Our family has always been one of creative pursuits. Between the five of us, we’ve tried scrapbooking, painting, knitting, crocheting, drawing, embroidery, photography, sewing, quilling, wood-working, felting, collages, jewelry-making, and probably more that I’m forgetting. Growing up, my mother and sisters always enjoyed crafts the most, but I had little patience for many of them. When it comes to creative pursuits, my favorite has always–unequivocally–been writing.
I wrote stories, poetry, essays, novellas, and eventually novels; I kept journals faithfully for many years; and over the course of my pre-teen and teenage years, I also created several blogs. Writing was a form of creative expression, of self-expression; a way for a girl with too many thoughts and ideas and opinions floating around in her head to get them out some tangible form. Over the course of my life, it’s proven a creative outlet as well a therapeutic one, and it has woven and shaped my identity in many ways.
The 826 National is an organization that recognizes writing as a powerful tool, particularly in the hands of young people. It operates as the overhead organization for eight national chapters, each of which provides tutoring and creative writing programs to the young people of underserved communities in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and other cities across the country. Among the services provided are after-school tutoring, college essay workshops, and publishing programs, which empower students–many of them from marginalized communities–to both supplement and expand on their in-school education.
Tutors are primarily volunteers who are trained by local 826 chapters to provide these services. They work to offer programs in local schools, but also operate out of “storefront” centers, which are designed to be inviting and creative spaces for the students who frequent them. For instance, the chapter closest to me–located just outside of Boston–dubbed its storefront The Greater Boston Bigfoot Research Institute and offers the kinds of programming described above to students in Roxbury and the Greater Boston area.
Another notable feature of the 826 National is each chapters’ student publishing programs, which give participating students the opportunity to see their work published online and printed in hard copy collections of stories, poetry, and essays. As someone who has found great satisfaction in being able to share my work, whether on a blog or by making it into small publications, I know how exciting it can be to see your writing being put out in the world. It’s the kind of confidence boost that might very well make a huge difference in a kid’s life as they begin to shape their future goals, both educational and personal.
As an organization, the 826 National truly embodies the ideal of fostering the empowerment and growth of young people through education and creative expression. To find out more about the organization, visit the website here. To see the full list of chapters and find the one closest to you, click here. To learn about volunteering with your local chapter, you can find more information here; or, if you’re too far away or too busy to give your time, you can make a monetary donation here or at an individual chapter’s website. And to read some of the pieces that these kids are creating, by all means, check it out here.
For more of my charitable spotlights, please see here. Thanks for reading! Hugs, Taylor Lynn