826michigan Expands into Detroit

DETROIT—Amanda Uhle, executive director of 826michigan announced Friday at TEDxDetroit that the organization will be opening shop soon in Detroit.

The Ann Arbor nonprofit provides in-school and community programs aimed at instilling a love of writing and boosting writing skills for children and teens.

The 826michigan Detroit expansion received a $100,000 grant from the DTE Energy Foundation.

Starting in January 2013, 826michigan will begin recruiting volunteers for its Detroit In-school Residency Program, which places volunteers in school classrooms to work one-on-one and in small groups with children who are having difficulty with writing.

Tutoring“Our programs are not exclusive in any way, and all programs feature some one-on-one support. We can work with students with wide range of abilities,” says Uhle. “Some students will be advanced in their writing, and many more will likely be behind. A student may need someone to slow down and re-read directions to them, or they may need some editing on their work.”

Elementary school reading scores are low in Detroit as compared to other large districts across the county, so classroom help in reading and writing would clearly give struggling students a lift.

“A lot of our students really struggle to write, in part because they’ve decided from an early age that writing is hard, that they’re not good at it,” says Uhle. “I truly believe that inspiring students to be confident in themselves, especially by way of their writing, is a pathway to tremendous opportunity.”

The more permanent move into Detroit for 826michigan will start with hiring a Detroiter to establish a large volunteer base and working with community members to identify neighborhoods and schools that could benefit from an 826michigan partnership. The organization has many existing relationships with organizations in Detroit, including University Preparatory Academy, Barton Elementary, and other schools and community-based nonprofits.

Once the In-school Residency Program is established, 826michigan, over time, will grow in Detroit with after-school tutoring programs, other writing programs and workshops for kids, ages 6 to 18, and eventually a permanent writing and tutoring center.

This will be over the course of approximately five years, says Uhle.

Volunteers are at the core of what 826michigan does to foster writing skills for young people. In-school volunteers are required to commit to at least two months and preferably the entire school year.

According to Amy Sumerton, 826michigan program director, the volunteer piece is important to keeping overhead low, but also to having a diverse population of people with different backgrounds, interests and areas of expertise working with the students.

“It is important for the students to see the same people coming in every week, the same community members continually pledging their commitment to their success as individuals,” says Sumerton.

Uhle says that 826michigan’s work in Detroit will complement that of InsideOut Literary Arts Project, another nonprofit that fosters literary arts in the city.

“We have enormous respect for them and are very excited that we’re both going to be doing work in Detroit,” says Uhle. “The need in Detroit is ample; we all need to jump in to do this work. It’s exciting to have them [InsideOut Literary Arts Project] lead the way.”

826michigan is part of an umbrella organization, 826 National, which sprang from the first 826 writing center, called 826 Valencia.

Writer Dave Eggers (A Hologram for the King) founded 826 Valencia at that address in San Francisco, and has spawned seven other writing and tutoring centers in the 826 National network.

"I'm heartened by 826michigan’s growth and have so much confidence in the energy and momentum of Detroit,” says Eggers. “Today, 826 centers around the country are serving 30,000 students. It will be encouraging to all of us to watch how Detroiters interpret and respond to the 826 model."


Volunteers are needed in Detroit. Fill out a volunteer form at www.826michigan.org/volunteer.

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