Meet the Staff: Eileen Chong

We’re delighted to welcome Eileen Chong to the team as our Interim After-School Writing Lab Coordinator! For the rest of the school year, Eileen will be the magic-maker behind our beloved After-School Writing Lab, where students join us for free volunteer-supported homework help and creative writing time.

We recently sat down with Eileen and asked her a few questions:

Name: Eileen Chong

Job Title: Interim After-School Writing Lab Coordinator

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Hometown: Elk Grove Village, IL

What drew you to 826DC?

My friend worked for 826DC so I came by a couple of times to help out. I was enchanted by the space. Yes, I gawped at the ventriloquist dummy and squealed out loud with delight at the secret door. I may or may not have also spied on the burger patrons below. It was easy to imagine how delightful it must be for each student visiting for the first time, and any organization that prioritizes that moment of mysterious wonder is an organization worth working for in my book.

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

A cross-stitch ornament of a dancing couple in traditional Korean dress. My mom goes through intense phases (jam, crocheting, rollerblading, etc. etc.), and her current hobby entails cobbling together loose odds and ends from around the house and cross-stitching them with flowers, leaves, our initials, random letters, Chinese characters (we’re not Chinese), and now, apparently, people.

What was your favorite subject in elementary school, and why?

Art! Art class was once a week which made it special, and it was incredibly therapeutic to make something with my hands, with resources I wouldn’t necessarily have access to otherwise. The only requirements were your creativity and commitment, and every single classmate was capable of making something worth admiring.

If you were a magician, what would be your signature magic trick?

Levitation! I actually participated in a magician’s levitation trick—I held a tablecloth and the table underneath floated—and I still have no clue how it was done. Except instead of a table, I’d be levitating the audience. Sold-out show, guaranteed.

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

I come from a family of readers. The library was our babysitter, and books were automatically understood to be magical, powerful things. I think people tend to dismiss reading and writing as school time drudgery, and I often hear people say, “Oh, but I’m not a good writer.” These are false perceptions that need to be debunked! I firmly believe that there are great books for every type of reader out there and that writing is a muscle that can be developed. Regardless of your ambitions, the ability to articulate your thoughts is a lifelong superpower, and this ability is further developed by—yes—reading.

“What’s your Story About?”

We asked some of the third-grade authors of upcoming 826DC Young Authors’ Book Project book “This Time They Hear You,” a collection of science-inspired fairytales, what their stories are about. Here’s what they said:

“It’s about a tree who went to water, but the clouds couldn’t hear her.”

“A cacao tree.”

“It’s about the wizard of Sugarville.”

“A lumberjack.”

“It’s about an alien and a falcon named Falcon.”

“I picked a tree and I wrote about a tree.”


“The plants are actually alive. They’re like humans, but they’re plants.”


“Two trees getting bullied.”

“A tree who got bullied by another tree, and then she got a puppy.”


“Coconut trees.”

“It’s about a daffodil who’s playing in Spring.”

“A redwood tree. It’s the tallest!”

“Candy boy and sugar girl! They live in a candy world. The candy eats sugar and the sugar eats candy because they don’t eat their friends.”

“This is a love story.”

Need we say more? We can’t wait for you to read This Time They Hear You. It’s available for purchase online here as well as in our storefront and in select bookstores across DC, including Politics & Prose and East City Bookshop!

Meet the Staff: Shayna Baggatts-Porter

Shayna Baggatts-Porter recently joined the 826DC team as our Special Projects Associate! She is helping us with a ton of exciting projects like expanding our Visiting Authors Program and developing 826DC’s two-week summer writing workshop.

We’re so glad that Shayna is here, and sat down with her to get to know her better:

Name: Shayna Baggatts-Porter

Job Title: Special Projects Associate

Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Hometown: Washington, D.C.

What drew you to 826DC?

I have worked with 826DC in the past and greatly felt and appreciated the impact the program had on my former students. I still have the book of poetry the second graders wrote with 826DC. This is a small nonprofit that moves very intentionally and knows where it wants to go.

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

A lump of polymer clay. I like to keep my hands busy when I’m brainstorming and molding clay is one of my favorite art activities. Using clay to keep my fidgety hands working helps me think more deeply.

What was your favorite book growing up, and why?

I loved the Ramona Quimby series. Ramona was a self-assured 5-year-old that asked the tough questions and stood up for herself no matter what. She was the best role model for tiny me. As an introverted and super logical kid, my quests for knowledge were, and still are, often misunderstood as combative and annoying. We just want the truth! We are women who want the truth and we may not smile while asking for it!

If you were a magician, what would be your signature magic trick?

Definitely making things levitate. How much fun would that be? 

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

Providing young people with multiple avenues of self-expression is one of the greatest gifts adults can give. I believe it’s important to pass along what we have learned about ourselves and try to make that learning easier and more accessible for those that come after us.