There is no doubt in our minds that Yanelis Valdes deserves the title “November Volunteer of the Month.” Outside of her impressive commitments to Teen Writing Lab and Saturday workshops, Yanelis works as a communications professional and is proud to represent her Cuban-American heritage. She brings an inspiring presence to working with our young writers on a range of subjects, from college essays to superheroes. We asked Yanelis to tell us more about her experiences with 826DC.
How (and how long ago) did you first get involved with 826DC?
I moved to DC July of last year and really wanted to find a way to get involved in the community, especially in Columbia Heights. I have a passion for writing and when I came across 826DC, I thought it was the perfect fit! I began volunteering in February 2016.
What has been your favorite program/workshop at 826DC?
It’s hard to choose just one! In March, I volunteered for a really fun Saturday workshop series titled “Heroes & Mentors & Foes – Oh My: Writing a Hero’s Journey”. The kids were so into their superhero stories, it was great seeing them so engaged.
What is your favorite part about volunteering for 826DC?
Seeing the students’ work! Reading the different stories the students create is always so much fun. I also love seeing how proud they are of their work.
Do you have any stories that you would like to share from your time volunteering?
We held a science teen lab this past summer “There May Be Bones”. As you may have guessed, the students had to dissect owl pellets. The look on their faces when we told them what they had been examining for a few weeks was hilarious!
Why is it important for students to practice writing outside of the classroom?
Writing is about creativity and fun! It’s hard to feel like what you’re doing is fun when you’re in an academic setting. Building your writing skills in a different environment helps you appreciate it and want to do it much more.
What advice do you have for young writers hoping to improve their writing, specifically teenagers?
Don’t be afraid! Writing can be intimidating at times, but you only get better when you keep trying. The more you practice, in and out of the classroom, the more your style evolves and improves.