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. To find out more about where 826 Boston is going, read 826 Boston’s plan for growth.


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 4,000 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 700 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 eight cities strong: Boston, San Francisco, Ann Arbor/Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans, 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 2016-2017 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
Associate Development Director
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
K-8 Program Director
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.
Nakia Hill
Writers’ Room 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.
w Will Marshall
Writers’ Room Manager
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
Financial 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_1541_low Chris Logue
HR/Operations Manager
Before becoming 826 Boston’s first HR/Operations Manager, Chris worked as an attorney at a small nonprofit law firm where he trained and advised a network of community services providers across the country. Before that, he managed a team of attorneys at Casa Myrna Vázquez, a local organization providing services to victims of domestic violence. Chris is a Massachusetts native, having graduated from UMass Boston and Northeastern University’s School of Law, and is proud to share a hometown with Teddie Peanut Butter.
Ally Ally Ruiz
Development and Events Manager
A graduate from the University of Arizona, Ally found her love for nonprofits in her most recent position as Homeward Bound’s Public Relations and Event Manager in Phoenix, Arizona. Born in Mexico and raised in Tucson, she feels wildly lucky and proud to have the opportunity to pursue a career that she loves, just like her parents dreamed. She wholeheartedly connects with 826 Boston’s mission and insists that the most empowering thing you can do is connect with others by sharing your own story. Reading, Hot Cheetos, classic rock and dancing to cumbias are among Ally’s list of favorite things.
Joelle Joelle Riffle
Communications and Branding Manager
Joelle, originally from Cleveland, Ohio, is a recent transplant to Boston from New York City, where she received her BFA in Communication Design and worked as an administrator for an art and design college access program. Joelle founded and leads the volunteer initiative Designers Available, which partners nonprofit organizations with designers across the country to collaborate on pro bono design work. She believes the arts are a means to cultivate connection, empathy, and growth where creativity and love are most needed, on the margins.
Isata Jalloh
Writers’ Room Coordinator
Isata is a Boston native who grew up just blocks away from 826 Boston (If only it had been 826 Boston during her childhood…). She 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, volunteer, service member, and now staff member. If Isata had to choose one author whose work changed her life it would be James Baldwin.
dsc_1595_low Gabriella Balza
Writers’ Room Coordinator
Gabriella is a Venezuelan-born, Florida-grown writer. When she is not busy exploring identity, trauma, and diaspora in her writing, she can be found at the Jeremiah E. Burke High School Writers’ Room. Gabriella is passionate about promoting positive change and empowerment in youth through the discovery of one’s voice. She earned her B.F.A. in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College and has interned at different literary agencies, book publishers, and literary journals around Boston.
Richie Wheelock Richard Wheelock
Writers’ Room Coordinator at Boston International Newcomers Academy
Richie moved to Boston in 2013 after growing up in Illinois. He received his BFA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College, and he spent his first postgrad year as an AmeriCorps VISTA at 826 Boston, recruiting volunteers and building community partnerships. Richie is a writer, pianist, and illustrator, and he knows how to steam green beans just right. His favorite short story is “Sweet Jam in Las Vegas,” by Julian, a second grader from Chicago.
Heather Heather Nelson
Writers’ Room Coordinator at the John D. O’Bryant School of Math and Science
Heather grew up in Charlottesville, VA, but considers Cambridge to be her true home. She is a poet, a bookworm and the mother of three children. Before finding her dream job at 826 Boston, she worked as an attorney and as a high school English teacher. In her spare time, Heather remains a true word-nerd, participating in book discussion and writing groups. She also likes to cook, bike, explore the city, and meet new people, especially writers, teachers, and teens.
Andrew Andrew Chi Keong Yim
Program Assistant
Andrew was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, where his family and heart still live. He received his B.A. in English from Vassar College, in Poughkeepsie, New York, and has worked in elementary and K-8 schools in New England for the past two years as an AmeriCorps service member. Andrew believes in the power and necessity of young people’s voices and stories, and he is excited to meet his new favorite writers right inside the doors of The Greater Boston Bigfoot Research Institute. You can find him reading a good book or missing a layup (sometimes both!) in a park near you.
Sherell Sherell Barbee
Family, Volunteer, and Community Engagement Designer, AmeriCorps VISTA
Sherell recently graduated from the University of Missouri, where she received her B.A. in English. As an undergrad, she worked for a literary agent and several literary journals, including the Missouri Review. She is an amateur artist who hopes to one day be exhibited in the Museum of Bad Art. She helps edit Pleiades, a literary magazine, in her spare time. She is excited to explore the restaurants, bookstores, and music venues of the Boston area.
Tim Knapp Tim Knapp
Student Engagement and Assessment Designer, AmeriCorps VISTA
Tim is a native of the Hudson Valley region of New York, and graduated from SUNY New Paltz with a degree in English Literature. He recently moved to Boston from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he served with City Year Milwaukee and then as an Education Assistant at a K-8 school, met a whole lot of amazing students, and became a Brewers fan. He likes making coffee, reading and writing fiction, and talking about coyotes.
Shay Shay McIntosh
Marketing and Events Specialist, AmeriCorps VISTA
Shay got her big break at the tender age of ten as a student author in 826CHI’s very first published book, A Sunday Afternoon Hot Dog Meal, before graduating to volunteer and then intern. She attended Emily Dickinson’s alma mater, Mount Holyoke College, where she was an English major and a peer health educator. Ask her about her family’s retired racing greyhound.
Shay Lauren Lopez
University Partner and Volunteer Engagement Specialist, AmeriCorps VISTA
Lauren is a native New Yorker who recently graduated from Emerson College’s Writing, Literature, and Publishing program. At any given time, they’re probably running around Boston volunteering with nonprofits like Writers Without Margins, Tethered by Letters, or Feminine Empowerment Movement Slam. When they’re not doing all things writing and publishing, you can find them missing New York bagels or planning ridiculous spreads for their bullet journal.
Kyle Kyle Banquer
Community Outreach and Engagement Designer, AmeriCorps VISTA
Kyle is a Connecticut native who now finds himself in Boston after stints in Baltimore and Brooklyn. He graduated from Loyola University Maryland with a B.A. in English, and has been recognized for his writing on Gothic Romanticism. He is excited to become a part of the 826 Boston team, and deeply values the creativity that 826 Boston fosters. Outside of the office, Kyle likes to direct plays and amass novelty socks.
Durane Durane West
Writers’ Room Associate at Boston International Newcomers Academy, Commonwealth Corps
Durane was born and raised in the city of Boston. He wrote his first poem (“roses are red, violets are blue”) for a classroom crush in middle school. After graduating from The English High School, he studied Communications at Berry College, which has the largest campus in the world. Shortly after returning, he served at Playworks and Jumpstart through AmeriCorps. Today, he advocates community through inclusive behaviors and artistic expression. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates is his recommendation to anyone who asks.
Matt Matt Loretti
Writers’ Room Associate at the Boston Teachers Union School, Commonwealth Corps
A Massachusetts native, Matt Loreti left the East Coast to attend Oberlin College, where he had the pleasure of studying Creative Writing. While there, he participated in an arts outreach initiative, partnering with students from Elyria to West Cleveland. Coming home with these passions and practices in mind, he’s excited to join 826 Boston this year. Matt is committed to helping students discover their abilities as storytellers, as well as the excitement and confidence that developing one’s voice inspires.

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

Board Officers
Gillian Kohli, 826 Boston Board President, Wellesley Books
Marc Foster,  826 Boston Board Vice President, Transparency Life Sciences, LLC
Mimi Curran, 826 Boston Board Treasurer, Retired WGBH
Emily D’Amour Pardo, 826 Boston Board Clerk, Harvard Book Store

Board Members
Linda Button, Children’s Hospital Trust
Andrew Cohn, LMEC
Donna Cowan, Retired Bolt, Beranek, and Newman
Jon Fullerton, Harvard Graduate School of Education
Carol Greenwald, WGBH
Rev. Tim House, First Church Boston
Charisse Howse
Lisa Krakoff
Jeff Mayersohn, Harvard Book Store
Pam Rosenberg
Janet Tiampo
Kevin Whalen, Morgan Stanley
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
Meredith Goldstein
Mary Gordon
Julian Houston
Jeff Kinney
Lois Lowry
David McCullough
Tom Perrotta
Heidi Pitlor
Richard Russo
Jim Shepard

Media contact

For all  media inquiries please contact Jenna Leschuk, Grants and Communications Manager, at 617-390-5610, or  jenna@826boston.org


Need some 826 Boston logos? Download high-resolution logos.

Need more info? Download the one-pager.

Boilerplate: 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 strengthen each student’s power to express ideas effectively, creatively, confidently, and in his or her individual voice. 

Quick Facts

Every year 4,000 students ages 6-18 participate in 826 Boston programs, in and out of school.

Since opening in 2007, 826 Boston has served more than 22,000 students.

826 Boston produces professionally published collections of student writing every year, containing hundreds of stories. 

Our History

The Greater Boston Bigfoot Research Institute, the whimsical storefront entrance to 826 Boston’s center, opened in 2007. It is one of the eight cities that belong to the 826 network. The first chapter was founded on 826 Valencia Street in San Francisco, California by acclaimed author Dave Eggers and educator Ninive Calegari, in 2002.


“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

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

Five-Year Plan

Read More about 826 Boston’s plan for growth in the upcoming years.

Follow Us!


826 Boston in the News

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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 a 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 7, 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 co-founder Dave Eggers, and students Stevelyn DesireJulia 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.


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

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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