We Did It!

Sometime after 10 a.m. on June 3, during a storytelling and bookmaking field trip, something amazing happened. Amidst soccer-playing characters with superpowers and a candyland setting, we exceeded our goal for the year and served our 5,000th student (!!!). This accomplishment is the culmination of a journey that started almost six years ago, back when we opened the doors of our first writing center. It follows a trend of program expansion over the past few years: in the 2013-2014 school year, we served over 3,341 students and during 2014-2015, we served over 4,517. Now that school’s out, we’ve served 5,346 students this year!

Serving over 5,000 students made for a busy year at 826DC. This year we hosted over 120 field trips for over 100 different schools, increased our number of Young Authors’ Book Projects (including our first bilingual YABP), hosted more workshops than ever before, published over 100 student in-school writing projects, and moved to a brand-new location.

“It’s been an absolutely wonderful year of so, so many publications, stories, and even more amazing writers,” Neekta Khorsand, our On-Site Programs Manager, said. “It was a marathon of a year but every year leading up to this one has prepared us for it and every day has been worth it to see the writers who’ve joined us grow and hear them tell their stories proudly.”

Of course, we can’t take all the credit for exceeding our goal. We couldn’t have done this without the amazing people who helped, from donors to volunteers to interns to the amazing communities that we were able to work with. We feel so grateful to have worked with all of them and we can never thank them enough for their hard work, generosity, and dedication to our students.

Since we accomplished our goal, it’s time to set new, bigger ones! We’re excited to continue deepening our impact on students in the District by inspiring them to write. This year 826DC will embark on a new strategic plan to set our ambitious course of growth for the next 3 years.

Engaging over 5,000 students this year has been a lot of hard work, but the absolute best kind. We’ve been able to work with great students and amazing volunteers, and we feel so grateful for that. The whole process has been gratifying, humbling, inspiring, and, above all, magical.

Here’s to the future!

My Heart Went Beating Fast

Each year, 826DC publishes a unique collection of student work as the culmination of our Young Authors Book Project (YABP), a year-long partnership with a class or group of young authors to develop their writing. This year, we plan on publishing three. For the first, we partnered with brilliant fifth graders from Bruce Monroe @ Park View Elementary School to produce My Heart Went Beating Fast, a collection of realistic fiction short stories. We celebrated the release on Wednesday, June 1 at Bruce Monroe Elementary School Auditorium. The atmosphere was joyful. Students, family, and friends enjoyed an assortment of delicious foods generously catered by Georgetown University. 

Freshly printed copies of “My Heart Went Beating Fast” stacked and ready to be distributed to the young authors

We  want to extend a big ‘Congratulations!’ to the 50 amazing fifth graders who contributed to this project, as well as everyone involved.  We’d like to thank the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation for their support of this project and our young authors, as well as the other organizations that made this book possible.  Another giant thank you goes out to the staff of Bruce Monroe @ Park View Elementary for working so diligently alongside us to support their students. And of course we can’t forget our amazingly dedicated team of in-class writing mentors, and those who worked with the Spanish-speaking students develop their pieces.

We’d also like to acknowledge our behind-the-scenes collaborators. Oliver Munday is responsible for the stunning book design, Anna Gross put the student’s work on paper as our production assistant, Santiago Casares served as our expert illustrator and Tania James penned the touching forward. Special thanks to the hardworking interns and staff who helped with publication, especially Lacey Dunham for her dedication to the planning and the publishing of this YABP. 

The realistic fiction featured in My Heart Went Beating Fast ranges from hilarious to heartbreaking. There are stories written in both Spanish and English that feature everything from learning to cook to becoming president. It is a remarkable collection of works and we are incredibly grateful to all the folks who made it possible!

Welcome Summer Interns!

This Summer we are joined by eight magical interns from all parts of the world. Austin Elias-de Jesus and Maddie Lemelin are supporting Communications and Julia Gangemi has come aboard to assist with Development. Our new Programming interns are Avery Finkel, Dominique Montiel, Jenna Rieden, Simone Robins, and Charlotte Smith. Please join us in welcoming this talented crew!

The team is already enjoying all of the learning experiences that come with working with young authors. As Dominique put it, “I’m able to appreciate all of their different backgrounds.” Avery agreed, saying “What’s great about this internship is being able to work with students that I likely would not have interacted with otherwise.” Charlotte told us she especially enjoys copy-editing memoirs by students from Cardozo High School that illustrate the realities of the immigrant experience here in DC. As for the Communications piece, “it’s a great opportunity to share the incredible work 826DC is doing” said Maddie.

Considering the busy Summer ahead, we feel extremely lucky to have this group with us. Welcome, all!


June Volunteer of the Month

Our June Volunteer of the Month, Adam Mistler, was seeking an opportunity for self-improvement when he stumbled across Tivoli’s Astounding Magic Supply. Inspired to volunteer with 826DC by his own dedication to writing, Adam admires the impact staff and volunteers have on students every week. He routinely witnesses the excitement and enthusiasm around workshops while stationed in the storefront on Saturday afternoons.

“I think writing is a good way to “deal” and I wanted to support an organization that helped writers- especially young ones who often feel that they have a lot to deal with. The kids are not just getting educational help, they are engaging. For all the times the world can seem like it wants to shut kids up, it is so important that they stay engaged. Both for them and the world around them,” says Mistler.

He also enjoys the quirky atmosphere that the children bring to volunteering. “The best Saturdays to “work” are those that 826DC is also hosting workshops. The kids are what it’s all about, right? They provide a kind of energy. They also provide unparalleled entertainment value.”

That “energy” inspires Adam to practice his own magic. Among staff, he’s known for having powers of illusion that rival David Copperfield and the Amazing Tivoli himself. “I know it’s extreme, but I would put Adam right up there next to Penn. Maybe not Teller, but definitely Penn,” says 826fancy head shotDC Development & Communications Coordinator Caroline. “Wait– which is which again? Maybe I meant Teller.”

Development Assistant Rita swears she once saw Adam disappear an entire large pepperoni pizza in the blink of an eye: “Adam is a natural talent. I’m just sayin.” Volunteer Coordinator Paige agrees, saying: “When I first met Adam his eyes were green. Now they’re definitely brown. How does a magician even do that?”

Whatever his secret is, we’re incredibly grateful that Adam stumbled into 826DC, and even more grateful that he continues to make our storefront a quirky and engaging place for visitors and students alike to learn more about the ways we support young authors. Visit Tivoli’s Astounding Magic Supply Company to witness his magical ways and see how you too can get involved with 826DC’s storefront.

June Community Partner of the Month

826DC is delighted to acknowledge the Mount Pleasant Poetry Project as our June Community Partner of the month! Oliver Bendorf and Temim Fruchter, two local artists/writers/creative-thinkers, launched this awesome project in April to celebrate National Poetry Month. They invited several neighborhood partners (including us! *blush*) to host “poetry drop-boxes” with instructions encouraging members of the community to submit their poems anonymously. The poetry was collected and compiled into an anthology that will be released on July 28 at Mount Pleasant Library.

The mission of the Mount Pleasant Poetry Project is to provide free poetry programming for all ages across the full spectrum of their neighborhood’s diversity in order to promote community and creativity. They dream of neighborhoods in which creativity thrives, connects, and is accessible to all. Learn more about their project here.

We asked Oliver and Temim to tell us a little more about themselves and the Mount Pleasant Poetry Project.

826DC: What made you decide to begin the Mount Pleasant Poetry Project? 

O & T: We are both writers who live in the neighborhood and have been working to keep creativity at the center of our lives. We know that we are happier when we are writing and we wanted to invite the whole neighborhood in on that same happiness for a National Poetry Month adventure.

Temim introduces Caroline to 826DC's Poetry Monster
Temim introduces Caroline to 826DC’s Poetry Monster

826DC: How did you land on the motto of “Poesía para todos” and what does it mean to you? 

O & T: There’s a print on our living room wall that says “Arte Para Todos” and that’s where we got the inspiration. To us it means, poetry belongs to everyone and should be more equally distributed. It doesn’t require any special credentials, gatekeepers, or mediators. There are plenty of those and they serve a different purpose. The Mount Pleasant Poetry Project is about tapping into the poet in everyone, the poet that may feel not good enough or like a real poet. Poetry is an amazing transformative life-giving thing and it is available to all of us!

826DC: Do you have a favorite submission? 

O & T:  How could we when they are all special in their own way?! Some are dashed off on a napkin, clearly a spontaneous act of poetry, while others were carefully typed ahead of time. The poems are from all ages. Some are funny and some are sad. More so than any one submission, we are in love with what they add up to: a brilliant and diverse compendium of several hundred poems, written by our neighborhood in one month for our weird grassroots project!

826DC: Why did you choose to invite 826DC to the project as a dropbox host? 

O & T:  There is natural overlap between our mission and that of 826DC. We share a commitment to more equitable access to the power of writing. The work 826DC does to cultivate creativity not only in our neighborhood but all over the city is inspiring and necessary, and it was an honor to have our poem-eating monster box at 826DC for the month!

Screen Shot 2016-06-30 at 5.52.37 PMOliver follows the instructions of a poem prompt

826DC: What’s next for Mount Pleasant Poetry Project after your anthology release in July? 

O & T: We don’t know yet—as it’s a brand-new project (and we also have full-time jobs), we’ve been letting it evolve and grow in ways that surprise us, and the truth is that we don’t have a long-term plan for it, yet. Right now we’re focused on transcribing the poems and making plans for publication (and working on a way to fund the publication!), and scheming for an awesome anthology release. We’d love to talk with anyone about collaborations for future directions.