826CHI is a non‐profit tutoring and writing center dedicated to supporting students ages 6 to 18 with their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write.
Our services are structured around the understanding that great leaps in learning can happen with one‐on‐one attention and that strong writing skills are fundamental to future success. The belief in self‐expression, collaboration, and the power of the imagination are evident across all of our programs. These values are harnessed by creating a safe and inclusive space where ideas are respected and young minds are encouraged. 826CHI's programs empower each student to express ideas effectively, creatively, confidently, and in his or her individual voice.
Every June, 826CHI brims with anticipation. Year‐long publishing projects cross the finish line; books are bound and delivered to students all over the city. We prep for chapbook readings, and induct exceptional volunteers into the 100 Club.
In 2014, this sense of culmination was stronger than ever. Our After‐School Tutoring and Writing celebration was filled with chatter about the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. Students, families, volunteers, and staff prepared to bid farewell to our home of nearly a decade before heading one block south on N. Milwaukee Avenue to kick off the next era in a newly imagined space.
Animated by the potential that the next ten years holds, our team authored 826CHI Forward, a capital building campaign that responded to the immediate and long-term needs of a thriving organization. Forward has been a humbling experience that encapsulates the generous spirit of 826CHI donors. This campaign brought forth longstanding and new partnerships, friends, and champions of our work. Thanks to the support of several community partners, we were able to print 1,595 in-house publications and produce two professionally bound books: Even a Lion Can Get Lost in the Jungle and The 826CHI Compendium Volume IV.
Most of all, our mission was activated by a force of 400+ individuals who logged more than 15,000 hours of volunteer service. This level of commitment defines 826CHI—our work would be unattainable without the passion and dedication of our volunteers.
As I reflect on the year’s successes, I urge you to browse these pages and see how each hour of service catalyzes the emerging voices of young Chicago authors.
Hours of Programming
2 Professional Publications
The Compendium Volume IV
Even a Lion Can Get Lost in the Jungle
After-School Tutoring and Writing
826CHI provides free, After‐School Tutoring and Writing (ASTW) instruction to Chicago students in grades 1–8. On Monday through Thursday afternoons throughout the school year, students work one‐on‐one with volunteer tutors to complete their daily homework assignments and develop short stories based on weekly writing prompts. Every semester, ASTW culminates in a chapbook and publication release party where students read their stories to a room filled with family members, community allies, volunteers, and staff.
120 Total # of Sessions
85 Students Served
“There is a feeling that everyone gets. A really bad feeling. It’s usually a large amount of doom that you feel inside of you. Surprisingly, there is a word for that and that word is Doomungous. That’s exactly how I feel right now. I’m on my way to an evil shark’s lair, to stop his doomungous plan. A plan to steal churros from every narwhal in the ocean!"
Mateo R., Grade 7, I Will Always Love Left as Much as Right
"826 has helped me to become a better writer."
98% of students who completed the Post‐ASTW Survey agreed with this statement.
"My child is more confident about doing their schoolwork with the help of 826."
100% of parents who completed the Post‐ASTW Survey agreed with this statement
Wednesday through Friday mornings, full classes of Chicago students fill 826CHI’s writing lab for lively, writing‐centered Field Trips. With topics ranging from theatrical storytelling to introspective memoirs, students learn the fundamentals of writing while exploring their senses of imagination. Each 826CHI Field Trip culminates in students receiving individual copies of their stories, immortalized in a beautiful, made‐in‐house publication. Students leave our writing lab with physical representations of their written work, which encourages a burgeoning sense of authorship.
81 Field Trips
2,588 Students Served
“Once upon a time, there was Grandma T‐Rex who had a purple mohawk and wore red glasses and a green dress. She really liked to eat bacon, her nails were painted pink, and she lived in a sewer on Mars.”
Nettlehorst Elementary School, Grade 4, The Compendium Volume IV
"I would like to partner with 826 again."
100% of teachers who completed the Post‐Field Trip Survey agreed with this statement.
"This experience has given me new ideas on how to approach writing in the classroom."
85% of teachers who completed the Post‐Field Trip Survey agreed with this statement.
During In‐School Projects, 826CHI volunteers go into classrooms and assist teachers with writing‐based projects. In‐School Projects allow students to receive individualized attention from 826CHI volunteers who work one‐on‐one or in small groups to help students complete schoolwork and develop writing skills. This program includes both short‐ and long‐term projects. At one school, students may practice using sensory detail one week and write reports about state government the next. A different classroom may commit a full school year to developing content for our annual, professionally‐published Young Authors’ Book Project (YABP). Even a Lion Can Get Lost in the Jungle, 826CHI’s 2014 YABP, features narrative journalism from 7th and 8th grade students at the Harvard School of Excellence in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood.
8 Schools served
“This is the story of graduated gang member Antonio Powell—but call him Bankroll if you see him in the streets–and remember you never heard anything from Annesti. Everybody has rough times, so Antonio doesn’t really fuss about when life gives him oranges. Instead, he thinks, ‘How am I supposed to make lemonade?’”
Annesti W, Grade 8, Even a Lion Can Get Lost in The Jungle
Workshops provide students with a forum to execute projects they might not typically have the support to undertake. These tuition‐free classes are volunteer‐led and cover a variety of topics ranging from STEM to poetry in hip‐hop; from writing in code to rocking the presses. No matter the subject, these Workshops are designed to foster creativity and strengthen writing skills. Hosted in the evenings and on the weekends, Workshops provide learning opportunities that meet a variety of students’ needs, as well as encourage a broad spectrum of interests.
High School Writers Week
Middle School Writers Week
The Word Lab
Write On with Groupon
Elementary School Writers Week
Write with Lions!
Writing in Code
My Own Private Illinois
Meet the Author: Lydia Kang
How to Cook a Wolf
My New Set of Eyes
Mini Volcanoes Major Conflicts
13 Ways of Looking at Something
The Art of Memoir
Trespassers will be Prosecuted
Goo Corn Starch Creatures
Rock the Presses
College Essay Writing
The Committee for the Exploration of Mysteries
90 Sessions in Total
“Sorry that I pulled that seat from under you
But to be honest
Does it really hurt to fall on the floor”
JJ S. and Daniel D., Grades 8 and 6, Compendium Volume IV
826 Across the Ages
Neftali, Age 8
Neftali A. enters 826CHI with wildly creative stories on the tip of his tongue. In just a few minutes he can conjure up a setting featuring crime‐fighting ninjas on futuristic planets, where roads float and frogs can speak. As he rapidly approaches his two‐year anniversary with ASTW, imagination has practically become second nature.
Although this two‐year mark may seem like a minor feat, in actuality, it’s the foundation for a long-lasting relationship between Neftali and 826CHI. Neftali isn’t the only one in his family to come to 826CHI twice a week; his brother and his sister attend as well. Parents and students both know that 826CHI is a safe space where individualized attention fosters self‐expression. With titles like “Published Author” and “Writer of the Month” in his bio, Neftali already has advice for future students.
"If you’re stuck on something, ask your tutor for help. Just focus on the things you’re trying to do. Writing gives you energy coming from your hands.”
Quinn, Age 14
It was a Monday at at After-School Tutoring and Writing, and Quinn W. was experiencing her usual bout of writer’s block. When she was frustrated and ready to check out, her tutor suggested she write about...love. The rest is 826CHI history.
Quinn’s “Who Wants Love?” is famous. Published in the 826CHI Compendium Vol. III, this piece has been featured in at least four weddings and read aloud at the 2013 Library of Congress American Literacy Award ceremony. When asked how she feels about the piece, she stated proudly, “It’s legendary. I wouldn’t change anything about it.”
But the leap from battling writer’s block to composing a national treasure wasn’t a magical coincidence. Quinn notes that it was the one‐on‐one attention and continual interaction with tutors and 826CHI staff that empowered her to write.
“They always encouraged me to stay positive and do the best that I could. They taught me details. If there’s a man walking down the street–What did he look like? What was he wearing?”
Yerika, age 20
Yerika R. started at 826CHI as a dedicated Youth Advisory Board member. When in 10th grade, Yerika wrote “What Do You Really Want?” a now-iconic 826CHI poem that beautifully captures our organization’s mission and a young writer’s aspirations. Awarded a Posse Scholarship, Yerika is currently in her second year at Pomona College, where she founded the university’s first literary magazine. Between semesters, we caught up with Yerika to talk about her time at 826CHI and ask her what she really wants at this point in her life.
“I want allies to listen. I want marginalized students of color to see themselves in all creative arts."
Yerika notes that before expressing herself through written work, speaking English at school and Spanish at home left her in a state of confusion. Not only did writing at 826CHI help her process ideas and events in her life, it improved her confidence. Affirmation through publication was instrumental to Yerika embracing her unique voice. Her advice to future 826CHI students? “Sharing is scary but it also connects you with others. Don’t be afraid to erase and start over."
“Sharing is scary, but it also connects you with others. Don’t be afraid to erase and start over."
Direct Public Support
Indirect Public Support
In Kind Donations
General & Administrative
D. R. Edwards
Education Advisory Committee
Prom 9 From Outer Space Planning Committee
Tale-Gate Planning Committee
Thank You to Our Volunteers
It is because of our 400+ volunteer cohort that 826CHI is able to provide individualized attention to the city’s most vulnerable learners. 826CHI would like to thank each of our volunteers for their commitment to harnessing a safe space and fostering the imaginations of Chicago youth. Thank you for dedicating your time and talent.
455 Active Volunteers
15,221 Volunteer Hours
Majken Schmidt Sogaard
Thank You to Our Funders
It is with true gratitude that we recognize our 2013—2014 donors. With your support, we were able to provide free programming to thousands of young writers across Chicago.
1st Ward First Independent
Altria Companies Employee Community Fund
Arlene Sanoy and Michael Arvan
Oscar Guy Bargnes III
Big Stik, LLC
BlackEdge Capital, LLC
Jennifer Bell and Jeffrey Brown
Denny and Diane Bruns
Chauncey and Marion D. McCormick Family Foundation
Chicago Tribune Foundation
JoAnn M. Clark
Michelle Navarre Cleary
Col. Stanley R. McNeil Foundation
Janet and John Conneely
Nora M. Conroy
Donald P. and Byrd M. Kelly Foundation
Jeanne and John Douglass
Shawn P. Duffy
Gayle G. Elbe
Frank and Frances Guinta Charitable Contribution Fund