826 Stories

The stories below illuminate narratives of a few inspirational, key players across the 826 network who contribute to our mission in different ways. Written by independent researcher/evaluator, Mindy Fried, PhD, of Arbor Consulting Partners, “826 Stories” share perspectives from teachers, students, volunteers, and staff.


In the spring of 2015, seventh and eighth-grade teacher Jenn De Leon partnered with 826 Boston on their Young Authors’ Book Project (YABP). Her involvement with 826 during this project is explored in this story. As an author herself, Jenn used her own knowledge of the writing process to enhance her students’ learning and development, which resulted in a transformation of students through storytelling.

Jenn says, “I definitely would say if [826 Boston] were not involved in this. . .there’s no way I could have done it. Maybe we would’ve had a print publication, or had to go to Staples or something, but even that. The life of a teacher, it’s like, all of that sounds good in August, and by February you’re like, a flyer will do! But to have a professional book? No way!”


Rashawnda Williams is just one of the many students that came to 826 and blossomed into an empowered writer. Her story reveals a young woman discovering her passion for spoken word, ultimately leading to her first nonfiction piece and becoming a Youth Writing Ambassador at 826DC. She shares the role 826 played in her success through its supportive environment and community members.

Mr. O [Koye Oyedeji, teacher at Duke Ellington School for the Arts] says, “. . . it’s through 826DC that she got that initial confidence to join us, to say ‘hey writing is something that I can do, that I really want to do.’ She'd come in and visit, but I think it was when she started working with 826DC that she crossed that divide. It was a short hallway, but a huge leap for her. 826DC helped her take that short trip across the hallway from the Visual Arts Department to the Literary Media Communications Department.”


Through the story of Miles Portek, a dedicated 826NYC volunteer and phenomenal storyteller, we get a behind-the-scenes look into the world of 826's Storytelling and Bookmaking Field Trips. Miles’ story showcases the kind of high-quality volunteers that make our programming extraordinary.

Joshua Mandelbaum, the Executive Director of 826NYC, says, “[Miles] loves 826 in its most pure form. He just genuinely believes in everything that’s happening here. . . It is heartwarming to me that we consistently can bring individuals like that into the space to mentor the students and serve as an adult role model for them.”


Marisa Urrutia Gedney’s story highlights how she evolved in her role at 826 to eventually become a Director of Education at 826LA. Marisa reflects on the importance of making an impact on a community you feel deeply connected to, the role 826 can play in the lives of students, and gives insight into the power of 826 programming, such as the Personal Statement program.

Joel [Arquillos, the Executive Director of 826LA and former Director of 826 National] says that Marisa has “the full package.” She is a strong manager and a mentor for those who work under her. “She believes in guiding and supporting, and she really gets a very personal connection to those she manages. She cares deeply.”