How could we possibly pick just ONE volunteer of the month when showcasing our Young Author’s Book Project? WE CAN’T! All five of these people were so critical to the first ever Young Author’s Book Project in Detroit that they all deserve this honor. And don’t all of the best things come in fives? Fingers on a hand (get out of here you thumb-is-not-a-finger people). Toes on a foot. Golden Rings. Nights at Freddy’s. Olympic rings. Senses. Oceans. Great Lakes. So let’s add to that list with the next set of five . . . five extraordinary YABP volunteers.
Colleen Davisson: Let’s say you’re working with students on poetry and Spanish translations and everything is going according to plan. Sounds great, right? Now imagine that there is a month before writing is supposed to be completely turned in, and a student who speaks predominantly Portuguese joins the class. Sounds like a challenge, right? Well, thankfully you’ve got Colleen Davisson in your back pocket, whose daughter’s boyfriend is about to come in from Brazil and they can all work together to translate prompts into Portuguese, work with the student in their native language, and translate the writing into English for you. Then, she’s going to continue to work with that student every week on writing, translations, and working on English mastery. And when that student gets asked about her favorite part of 826michigan? You better believe she’s going to write down working with Colleen.
Sandra Karolak: A retired teacher that spends much of her time working with various schools around the city and their students, Sandy is one of the most caring people we’ve ever met. Last year, when it came to her attention that students who needed glasses in Ms. Lowe’s class couldn’t get them because a partner program was canceled, she went out to find glasses herself. In her free-time she types up 826michigan in-school student writing on so that it can be posted in the hallway for their schoolmates to see. When considering who would be a good candidate to write the introduction this school year, we leaped for joy at the thought of Sandy doing it. Spoiler alert: It is delicately charming and perfectly encompassing. Oh yeah, she also helps Brandan make healthier eating decisions.
Natalie Marion: Don’t judge a book by its cover. Except for Rare Air / Aire raro. That’s okay. Why? Only because Natalie Marion, effortlessly cool and hardworking YABP volunteer and Project Manager at Team Detroit, made it sparkle with the same amount of creativity, effort, and imagery as the poems in the book. After copious amounts of what-if’s, pictures of dresses with the caption “these are the colors we want!,” and various threads of emails with Brandan and Amy (a 70+ email thread is quite fun), Natalie doodled, designed, and devised the perfect cover and sketches to go with each of the students’ poems. Her commitment to creating a beautiful book to reflect the students’ poems cannot be understated. Did we also mention that she is one of the original Detroit volunteers? Because she is! She has fabulously helped with our in-school projects and workshops roadshows for several years! Sometimes we think she might actually be two people with all she does for us.
Ryan Stennett: “Tall Ryan” joined the Young Authors Book Project crew shortly after kick-off, but never missed a step. Immediately loved by the students, his image was thrust into similes and metaphors around the classroom (the phone pole as tall as Ryan) to the delight of all. When working with students, Ryan would ask deep thinking questions with such grace that students couldn’t help but ponder them. He motivated those students around him to consider their words in new ways, and to become more imaginative writers. As well as helping with the YABP, Ryan has jumped in to assist with other workshops in schools as they come up. Next year, Ryan will be traveling south to Texas to get his MFA in Creative Writing at Texas State.
Deana Wojcik: In a rare event, Deana Wojcik has become a TWO TIME Volunteer of the Month (see 826michigan’s Education Board). How does that happen? Well, when you have someone who is as resourceful and helpful as Deana, it’s hard to truly thank her enough. Deana has been a solid member of the Detroit volunteer force since early 2015 where she as acted as workshop leader, advisor, tutor, observer, professional development presenter, and a million other things. This year, when we wanted to host a meeting with a student’s family about having a family translation party, she stepped in, organized, and offered her best Spanish-speaking skills to make the family members feel comfortable and help us create an event as beneficial to the families and students as possible, as staff looked on with heart-eye emojis. Deana’s willingness to tackle difficult situations and the infusion of her immense teacher talents with her “let me help!” attitude make her a monumental asset to all of 826michigan’s efforts.
Each of these volunteers dedicated nearly every Tuesday morning all school-year to working with the students of Ms. Lowe’s class on writing with passion, dedication, and magic. So please join us in a HIP, HIP, HIP, HIP, HIP HURRAY!! in honor of these five outstanding people without whom, Rare Air / Aire raro would not be nearly as marvelous as it is.