Friday, June 19, 2015

Feel Good Friday - 826 Valencia

From all the literacy-related organizations that get profiled here, you know I love reading. But what would I have to read if not for the writers? Today, Feel Good Friday goes to the Mission district in San Francisco to find out how 826 Valencia brought together students with a need for tutoring and writers with flexible schedules.

826 Valencia is not only the name of the organization, it's also the address. Since writing is their speciality, I'll let them explain what they do in their own words. "826 Valencia is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting under-resources students ages six to eighteen with their creative and expository writing skills and to helping teachers inspire their students to write. Our services are structured around the understanding that great leaps in learning can happen with one-on-one attention and that strong writing skills are fundamental to future success."

826 was founded in 2002 by author Dave Eggers and educator Ninive Calegari who wanted to support teachers by providing a space where adults and kids could come together for free one-on-one tutoring. Their plans were to have the publishing company McSweeney's in the back of the space and the tutoring center in the front, but they learned the building was zoned for retail use and in order to keep it they'd have to sell something.

While renovating the space, they discovered hardwood floors and exposed beams which inspired the creation of a pirate supply store. Whether it's because of the San Francisco location and our love of pirates or just because it's awesome, sales of pirate supplies generate enough income to keep the center going.

All their programs are free. FREE! They include the after school tutoring as well as bringing classes of students to the center on field trips during school. 826 also sends volunteers into classrooms to work with teachers and students on special projects. You can find the complete list of programs here.

This idea is so popular and the need so great, six more chapters of 826 have opened in cities around the country - New York (fronted by a Superhero Supply Store), Chicago, Ann Arbor, Los Angels (fronted by a Time Travel Mart), Boston and Washington, D.C. San Francisco will be getting a second location in the Tenderloin which is scheduled to open by January, 2016.

You can hear how the original idea for 826 came about and get a virtual tour of the stores by watching this Dave Eggers TED Talk. If you want to get more involved by donating your money or your time, click here.

As always, like the 826 Valencia Facebook page, follow them on Twitter @826_Valencia and if you live in, or visit, San Francisco by all means go see the pirate store. Argh.

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