826 National is a nonprofit organization that provides under-resourced students, ages 6-18, with opportunities to explore their creativity and improve their writing skills at eight writing centers located in different U.S. cities. The first center, 826 Valencia, was co-founded in 2002 by educator Nínive Calegari and author Dave Eggers.
Each branch offers a variety of resources to students, including creative writing classes, workshops, book projects, field trips, and scholarships to center students who are college bound. Every tutoring center lies hidden behind an innocuous storefront – Boston is home to the Bigfoot Research Institute, Michigan hosts a robot supply and repair emporium, and D.C. 826 boasts The Museum of Unnatural History (right off the Columbia Heights Metro)
These shops, which are volunteer run, offer a variety of treats and trade tools for aspiring adventurers interested in the fields of science, mechanics, espionage, pirating, and time travel. All proceeds from the store support the functions of the tutoring centers. These stores give patrons and customers and opportunity to receive something in return for their support, and give 826 an opportunity to showcase the work of their teachers and students – all stores also sell books that include samples of center student’s writing and illustrations.
826 uses their signature blend of creativity and whimsy to foster new partnerships – for example, they recently hosted a reading where well known Chicagoans recorded their readings of select pieces from 826 students’ 2012 publication “The Noise Felt Human.”
With tutoring center, storefront, and a web store working in tandem, the organization continues to expand to new locations, receive numerous accolades, and has seen rising revenues and net assets over the past three years.