We’re currently accepting new students, ages 6-14, to our free After-School Writing Lab! Questions? Ask Tyler.

December Community Partner of the Month: Reach Higher

First Lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher initiative is an effort to inspire all students in America to continue their education after receiving a high school diploma. She believes that “education is the single-most important civil rights issue that we face today,” and this initiative is working with this belief in mind.

We recently got the opportunity to partner with the Reach Higher initiative by hosting a personal statement workshop at The White House. Community and school-based partners helped students write a path toward success under this national spotlight. We were reminded why we do this work every day: because of our students. Check out more photos below from this exciting event.

Thank you to the good folks at Reach Higher for inviting us to be a part of such an inspirational mission!


December Volunteer of the Month: Jennifer Tolman

As our SMARTDC student representative, Jennifer is responsible for recruiting and motivating many of our favorite people, including after-school tutors. While at After-School Tutoring, she supports our students as they work on difficult homework assignments and helps them improve their writing. Jennifer has quickly become a part of the 826DC family, and extends this welcoming spirit to our students.

We asked Jennifer to tell us more about her experiences with 826DC.

How (and how long ago) did you first get involved with 826DC?

I first got involved with 826DC this past September. I’m a student at George Washington University, and I wanted to get involved in some sort of tutoring program in the greater DC area. The Nashman Center for Civic Engagement at GW helps students find different service opportunities throughout the city, and that’s how I found 826DC.

What is your favorite part about volunteering for 826DC?

I help out with After-School Tutoring twice a week, and it has been a really rewarding experience so far. I love being able to work with the same students every time and seeing their progress in their homework and writing. The environment at 826DC is incredibly positive and welcoming, making my time there something I look forward to every week.

Do you have any stories that you would like to share from your time volunteering?

Sometimes students come to tutoring after a long, difficult day at school, and don’t want to get started on homework. Helping them begin to open up and have fun at AST is always exciting and encouraging.

What benefits do students receive from having homework and writing support outside of the classroom at programs like After-School Tutoring?

Programs like After-School Tutoring provide students with a space for learning and support that isn’t school or home. AST gives students access to a variety of tutors with different styles of helping, as well as the opportunity to develop their writing in a setting where it isn’t judged or graded.

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Do you have any words of encouragement that you use when trying to motivate students to tackle difficult assignments?

If a student isn’t very motivated to start working on a challenging piece of homework, I try to emphasize that they have the opportunity to create something that they can be really proud of. An assignment also doesn’t necessarily have to be done in one sitting. Sometimes it can really help to take little breaks as a student progresses through their work.

A Letter From Kalimah

Dear 826DC,

Hi, my name is Kalimah, and I’m 12 years old. I have been attending evening and weekend workshops at 826DC since March of this year. I learn about different types of creative writing every time I visit: comics, odes, poems, books, short stories, scientific papers, and many others. I really enjoy writing and learning about different writing formats. It inspires me to have more confidence when I write.

One unique feature about 826DC writing workshops is that when we create writing pieces, we sometimes get them published. When I see my written words published in a book, it makes me feel very proud of myself for doing such a great job. Each time I have my work published, it is always incomprehensible and I can barely wait; it’s mind-boggling. When we take the surveys they give us, the workshops always improve. It makes me feel important to know that an organization uses my opinions to make it enjoyable for everyone. The experience is always worth coming back for. Because of the amazing experiences I’ve gained, I’m currently writing a book about food chemistry, and joined the Teen Writing Lab on Wednesday nights for support on this project.

Ms. Neekta always encourages us by saying “Never put another writer down…but always lift another writer up.” When she says this, I feel relaxed and at ease to write the way I choose without feeling as if I would be made fun of or my writing is incorrect. I would certainly recommend that every kid visits the 826DC writing center. It is welcoming by staff and children alike.


If you would like to support students like Kalimah, please consider giving to 826DC this holiday season. A gift of any amount helps us provide programs that give students the necessary writing skills to succeed in their academic and future careers.