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Wherever Their Stories Take Them, Our Students Must Feel Safe

February 3, 2017

A Message from Executive Director Jessica Drench to the 826 Boston community

February 3, 2017

Dear 826 Boston community,

“The mud house in Khartoum, Sudan, that we lived in was small. While I was laying in the roofless bedroom, I was fascinated by the endless sky. I thought every star was in its truest place.”

—12th Grade Student, Boston International Newcomers Academy

For nearly ten years, 826 Boston has provided safe spaces where students can share their stories and publish them for a wide audience. I feel compelled to reiterate this message today, and echo the recent statements of support from Boston Public Schools Superintendent Tommy Chang and Mayor Marty Walsh. In these uncertain times, we will continue to stand with our students and volunteers, with pencils at the ready.

If you know 826 Boston, you know that our students come from across the city and around the world. Some of their families have been settled here for generations, while others are recent arrivals to our country—but they all call Boston their home. In the collections of writing that our students publish with us, you can see a future filled with bright and courageous voices. We are honored to celebrate the stories of these scholars every single day.

My mother was born in a refugee camp in 1946, and immigrated to the United States when she was five years old. I can’t pretend to know what our students and their families are going through right now. But I know that the trajectory of my mother’s life was determined by the goodwill of those who extended themselves to her in the worst of circumstances: the family in Chesterfield, Massachusetts who sponsored her immigration; the teacher who helped her get a library card, and taught her that she could always find refuge in books, and in her own imagination.

826 Boston continues to open its doors to students at our after-school centers and Writers’ Rooms in BPS schools with the intention of providing caring environments where they can process their experiences through writing, with the support of our staff and tutors. We are also offering workshops to our volunteers focused on building inclusive and safe spaces, and gathering resources for families in our community. We will continue to seek more and more ways to support the students whom we serve. And as always, we will publish their beautiful and inspiring stories, and share them with the world.

In gratitude,

Jessica Drench

Executive Director, 826 Boston

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