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TuesdayDecember 2009

Our fall interns: Ashley Braden, Catherine Calabro, Mark Chou, Phoebe Goldberg, Frances Martin, Kelly Mendenhall, Becca Pickus, Lauren Pizer, and Robert Schuster!

You may notice that this month’s Volunteer(s) of the Month does not have an accompanying picture. We’d like to start this by apologizing for that. You may have noticed, over the months, that our Photoshop skills are rudimentary at best, borderline excruciating at worst. It may be worth noting, then, that our skills as illustrators leave even more to be desired, and after fifteen minutes trying to pen a nine-headed robot monster, Amy—quite smartly, we think—decided to break the rules and forgo the picture.

Because, you see, we ALREADY broke the foremost rule about Volunteer of the Month when we made our pick. Once you start breaking rules, friends, it is a slippery slope; we’re sure you’ll agree. And once you’ve decided to make NINE volunteers the Volunteer of the Month, well, it’s a fast slalom to the bottom of the hill.

Alas! We have NINE spectacular people to honor this month, so we’d better get to it! This fall was an unusually busy time for us. Not just because our executive director (and ONE HALF) of our staff was out on a four-and-a-half month maternity leave, but also because we decided to DOUBLE programs like tutoring and in-schools. We had, in other words, our work cut out for us.

It is fortuitous, then, to say the VERY least, that the Best Ever Group of Interns* walked through our doors.

These nine amazing volunteers are, in some senses, the only reason Amy and Angela were able to hold onto even the smallest shred of their sanity this fall.

Ready? Here we go!

Ashley Braden! Ashley started interning for us this summer, and we were pleased as can be when she wanted to stay on this fall. Ashley does everything from in-school residencies to store shifts to killer copyediting AND she sometimes brings in a very adorable and cuddly puppy to boot. She’s our publishing intern, and she doesn’t even seem to mind that she’s been given very few publishing tasks. Ashley has many talents, but our favorite part about her is not a talent at all. It’s just her general demeanor, which is calm, open, and fun. (She’s also leaving us as an intern due to a new job: CONGRATS!) Thank you for everything you’ve helped us with this fall (and summer), Ashley, we could not have done it without you!

Catherine Calabro! Catherine is our workshops intern, an internship which takes a pretty wide variety of skills. Catherine has them all, in spades! She has the organizational skills to handle registration, the interpersonal skills to work with parents and workshop leaders, and the playful sense of wonder to help students of all ages. In addition to workshops, she also helps with ELL on Saturdays AND helped put together our awesome robot store window. She’s one of the sweetest, most dedicated, most reliable, most talented volunteers we’ve ever known. (It bears mentioning, for example, that she once wrote a bunch of vampire stories under a pseudonym and sent them to her writer friends with cover letters. For fun.) Catherine also has one of the biggest hearts we’ve ever encountered. Thank you for everything you’ve helped us with this fall, Catherine, we could not have done it without you!

Mark Chou! Mark is our tutoring intern, and we could not ask for a better one. He knows all the tutors and students not only by name, but also by capabilities and needs. He can expertly match students with the ideal tutor. He’s also always around to help and answer questions, as well as calm a distracted student and fire up a tired one. We like to say he’s nineteen going on thirty-seven. He’s unbelievably reliable, outstandingly in-control, and well, perfect. He has been such a source of relief to us this semester! Thank you for everything you’ve helped us with this fall, Mark, we could not have done it without you!

Phoebe Goldberg! Phoebe is like the Patron Saint of Calmness and Reliability. When we started our tutoring program at West Middle School in Ypsilanti this year, we didn’t know what to expect. We placed Phoebe, a longtime volunteer, at the helm. The program has grown beyond our wildest hopes, and Phoebe has been the ideal person to run it. Honestly, this has probably become the most challenging internship we’ve ever offered, and Phoebe handles it all with grace. We can’t say enough good things about her! She really is the BEST. Thank you for everything you’ve helped us with this fall, Phoebe, we could not have done it without you!

Frances Martin! Technically, Frances is not a volunteer. She’s our AmeriCorps member. But based on her salary and how hard she works for it, we have determined that, for all practical purposes, she is a volunteer. Frances is our In-schools On-site Coordinator. It’s a mouthful of a title, and a job that’s probably even bigger than you’re imagining. Frances manages all of our in-school volunteers AND makes sure the teachers are getting what they need AND works with students, which all adds up to our amazingly successful in-school residency program. Frances also helps out at West, and does a billion other things that make Amy want to hug her every single day. She is, LITERALLY, one of the BEST people we’ve ever met. Thank you for everything you’ve helped us with this fall, Frances, we could not have done it without you!

Kelly Mendenhall! Kelly is our development intern, but we like to think of her as a breath of fresh air. She seems to have a LIMITLESS supply of ideas—from absurdly creative to creatively absurd—for how to promote the organization. We often have volunteers who are in love with 826michigan, but rarely have we come across someone so truly, madly, deeply in love with it. Kelly handles tasks as difficult as grant writing and as mind numbing as filing with the same sense of excitement. (AND she’s planning a big move this month. Have fun in Vermont, Kelly! Send postcards!) Thank you for everything you’ve helped us with this fall, Kelly, we could not have done it without you!

Becca Pickus! Becca is, in a word, capable. But it goes beyond that. What we mean to say is: Becca can do ANYTHING. She can do anything, better than you imagined, AND she’ll do it with a smile. And then ask what else you need done. Her internship has included everything from a store shift to an administrative day to tutoring, and, in all areas, she has proven herself beyond competent. Furthermore, she’s kept Angela reasonably sane this semester, which is, we can assure you, no small task. Thank you for everything you’ve helped us with this fall, Becca, we could not have done it without you!

Lauren Pizer! In addition to having a wardrobe that is almost entirely comprised of black clothes, Lauren is pretty much the ideal intern. She is awesome at helping with administrative tasks (like helping with all the volunteer coordination); she is awesome at acting as an ambassador for the organization (like working a Friday afternoon store shift); she is awesome AWESOME at working with students (like creating a HUGE Drop-in Writing fan base [i.e. participants] and helping out in Mrs. Howe’s class at Chapelle). Pretty much everything she does exceeds any expectation we might have had. Thank you for everything you’ve helped us with this fall, Lauren, we could not have done it without you!

Robert Schuster! Truth be told, we liked Robert before we’d actually even MET him. He writes a great email! He loves Faulkner! He wanted to MOVE HERE specifically for his internship! We hired him on the spot, and we haven’t regretted it for a moment. Not only has he proven himself worthy of cutting products for the store (many of you may know how prestigious a distinction this is), he cleans, he recycles, and he straightens. More importantly than all that, though, is: He has become a force to be reckoned with at West Middle School. He tutors there every day, and has become a student favorite AND an enormous help to Phoebe. Thank you for everything you’ve helped us with this fall, Robert, we could not have done it without you!

Things that all these interns share: They are each a joy to be around! They are all very intelligent! They are all super funny! THEY ARE ALL THE BEST AND WE LOVE LOVE LOVE THEM SO MUCH! We are happy to mention that almost all of them are coming back next semester WOO HOO now someone please give us lots of money so we can hire them all!

* We have said this before, and meant it, and we mean it just as much now.

Liberty Street Robot
Supply & Repair
115 East Liberty Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
(734) 761-3463
Detroit Robot Factory
1351 Winder
Detroit, MI 48207
(313) 818-0255