Yesterday was my first day as a volunteer for 826 Valencia, a non-profit writing room in San Francisco's Mission District dedicated to helping kids improve their writing skills and get excited about reading & writing.
Being willing, able, and endlessly enthusiastic I volunteered myself for a challenging task: helping unruly 5th graders at Cesar Chavez Elementary prepare for their upcoming California State Literacy Test. I had an hour and forty minutes to wrangle a handful of students through the process of reading a riveting mini-bio of Paul Revere (did you know he was a dentist?), underlining the main points, summarizing the main points, filling out a ven diagram with the similarities and differences between their life and Paul Revere's (if you are 11 this is tough), and coaching them through the writing of a three paragraph essay. As if all this weren't hard enough, none of them were native English speakers. And me, let's just say I'm not particularly talented in Spanish.
But, we did it, and the little darlings were so endlessly thankful I think I just may go back for more next week. There is something about helping others that makes you feel good...
All this wordy fodder is simply build up and background before plugging 826 Valencia and their latest project. Today, January 16th, they are featured in the NY Times for their new book Thanks and Have Fun Running the Country: Kids' Letters to President Obama. The book was written during the afternoon hours at 826 when kids come in for help with homework. When they are finished or need a break they are encouraged to write and be creative. A recent prompt was to write letters to Pres. Obama with some advice. And boy do they have advice: be nice, get a dog, pay teachers more, help the people without homes. A platform I would be happy to support.
I am so proud, and happy to be a new addition to the 826 family that I am almost willing to forget about the $50 parking ticket I got while volunteering my heart out at Cesar Chavez Elementary. Is this what they mean when they say give till it hurts?