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Meet the 21st Century Neighborhood Stoop: Your Local 826 Writing Center

Volunteering in your neighborhood makes being neighbors a bit less ominous.


Some of my fondest memories from childhood revolve around the stoop of our apartment building on 140th Street in Harlem. Ours was one of the few tenements at the end of our side of the street (the buildings on the other side of the street had been burned out or abandoned years before). Some of the families that lived there had lived on the block the longest—since the 1950's and 60's. Because of that, our stoop became the de facto center of the neighborhood—at times a meeting place, sometimes the kitchen for a summer party, and when it was just us boys, the bridge of a battle ship.

The stoop linked all of the families and people on the block together. It made us a community with everybody looking out for everyone. If I was doing something I wasn't suppose to, which was often, my grandmother knew because another grandmother or mother on the block was watching out for me. People made sure we went home directly from school instead of wandering onto another block. And it wasn't unusual to hear a scream of, "Is your homework done?" if one of my friends ventured onto the stoop too early after school.

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At 826, Students Can Be as Weird and Creative as They Want

826 centers are full of magic and learning.


I'm going to guess that you haven’t recently had the chance to have fun or be really imaginative at your job. You're certainly not thinking about what your dog would say while having a conversation with a flying mermaid on a planet made of figs. But, what if I told you there's a place trying to inject fun and imagination into young people's lives everyday? That place is your local 826 center.

826 National is a network of nonprofit creative writing and afterschool tutoring centers located in San Francisco, New York City, Los Angeles, Seattle, Ann Arbor, Boston, Chicago, and Washington D.C. Started in 2002 by writer and philanthropist Dave Eggers and educator Ninive Calegari, this collaboration between writer and educator has led to something really wonderful: a place that’s neither home nor school, but a "third place" where young people can be as weird as they want to be.

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