Starting a semester with 826 Chicago

I first heard about 826 Chicago when I moved to the Windy City back in August 2010 and knew immediately that I wanted to volunteer with the program.

826CHI is the local chapter of 826 National, a string of non-profit writing and tutoring centers around the country. Here in Chicago, volunteers work with students 6 to 18 during after-school tutoring, in-school tutoring and class fieldtrips to the 826 center in Wicker Park.

Two and a half years after my move, I finally signed up for volunteer orientation. I blame my college habits of procrastinating and an adjustment period to life in the “real world”.

During volunteer orientation, I came up with the idea for this blog. A place to share what I’m learning while I work with students and how those lessons are a reflection of our community. My hope is that our readers can take something from these volunteer adventures as well.

Today I had my first volunteer experience with 826 at an in-school session. It made me feel old, especially because none of the students in the class knew about the Tanya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan scandal (we told them it was like reality TV before reality TV existed). Part of that whole feeling old thing was the realization that even though I’m only 24, being a kid now is a lot different now than it was when I was in school. And growing up in Chicago in 2013 is a lot different than growing up in the suburbs of Metro Detroit in the ’90s… although I was asked by a student if I’ve met Eminem, so I guess some celebrities have made it through two generations.

My goal with this project, and with this blog, is to better understand the young communities across Chicago. I plan to share what I learn, as I’m learning it, on I’ll also talk more about each volunteer session, what we’re working on and more about 826CHI. I hope it will inspire our readers to get involved in their own communities as well. At the very least, I know we’ll meet some great students along the way.

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