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Falling in Love with 826CHI by Jen Vincent

Nerdy Book Club, August 4th, 2017

Over spring break, I invited one of my teacher friends to go to a poetry workshop at 826CHI, a non-profit writing and tutoring center in Chicago. I had never been before so it was a treat for me to go and write but I also hoped to get some new ideas to bring back to our district.

I ended up falling in love with 826CHI.


I love the space, I love the vibe, I love the people. Most of all, I love how they empower student writers.Read More

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Letters between CPS students challenge boundaries, barriers, and stereotypes

SouthSide Weekly, August 2nd, 2017

One of my uncle’s friends who is my friend too asked us to give him a kiss to the cheek…When I tried to do it, he turned his head and I kissed him on the lips instead of the cheek. That’s when I learned not to trust everyone.” Cung Lieu wrote this reply to Krystal Nambo after she asked him to share about a crazy memory he had.

Vanessa Cruz also wrote about trust. At the end of her first letter to Jazmine Rodriguez, she added: “P.S. By the way, Jazmine, you sound like a person I can trust.” This piercingly candid line ended up inspiring the title of the newest book published by youth writing nonprofit 826CHI, P.S. You Sound Like Someone I Can Trust.

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Photos: An Empowering Solange & Hometown Heroes Won Pitchfork Day 3

Chicagoist, July 17th, 2017

American Football members with a student from 826CHI's Teen Press Corps (Photo: Jessica Mlinaric)Read More

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Photos: A Tribe Called Quest Brings The Stripped-Down Heat To Pitchfork Day 2

Chicagoist, July 16th, 2017

Student journalists from 826CHI's Teen Press Corps interview Angel Olsen (Photo: Jessica Mlinaric)Read More

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A Place for Whimsy, Wonder & Imagination

dialogue, July 2017

In 2000, best-selling author Dave Eggers was living in Brooklyn, writing his first book by night and walking around his Park Slope neighborhood by day. As the son and brother of teachers, Eggers witnessed the issues plaguing public urban schools firsthand. His friends teaching in city schools, each responsible for 150 to 200 students, had trouble keeping them at grade level. There was simply no time for one-to-one attention. Meanwhile, as part of a community of writers, Eggers wondered how their knowledge of the written word could be applied to public schools. “There wasn’t a conduit that I knew of to bring these two communities together,” he said.

Nínive Calegari, a former public school teacher, knew firsthand the constraints teachers face trying to give their students individual attention. “The thing Dave and I both knew and believed was that, no matter where you are with writing, getting that extra amount of undivided attention makes all the difference,” she told GOOD magazine.Read More

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These CPS Kids Can Teach Us A Lot About Resisting Chicago Segregation

Chicagoist, June 7th, 2017

Chicago regularly ranks among the most segregated cities in America. The racial and socioeconomic divisions ingrained within the city run deep; and they take a massive toll, both human and financial. The legacy won’t easily be reversed, but for a glimmer of hope, you might want to turn to the kids.

P.S. You Sound Like Someone I Can Trust—the new book from 826CHI, the local chapter of indispensable youth tutoring network 826—collects the correspondence between 62 teen students, one half from the North Side, the other from the South Side. Across 149 letters, tenth-grade students from Amundsen High School, up near the border between Ravenswood and Andersonville, get to know eighth-grade students in Emiliano Zapata Academy, in Little Village, in a way that might not otherwise be so free-flowing given geographical barriers and demographic differences.Read More

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Student Pen-Pals Anthologize Their Lives in a Divided Chicago

Citylab, June 20th, 2017

Once you’ve settled into a city, it can be pretty comfortable (and easy) to stick within certain nooks and corners. A neighborhood café, playground, or bookstore can become personalized constants—and sometimes, you can live your whole life in a city without stepping beyond familiar landmarks. It’s a pattern of living, and, less whimsically, a common symptom of segregation—one that runs through the city of Chicago. For an intimate perspective, you may want to chat with some of the city’s kids.

P.S. You Sound Like Someone I Can Trust is a new book that renders the lived experiences of 8th-grade and 10th-grade students who live in different parts of the city. A collaboration between 826CHI, a youth tutoring nonprofit, and two Chicago public schools, the book is an anthology of correspondence between 62 teenage students—one stack of letters sent from Amundsen High, up north, and the other from the Emiliano Zapata Academy in Little Village.Read More

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A new book from 826CHI shows how friendships develop through letter writing

Chicago Reader, June 20th, 2017

When Eliza Ramirez's eighth-grade students at Emiliano Zapata Academy in Little Village learned that they'd be spending the fall and winter corresponding with a class of tenth graders at Amundsen High School in Ravenswood and that the letters would be collected into a book published by 826CHI, a nonprofit writing center, they were skeptical. What was the point of writing letters, they wondered, in this marvelous age of text messages and Snapchat? How could ink on paper possibly compare to the magic of cat filters?

The tenth graders weren't really into it, either. It took a little while for the charms of letter writing to become apparent. The first exchanges, initiated by the eighth graders, were collections of facts (ages, neighborhoods, numbers of siblings, favorite foods and activities) and awkward questions (what were the tenth graders' favorite foods and activities?). But, gradually, with some prompting from their teachers and 826 volunteers, things began to change.Read More

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LIT 50 2017

Newcity, May 25th, 2017

The literary community of Chicago has long responded to political and social change and this year is no exception. Public funding is being stripped from arts, humanities and science institutions that foster America’s generative creativity and imagination. In anticipation, writers, bookstores and literary enterprises began the year with Writers Resist, a citywide flexing of creative voices against a president who has made clear his narrow and faulty view of Chicago. It’s a year where independent bookstores, when confronted with Amazon’s brick-and-mortar plans, banded together to remind readers and consumers that buying local helps retain communities. It’s a time when the first national museum dedicated to writers comes to town, when the city comes together to celebrate the centennial of the late Pulitzer Prize winner and Poet Laureate Gwendolyn Brooks, when young people gain sustenance from the biggest slam poetry festival in the country and our independent publishers continue to shape conversations across the nation.
Kendra Curry-Khanna, Executive Director, 826CHI
Sculptor, educator and vintage typewriter collector Kendra Curry-Khanna heads 826CHI, a nonprofit organization that helps 2,500 students each year with after-school tutoring, creative writing workshops, field trips, in-school support, help for English language learners, and assistance with student publications. Each month, “Justice & Equity Dialogues” allow for discussion about issues affecting students. 826CHI recently held a Know Your Rights Day with the National Immigrant Justice Center.

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Word on the Street: American Writers Museum Opens in Chicago

Third Coast Review, May 18th, 2017

It’s quite literally one of a kind. Though a city like Chicago could rest on its laurels museum-wise, with a glittering crown of over 60 institutions to its name, the city of Big Shoulders once again works just a little bit harder. This time, it’s to celebrate an art not yet singularly celebrated in any institution in the US- that of the written word. Yesterday’s grand opening ceremony for the American Writers Museum wasn’t just unique for Chicago, but for the nation as a whole.

As was fitting for a national first, the ribbon cutting was itself a prestigious affair, with the museum hosting special guests like Mayor Rahm Emanuel as well as writers like Stuart Dybek and guest of honor, David McCullough. Letters congratulating the city and the museum board itself were read to the crowd of attendees, including high praise from both Barack and Michelle Obama and George and Laura Bush on honoring the written word and the freedom of expression it brings. At the same time, the museum took time to celebrate and inspire young authors, with two young girls from 826 Chi sharing short pieces at the ceremony.Read More

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