826 Boston is a nonprofit youth writing and publishing organization that empowers traditionally underserved students ages 6-18 to find their voices, tell their stories, and gain communication skills to succeed in school and in life.

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. With this understanding in mind, we provide after-school tutoring, field trips, creative writing workshops, in-school tutoring, help for English Language Learners, and in-depth publishing projects.

Each of our free programs seeks to empower students to express their ideas effectively, creatively, confidently, and in their individual voices.


How many students do you serve each year and where do they come from?
826 Boston provides free writing and tutoring programs for Boston students ages 6 to 18, serving more than 3,500 students and forming supportive partnerships with 150 teachers annually.

How much does it cost to attend 826 Boston?
All of our student programming is free!

When did 826 Boston open?
The late Mayor Menino cut the ribbon in front of the Greater Boston Bigfoot Research Institute in 2007.

How many volunteers are involved with 826 Boston and who are they?
826 Boston maintains a network of more than 2,500 volunteers from the Boston community—including professional writers, artists, and teachers. More than 600 volunteers regularly devote their time and talents to our programs. These qualified and compassionate individuals are involved in each and every program 826 Boston offers.

Why is it called 826 Boston?
The flagship chapter of 826 (826 Valencia) opened its doors at 826 Valencia St. in San Francisco. Founded in 2002 by internationally acclaimed author Dave Eggers and award-winning educator Nínive Calegari, 826 Valencia inspired a network of creative writing and tutoring centers now seven cities strong: Boston, San Francisco, Ann Arbor/Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, and Washington, D.C. The 826 National office was established in 2008 to serve the growing educational network by providing strategic leadership, administration, and other resources to ensure the success of the 826 network.

826 Boston aims to build communities of empowered young writers who will succeed in school, attend college, and carry with them a life-long love of writing and reading.

Our programs are designed to motivate students to complete their schoolwork, improve confidence in their writing skills, and foster positive relationships with adult mentors.

To gauge the impact of our programs, 826 Boston uses a variety of metrics, including third-party evaluations and pre- and post-program surveys.

Download our 2014-2015 Annual Report for more information about our impact.


See what students and parents say about our programs:

93% of students agree that 826 Boston has helped them become more comfortable in school.

85% of parents report that their child is getting better grades with the help of 826 Boston.

Since working with 826 Boston, my daughter has become motivated and excited to write. I’m in awe of how 826 Boston staff and volunteers achieve such greatness from these scholars.”

-Josette W., after-school parent

dsc_1495_low Jessica Drench
Executive Director
Jessica joined the 826 Boston team in the role of program director in 2011 and became Executive Director in 2016. A Boston native, she earned a B.A. in English from Brown and an M.A. in Teaching English from Columbia Teachers College, and is a certified English and Special Education teacher. Jessica began her career teaching high school ELA at the McKinley School, a program for at-risk youth in the Boston Public Schools. In 2013, Jessica attended the Institute of Nonprofit Management and Executive Leadership at Boston University. She brings 10 years of non-profit leadership to her work at 826 Boston.
dsc_1375_low Kristin Barrali
Director of Advancement
Kristin became 826 Boston’s first Development Director in 2012. A native Tennessean, Kristin has an extensive background in fundraising and nonprofit management. She got her start working for an economic justice nonprofit in Boston where she was on the cover of The Boston Globe for capsizing in a life raft in a tax fairness action. She then worked at the Nonprofit Quarterly magazine for 11 years where she helped raise money from foundations, individuals, and eventually managed the earned revenue strategies of the publication. Kristin’s passion for education comes from her role as an active Boston Public School parent. Her kids attend school just down the road from 826 Boston’s offices, and she was recently elected to the City-wide Parent Council in Boston.
dsc_1697_low April Bo Wang
Education Director
April grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, and started her career in education as an 11th grade English teacher in the Arkansas Delta. Go Cougars! She holds a doctorate in education leadership from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and believes that when students share their voice, they break down barriers. April collects library cards.
dsc_1373_low Jenna Leschuk
Grants and Communications Manager
Jenna Leschuk got her foot in the door with writing as a student tutor at Dartmouth College’s Composition Center. After graduation, she used the power of words (and recruitment!) to help find and train the next generation of environmental leaders with Green Corps. She worked in communications with Public Interest GRFX and as a freelance writer and graphic designer before joining the development team at 826 Boston.
dsc_1550_low Karen Sama
Program Manager
Karen grew up in Queens, New York, and earned her BA in Religion from Colorado College. After graduating, she moved to Denver and worked directly with preschoolers with special needs in homes and Head Start classrooms.
DSC_1358_low Jennifer “J.J.”
Mercado Javier

Volunteer Manager
Jennifer Mercado Javier, more popularly known as J.J., is a proud Anteater, meaning she earned her B.A. in Criminology, Law, & Society from the University of California, Irvine. Although J.J. is California-bred, she fell head over heels in love with Boston after serving with City Year. There she learned the power of service and the importance of integrating civic engagement in education and youth work. She’s since lead volunteer programs for youth and young adults in various nonprofits in Boston, and also prioritizes volunteerism in her own life, giving time to start-ups who focus on empowering minority youth. In her spare time, she can usually be found behind a children’s novel or with a pad and pen in hand writing her own.
dsc_1603_low Nakia Hill
In-School Program Manager
Nakia grew up less than two miles away from 826 Boston. She received her B.A. at Howard University and her Masters in Print and Multimedia Journalism at Emerson College. She has taught creative writing and journalism classes to youth in Washington, D.C. and in Boston. She is an indie music enthusiast who still gushes over the sight of her byline in major publications.
dsc_1418_low Edwin Gonzalez
Program and Development Coordinator
Edwin is a native of Boston and grew up a few blocks away from 826 Boston in Jamaica Plain. He attended the English High School, the first school that 826 Boston partnered with for their Young Author’s Book Project, and as a senior he became 826 Boston’s first Boston Youth Fund Teen Tutor. After graduating from Brandeis University with a B.A. in Sociology, Edwin interned at 826 Boston before joining its full-time staff.
w Will Marshall
Writers’ Room Coordinator
A former 826 volunteer and service member, Will brings his passion for education and young adults to the Writers’ Room at the John D. O’Bryant High School. Will is a graduate of New York University’s Journalism School and has worked in newsrooms, production studios, and in higher education. He has a special knack for resolving disputes between feuding middle schoolers and if you run into him, be sure to talk horror movies and Italian restaurants.
dsc_1541_low Gena Barenholtz
Finance Manager
Prior to joining 826 Boston, Gena held positions at HarbourVest Partners, LLC as a Senior Tax Accountant, Commercial Union as a Senior Accountant and Fidelity Investments as an Accountant. Gena graduated from Bentley University with a Masters in Taxation and a Graduate Certificate in Accountancy. Undergraduate she studied at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance. Gena enjoys people, traveling as well as being outdoors running, biking and being active.
dsc_1408_low Helen Zhang
AmeriCorps VISTA Marketing and Events Coordinator
A native Bostonian, Helen’s first love was the sights and sounds of the city’s vibrant creative community. As a student at Boston College studying History and General Education, Helen explored the world of publication as Editor-in-Chief of her school literary and arts magazine. Her passion for story-telling as a powerful tool to uplift underserved youth took root during her experience working with students at the Beijing School for the Blind. You can find Helen happily coloring outside of the lines during her free time.
dsc_1346_low Kieran Collier
AmeriCorps VISTA Volunteer Engagement Coordinator
Kieran is a graduate of Emerson College with a BFA in Writing, Literature, & Publishing (concentration in poetry). He’s a published author (When the Gardener Has Left, Wilde Press) and an avid pop punk fan. He believes that children are smarter than adults 9 times out of 10, and his favorite color is orange.
dsc_1546_high Leah Cotton
AmeriCorps VISTA Student Engagement Coordinator
Leah’s life began not far from 826 Boston in Newton, Massachusetts. She moved away to get a degree in Creative Writing from the University of Redlands in sunny California, where she found much of her writing inspiration in the outdoors. She started out as an intern with 826 Boston in the fall of 2015, then after a season of teaching Outdoor Education on Cape Cod, Leah has found her way back to the organization.
dsc_1595_low Isata Jalloh
Commonwealth Corps Out-of-School Time Coordinator
Isata is a Boston native. She just recently received her BA in Communications with a concentration in Digital Journalism and a minor in Sociology from Newbury College. Isata fostered her relationship with 826 in the spring of 2016 as a program intern; she felt really connected to the mission and the students. She then applied for a service position to serve as the current Out-of-School Time Coordinator. Some of her passions include baking, jewelry-making and writing, she plans to pursue a career in journalism and later establish her own non-profit organization.
dsc_1678_low Hannah Lloyd
Commonwealth Corps Out-of-School Time Satellite Coordinator
After spending time in the Bay Area, Hannah has returned back home to the land that omits needless consonants, Newton (pronounced “newn”). In recent years you could find Hannah: studying cognitive science at University of California, Berkeley(go bears), wishing for rain, biking downhill, walking her bike uphill, writing a plethora of odes to Redwood trees, listening to too many podcasts, and volunteering at 826 Valencia. Hannah has been inspired by participating in many student’s writing processes all over the world. From an island in Rhode Island, to a cape in The Bahamas, she has seen firsthand the power of writing as a medium for success in all realms of life.
dsc_1656_low Tara Barnes
Commonwealth Corps In-School Writer’s Room Coordinator tara@826boston.org
Tara left the sandy beaches of Newport, Rhode Island behind to pursue a B.A. in Political Science at Clark University. When she had space in her schedule, she found herself gravitating towards education and creative writing courses. This inspired her to intern for nonprofit organizations such as Let’s Get Ready and Year Up. She has been committed to serving youth ever since. If she isn’t at 826 Boston, she’s probably lost in the stacks at the library.

Are you looking to join our team? Internship and full-time opportunities, when they are available, can be found here.

Board Officers
Kevin Whalen, 826 Boston Board President, Morgan Stanley
Donna Cowan, 826 Boston Board Vice President, Retired Bolt, Beranek, and Newman
Mimi Curran, 826 Boston Board Treasurer, Retired WGBH
Jeff Mayersohn, 826 Boston Board Clerk, Harvard Book Store

Board Members
Linda Button, Children’s Hospital Trust
Andrew Cohn, LMEC
Marc Foster, Transparency Life Sciences, LLC
Jon Fullerton, Harvard Graduate School of Education
Carol Greenwald, WGBH
Rev. Tim House, First Church Boston
Charisse Howse
Gillian Kohli, Wellesley Books
Emily D’Amour Pardo, Harvard Book Store
Ande Zellman, Ande Zellman Innovation and Strategy

Harvey Cotton, 826 Boston Legal Counsel

Kevin Feeney
Helen Jacobson

Literary Board
Steve Almond
M. T. Anderson
Richard Blanco
Christopher Castellani
Anita Diamant
Junot Díaz
Andre Dubus III
A. W. Flaherty
Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Julia Glass
Mary Gordon
Julian Houston
Jeff Kinney
Lois Lowry
David McCullough
Tom Perrotta
Heidi Pitlor
Richard Russo
Jim Shepard

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Eye on Education: 826 Boston’s Writers’ Room at the Jeremiah E. Burke High School

WBZ TV—April 26, 2017

“In order to change the status quo, we gotta shake things up and cannot prepare children for the 21st-century opportunities without partnership with those that live beyond the walls of this school,” said Dr. Lindsa McIntyre, Headmaster of the Jeremiah E. Burke High School in Dorchester.

“It’s been amazing,” said senior Ronicia Da Veigh. “They give us all the support we need to write things for colleges, for essays, for our classes.”








826 Boston Celebrates Night of 1,000 Stories
The Boston Globe–May 7th, 2015

The Roxbury writing center for young people, 826 Boston, had its fifth annual “Night of 1,000 Stories” benefit at the Royal Sonesta in Cambridge on Tuesday. The featured speaker was writer (and former Boston resident) Luis Alberto Urrea, who was a Pulitzer finalist for his nonfiction book “The Devil’s Highway: A True Story.” VIPs included 826 cofounder Dave Eggers, and students Stevelyn Desire, Julia Teixeira, and Agnes Ugoji, who helped with the night’s presentation. Photo credit: Anne Haggerty.


826 Boston Hosts Literary Jeopardy at Porter Square Books
The Boston Globe — March 16, 2015

Porter Square Books was packed on Friday night for “Literary Jeopardy,” an event hosted by 826 Boston, the Egleston Square-based nonprofit writing center for kids. Clues that called for answers in the form of a question included “This ‘Freaks and Geeks’ costar took on the role of the Emerald City’s misunderstood leader in a 2013 prequel to the beloved 1939 film,” and “This is the name George Eliot, author of ‘Middlemarch,’ was born with.” (For the record, those answers are James Franco and Mary Ann Evans). The night’s VIPs were “Get in Trouble” author Kelly Link, of Northampton, and “Everything I Never Told You” author Celeste Ng, of Cambridge.


Gregory Maguire Stops in for Books for Breakfast
The Boston Globe — November 21, 2014

“Wicked” author Gregory Maguire was the special speaker at Thursday morning’s Books for Breakfast benefit for 826 Boston. The annual morning celebration raises money for the Roxbury writing center, which supports students 6 to 18 with tutoring and writing projects. WilmerHale hosted the event, which drew young readers such as Nicholas Allen,15, and Emily Gay, 17.


Boot Camp Gives Students Individualized Attention for College Essays
WBUR’s Learning Lab – November 18, 2014

This past, cold Saturday morning, about 100 Boston high school students trekked to Northeastern University to spend the day work-shopping their college essays as application deadlines approach for seniors.

The College Essay Boot Camp — a day organized by 826 Boston, a nonprofit organization focusing on students’ writing skills, and Northeastern — provides the unique opportunity for every interested student to partner one-on-one with a writing tutor for the day. Read More.


Lena Dunham instructs; Robert Kraft Inspires
The Boston Globe — October 4, 2014

While in Boston to promote her book, “Not That Kind of Girl,” Lena Dunham hosted a writing roundtable for six women. We’re told the session, organized by Dunham and her sister Grace and held at 826 Boston, lasted about an hour and included a few writing exercises and a loosely structured conversation about writing. Best of all, the participants will have their writing included on Dunham’s Tumblr site. Read more.


Students Take the Stage at the Strand Theatre, Thanks to 826 Boston and the A.R.T.
WBUR’s the ARTery – August 13, 2014

In a quick five week scramble that would make for excellent reality television, a group of 20 students from ages 10 to 14 write, design and act in their own play — culminating in a performance at the Strand Theatre on Friday, Aug. 15. Read More.


Photo courtesy of Gretjen Helene

Lessons in Craft: A.R.T. helps Boston students shape short plays
From Harvard Gazette – July 31, 2014

Often the lights go down on the main stage of the American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.) in the summertime, but not this year. The Loeb Drama Center is abuzz with “Finding Neverland” a musical based on the life of J.M. Barrie and the inspiration behind his story “Peter Pan.”

On Tuesday, the Brattle Street playhouse was humming with an eager young crowd. After making their way from Roxbury, 20 budding playwrights ages 10 to 14 spilled off a yellow school bus and into the Loeb as part of a collaboration with the A.R.T. and 826 Boston, a nonprofit that helps young students develop their writing skills. Read More.


826 Boston’s After-School Students Dispense Advice for Valentine’s Day
From Meredith Goldstein’s Boston.com “Love Letters” column – February 17, 2014

You might remember that in December, I asked Love Letters readers to submit questions that could be answered by the young people at 826 Boston, a non-profit writing and tutoring center in Roxbury. I picked two of your questions and let the kids be advice columnists for an afternoon. Today, for the holiday, I’m running their answers. They did a fantastic job in a short amount of time (and a few of them chose funny pen names). Read More.

826 Boston’s writing and tutoring center is located in the heart of Egleston Square in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood.

Behind the door of the Greater Boston Bigfoot Research Institute, past the 10-foot statue of Bigfoot and the terrarium with our beloved tarantula Edwina, you’ll find a tutoring center buzzing with activity as students work one-on-one with tutors, read in our library, or look up questions on our computers.

If you’re a parent interested in signing up a student for one of our programs, click here.

If you’re a teacher interested in bringing your class to the center for a field trip, click here.

If you’re a donor or community member interested in learning more about 826 Boston, click here.

If you’re looking to make a difference as a member of our team or as an intern, click here.

Directions & Contact Information

Just trying to find your way?

You can find us at:
826 Boston
3035 Washington Street
Roxbury, MA 02119

Or call us at:
(617) 442-5400

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