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 4,500 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 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 nine cities strong: Boston, San Francisco, Ann Arbor/Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, 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 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

Jessica Drench
Executive Director
A Greater Boston native, Jessica began her career as a certified English and Special Education teacher in The Boston Public Schools, and has worked in education and youth development nonprofits throughout her career. Jessica earned a B.A. in English from Brown University and an M.A. in Teaching English from Columbia Teachers College, and was certified by the Institute of Nonprofit Management and Leadership in 2013. In her spare time, she can be found weeding her wild garden and cooking up a storm.
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.
Carolyn Navikonis
Director of Programs and Community Engagement
Carolyn joins 826 Boston with more than ten years of experience in education as a classroom teacher and nonprofit program leader. She began her career teaching English at Mills E. Godwin High School in Henrico, VA, opening the school’s first writing center. Upon relocating to Boston, Carolyn joined the team at Citizen Schools. She first served as Director of Civic Engagement, recruiting, training, and engaging hundreds of volunteers across the private and public sectors. She then transitioned to Director of Eighth Grade Academy and Alumni Services, launching and leading innovative programs to support students through their middle to high school transition. A New Jersey native, Carolyn can often be seen pumping her fist and driving down the Turnpike with her husband and daughter in tow.
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.
Karen Sama
Out-of-School Time 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.
Chris Logue
Deputy Director chris@826boston.org
Before becoming Deputy Director, Chris was 826 Boston’s first HR/Operations Manager. Before that, 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.
Nakia Hill
Writers’ Room Director
Nakia is a published author and journalist. In 2018, she was named a Boston Artist-in-Residence for the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture. During her residency she published two books, including her debut collection of poetry “Water Carrier” and “I Still Did It,” an intergenerational anthology featuring remarkable stories of resilience written by women of color. Nakia received her B.A. in Broadcast Journalism at Howard University and her Masters in Print and Multimedia Journalism at Emerson College. She currently teaches non-fiction creative writing classes focused on how women of color can use writing as a tool for healing and self-care.
Patti Wilder
Volunteer Manager
Patti Wilder believes the most effective way to build community wealth is through service. Before joining 826 Boston, she managed the volunteer program at Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters and spent six years as a chef in Cambridge. Patti can often be found volunteering at animal shelters, mentoring with the Girl Scouts Gold Award, or working on a sewing project.
w Will Marshall
Publishing and Programs 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
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.
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.
Isata Jalloh
Writers’ Room Manager
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.
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 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.
Alison Kronstadt
Writers’ Room Coordinator at the Rafael Hernández School
Alison Kronstadt, who uses they/them and she/her pronouns, grew up in the D.C. area, on the traditional territory of the Pamunkey and Piscataway tribes. She is the daughter of a writer, and has loved words all her life. Alison attended Oberlin College, where they studied Creative Writing and Education, and co-founded a slam poetry club and team. She is active in the Boston poetry community, currently serving as a slam-master for the Feminine Empowerment Movement Slam (FEMS). They really like pickles.
Ilana Lara-González
Writers’ Room Coordinator at the Boston Teachers Union School
Ilana, who comes from a family of poets and writers, was born in Bryn Mawr, PA and then moved to Puerto Rico when she was seven. Ilana completed her Bachelor’s degree in Social Sciences and Humanities at the University of Puerto Rico and has been a teacher ever since, helping her students learn to express themselves through writing. She relocated to Boston in 2014, where she continued to teach in Cambridge and Boston. Being a part of the 826 Boston family is a wonderful opportunity for Ilana to do what she loves most—working with children, families, and staff in a creative way to help students grow and schools meet their goals.
Rashawnda Williams
Writers’ Room Coordinator at the Jeremiah E. Burke High School
Rashawnda Williams, a native of Washington, D.C., is an educator, poet, and writer. She is an alumna of 826 DC, where she first got her start finding her voice as a young writer. She holds a B.A. in Sociology from Skidmore College in upstate New York and an M.Ed. from Boston University with a focus in teaching and curriculum. She believes that wisdom can be found through other people’s stories. Her favorite book is Assata: An Autobiography by Assata Shakur. When Rashawnda is not reading or educating students, you can find her writing poetry or watching the latest Marvel or DC Comics superhero TV shows.
Lauren Lopez
Writers’ Room Coordinator at the Edward M. Kennedy Academy for Health Careers
Lauren is a native New Yorker who graduated from Emerson College’s Writing, Literature, and Publishing program in 2018. They started with 826 Boston as an AmeriCorps VISTA working closely with university partners on the volunteer team. At any given time, they’re probably running around Boston volunteering with nonprofits like Writers Without Margins, Brink Literacy Project, or Feminine Empowerment Movement Slam. When they’re not doing all things writing and publishing, you can find them missing New York bagels, cross stitching on public transportation, or planning ridiculous spreads for their bullet journal.
Andrew Chi Keong Yim
Out-of-School Time Program Coordinator
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.
Catherine Gomez
Impact and Operations Manager
Catherine graduated from Hollins University in 2012 with a degree in Spanish and International Studies. She completed two years of AmeriCorps, first teaching English to immigrants and refugees in New Bedford, M.A., and then advocating for children in foster care as an AmeriCorps VISTA in Boston. Most recently, she was the Site Manager with Jumpstart for Young Children, working with both college students and preschoolers in Roxbury. She is currently working on completing her Masters of Education at Northeastern University. She is passionate about service, books, and social justice.
Sherell Barbee
Community Engagement Coordinator
Sherell is a Midwesterner who graduated from the University of Missouri with a B.A. in English. She started at 826 Boston as an AmeriCorps VISTA and is excited to be in her current role. Sherell believes that fostering creative spaces for youth has the power to not just impact them, but the adults serving them and the greater community overall. She previously worked for a literary agent and several literary journals and currently helps edit Pleiades magazine in her spare time. She can be found exploring the city on a bike and attempting to write the next American classic—sometimes at the same time!

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

Board Members
Andrew Cohn, LMEC
Donna Cowan, retired, Bolt, Beranek, and Newman
Jon Fullerton, Harvard Graduate School of Education
Charisse Howse, Tufts Health Plan
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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