Staff Spotlight: Brandon and Akshita

Welcome to our ongoing series, where we highlight some of the magic-makers here at 826DC. This month, we chatted with Brandon and Akshita, our two AmeriCorps Service Members, before they complete their year of service. They’ve done incredible work this year, and we wish them all the best on their next adventures!

Name: Brandon Moore-McNew
Job Title: Development Coordinator AmeriCorps VISTA
Pronouns: He/Him/His
Hometown: O’Fallon, MO

Name: Akshita Sankepally
Job Title: Volunteer and Intern Coordinator
Pronouns: She/Her/Hers
Hometown: Naperville, IL

What was your favorite book growing up and why?

BM-M: Growing up, I tore through The Boxcar Children books like nobody’s business. I even had a little cardboard boxcar that would hold the books, which may have been my favorite piece of “furniture!” I spent a lot of time in the ditches and storm drains I wasn’t supposed to be in as a kid, and always loved discovering places that felt like Places, if that makes sense. Looking back, I think the main characters were also learning how to trust adults, and I think that’s something a lot of children can identify with.

AS: My favorite book growing up was the Harry Potter series. Like many young people, I was drawn into a new fantasy world, and I felt a personal connection with the characters. One of the really cool aspects of reading Harry Potter at the age I did was growing up with the characters. As the years went on, the books became progressively darker and the characters grew into themselves, and I felt like I was a part of their journey.

What’s one unusual thing on your desk right now?

BM-M: I have a lot of sticky notes on my computer. Some of them are related to work, and others are personal reminders: a crude sketch of a riverbank, for example, and a note that says “.50 > 0” — a reminder that even on days when I feel less effective than I’d like to be, I’m still contributing more than if I had not done anything at all.

AS: A pink conch shell. On my very first day at 826DC, I discovered the shell behind my desktop, so, naturally, I brought the shell out of hiding and placed it front-and-center. My new colleagues assumed I brought this shell as my very first desk decoration!

What inspired you to get involved with this kind of work, and why do you think it’s so important?

BM-M: Reading and writing skills are some of humanity’s greatest inventions: they can help us understand our past and the world we live in, plan for the future, realize and celebrate triumphs, expand our moral universe, and navigate our low points. Not everyone is going to fall in love with being a writer, but we do live in a world shaped by writing and how we interpret that writing, from ingredient lists at the grocery store to the written laws of nations. I believe that every person who has a chance to develop reading and writing skills is a person who has more opportunities to thrive in such a world, and that’s work worth doing.

AS: Growing up, academics were a huge part of my life. I was fortunate enough to have many dedicated teachers support my writing skills, but I was never confident in my abilities. 826DC makes writing fun and exciting, so I definitely could have benefited from coming to a place like 826DC. I am so thankful to have been part of an organization that puts writing in the forefront of students’ academic careers.