over 29,000 students. We may be literary types, but we like strong numbers, too.
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Overview of 826 Programs
Since its founding in San Francisco in 2002 by award-winning author Dave Eggers and educator Nínive Calegari, 826 has sparked students’ imaginations. Fanning the sparks into full-blown creative wildfires, 826 centers across the country offer free programming for students. Our celebration of writing, learning, and arts education engages under-resourced youth, enabling them to flare up and rise to their full potential.
Our core programs are:
After-School Tutoring Know a student who gets chills over Robert Frost? Has a science report on planets that’s got her stumped? 826 is here to help! At least four days a week, 826 centers offer students one-on-one help with homework, regardless of subject. After homework is completed, students are encouraged to spend thirty minutes reading with their tutors, and a final hour is dedicated to writing. In the summer, many of our centers cater exclusively to English language learners. An English writing resort? Now that sounds like our kind of summer vacation.
Field Trips Like the plucky pirates and superheroes that inspire our storefronts, 826 students seek the thrill of adventure. Several times a week, entire classes journey to 826 for a two-hour interactive, high-energy writing event, like our signature Storytelling & Bookmaking program. As a group, students compose an original story, crafting plot and character points. Students go home with personalized books, not to mention a deepened sense of storytelling, bookmaking and collaboration. Oh yes, and it’s fun!
In-Schools Projects As much as we love stretching the bounds of imagination, we are realists when it counts. We recognize that not all students can visit 826 centers personally, so our chapters also dispatch teams of volunteers to local public schools on a regular basis. Per teacher request, 826 sends volunteers into classrooms to provide one-on-one assistance to students tackling writing projects, like articles for the school newspaper, oral histories, or college entrance essays. We know the quality of student work is greatly enhanced when shared with an authentic audience, so 826 is committed to publishing our students’ work, with quarterlies, chapbooks, and ‘zines.
Young Authors’ Publishing Project Our programs are not in a popularity contest—we love them all equally—but if they were, our annual Young Authors’ Publishing Project would most likely be homecoming queen. For the project, 826 matches a well-known guest author to work closely with teachers and students at a school for the semester, as they write and edit student pieces that are eventually collected and professionally published. Adult writers and editors volunteer throughout the process, and when the book is completed, the guest author (who also writes the introduction to the book) hosts a public reading with the newly published authors. Take a sneak peek at exactly what goes into one of our book projects during this video clip from 826 Valencia's 2008-2009 book project, Show of Hands: Young Authors Reflect on the Golden Rule.
Workshops Perhaps a more aptly suited title would be fun-shops. With free workshops like cartooning, bookmaking, playwriting, and producing a ‘zine, 826 workshops don’t always feel like work. (And we do like retitling traditional workshops, like our Personal Statement Bootcamp workshops in honor of college entrance applications). We provide in-depth instruction in areas that many schools may not provide in their curriculum. All workshops are project-based and taught by experienced, accomplished professionals that may provide under-resourced students with mentorships they likely wouldn’t have otherwise.
Scholarships 826 offers financial assistance to college-bound students who need it through ScholarMatch, a website and service that matches students in need of financial aid with potential donors. Multiple centers, including 826 Valencia and 826 Boston, also offer a handful of individual scholarships to their students annually.