April is National Volunteer Month, and each year, approximately 5,000 active volunteers around the country make our work possible and keep our programs free of charge. From helping out at an event or playing a very grumpy publisher to designing cool store products or just sitting down with a student and asking, “How are you?”, volunteers play a vital role in providing individualized attention to our students and creating a welcoming, inclusive environment.
Here are some of our chapters’ most recent volunteers of the month. We hope you enjoy getting to know a few of our fabulous volunteers across the network!
826 NEW ORLEANS VOLUNTEER CLARE
WHAT FIRST BROUGHT YOU TO 826 NEW ORLEANS?
“Way back when 826 New Orleans was Big Class, a friend of mine was working on the Pizza & Poetry project and asked me to do a local poet (and pizza) interview. It was one of the first poet-things I’d ever done; I was a pretty new poet at that point and I remember feeling so fancy.
This fall, I finally finagled a schedule where I was only working 6 days a week; I knew I wanted to give some of my extra time to 826.”
WHAT KEEPS YOU COMING BACK?
“So much! I’ve learned a lot from both the students and staff at 826 that I bring back to my day job at the Jazz & Heritage Foundation’s Heritage School of Music. More than that, though, I’ve found that volunteering at 826 has been so rewarding: supporting literacy; teaching students how to read and write–these things are, to me, revolutionary acts.”
826 VALENCIA VOLUNTEER LIAM
WHAT IS ONE OF YOUR FAVORITE MOMENTS FROM VOLUNTEERING WITH 826 VALENCIA?
“When I volunteer at 826 on Sundays, during drop-in hours, there’s such a sweet variety of homework, grade-levels, stumbling-blocks, and personalities every week. One day you’re helping a pre-k reader sound out words in an Ernie and Bert book, the next you’re workshopping a high schooler’s essay on themes of resistance in Venezuelan hip-hop. I think about these moments—this spectrum and surprise—the most. It’s a mighty education.”
WHAT LED YOU TO BECOME PART OF OUR VOLUNTEER COMMUNITY?
“I struggled with reading a lot when I was in school. It didn’t matter to me, and that’s a shame because I could’ve really used it sooner as a kid growing up in the sticks. I know this is a bit too sweet and rainbowy, but reading really is a superpower—a portal, a catapult, a world-opener, a curiosity engine, and more. I wouldn’t have discovered all this without my local library and without spaces like 826, where young readers and writers are encouraged and thrown a party every day.”
826NYC VOLUNTEER GIO
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART ABOUT VOLUNTEERING AT 826NYC?
“My favorite part of volunteering at 826NYC is being able to hear the different creative stories the students are working on while trying to get them to see that they don’t have to use Google to be creative because they are original storytellers.”
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE A NEW VOLUNTEER?
“My advice to any new volunteer is to be yourself. It might take time, however, eventually, the students will open up to you about their stories.”
826CHI VOLUNTEER IVY (AGENT NAME: OATMEAL COOKIE)
HOW DID YOU FIRST GET INVOLVED AT 826CHI?
“I’ve been participating in 826CHI summer programs and snooping around the then-Boring Store since I was little! I’m also lucky enough to be friends with several student authors, so I’ve seen the empowering impact 826 has on young writers firsthand. When the opportunity to get out of my high school and dedicate significant time to an organization I was passionate about arose, I knew 826CHI was the place for me.”
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR FAVORITE 826 EXPERIENCE SO FAR?
“Probably working in the storefront and getting to greet students I’ve gotten to know as they begin to file in for After-School Tutoring & Writing!”
826LA VOLUNTEER CHRISTINE
FAVORITE 826LA MOMENT WITH STUDENTS?
“A Tie: 1) I encourage the students at my table to support each other and I really enjoy witnessing a student’s struggle to figure out how to answer another student’s question—it’s really cool to watch them make the choice to be vulnerable and run the risk of getting the question wrong, especially when they’re usually right! This also makes the other student more willing to try to help the table later. 2) Watching my students create really great ideas about things they are passionate about: family, culture, language, goals, careers, dreams.”
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF VOLUNTEERING WITH US?
“The students are the draw, even when they test my patience. One student had a particularly difficult time focusing. He jittered as if he had ants in his pants! He misbehaved for weeks, until one day he suddenly stayed on task and was a perfect angel, in keeping with his name, Gabriel.
‘What happened?’ I asked him.
‘Being bad wasn’t working for me,’ he said in a matter-of-fact tone. ‘I figured out it’s a lot easier to just do my work.”
So simple. So wise. And he continued to work like that for the entire year. But perhaps the best comment was from one student who said, ‘I feel best when I do the right thing when no one is watching.’ Amazingly profound advice from an eight-year-old!’”