Volunteer of the Month

Care to meet the elite team of supervolunteers whom we’ve honored over the years?

WednesdayJanuary 2021

Caitlin Koska has seen many sides of 826michigan, and she’s been a superstar volunteer for a while now. In 2015, she designed and co-led a workshop entitled “A Writeable Feast: Flavorful Food Writing,” where writers used all five senses to write odes, reviews, and love letters to favorite foods. As a classroom teacher at Maybury Elementary in 2017, Caitlin partnered with 826michigan for a five-session program called “Surveyors of Space,” where students harnessed the power of their imaginations to explore new planets; their work resulted in a beautiful coloring book. Caitlin has served as an advisor on our Educational Advisory Committee, a kind, compassionate, and thoughtful feedback-giver, and most recently, one of the trustiest, most dependable, and most outstanding Virtual Field Trips volunteers known to humankind.

Let’s talk for a minute about Virtual Field Trips. Caitlin has volunteered at every single Virtual Field Trip we’ve run this year. Yes, you read that right: even during a global pandemic, Caitlin has spent over sixteen hours supporting field trips with 1st through 5th grade students. And Caitlin doesn’t just sign up; she shows up. From participating in the pre-program huddle where we review the lesson plan, to the field trip itself, where Caitlin expertly facilitates small groups of students as they think creatively as writers, to the post-program huddle where she shares insightful feedback, Caitlin exudes authentic enthusiasm and presence. Her joy for learning and working with young people is contagious. She is a teacher in the truest sense of the word, finding ways to dive deeper with students and 826michigan staff while uplifting everyone around her.

One example that illustrates Caitlin’s positive attitude is from when we decided to introduce the idea of having a volunteer take on the role of “illustrator” during Virtual Field Trips, either through drawing on an online whiteboard or Googling images to accompany our writing. About two minutes before we started our field trip, we asked Caitlin if she’d pioneer this new role. She gamely agreed to this unexpected request, embodying the 826michigan successful volunteer approach of being courageous. In the end, Caitlin helped create whimsical and fun illustrations that made the students’ writing come to life. 

That was the second field trip we ran this semester; now, our field trips almost always include the role of volunteer illustrator, which Caitlin chooses to play with good humor and ingenuity.

We could go on about Caitlin; how she always shows up right on time with great input; how she thoughtfully uses the Zoom chat feature to engage with quieter students; how she cheers for everyone around her, from students to fellow volunteers to 826michigan staff. We’ve been so grateful to be able to work with Caitlin this year, and we can’t wait to keep diving into Virtual Field Trips with her this semester!

WednesdayDecember 2020

826michigan has traversed many seasons over the past fifteen years. We’ve gone from a scrappy startup to a slightly-less-scrappy-and-still-spirited nonprofit, from serving one city to serving three cities, from one learning lab to two. We have experienced periods of growth and months of coalescence, times of joy and moments of…

MondayNovember 2020

Volunteers are the heart and soul of 826michigan, but there are some volunteers who are our heart, soul, and essential organs. They are so deeply a part of the work we do that we can’t imagine life without them. Jim Ottaviani is one of those volunteers. The entire staff was…

MondayOctober 2020

We’re not sure where we’d be right now if it weren’t for Justin Schell and Travis Blake. When they answered our call for video support, we were in the middle of our transition to online programs. What we had: lots of questions, many ideas, plenty of worries. What Travis and…

FridayAugust 2020

Running programs on Zoom can be really different than meeting in person, and our students have handled our transition in various ways. Some students seem more hesitant to speak up, especially in larger Zoom rooms. But when Connie Powers enters the room, everyone lights up. Connie’s warmth, energy, and enthusiasm…

WednesdayAugust 2020

At 826michigan, we begin our volunteer training with a free write, where we ask volunteers to reflect and write for four minutes about a memorable experience that they had with learning as a young person. This memory could be positive, negative, or somewhere in between. We’ve led countless training sessions…

TuesdayJuly 2020

You may not know our friend Albert Charles (you can call him Al) because typically he is content to keep his contributions to 826michigan quiet and out of the spotlight. (We’ve certainly never heard him say, “Why am I short of attention?”) Usually the Charles we are raving about here…

WednesdayJune 2020

When we entered this virtual season, we at 826michigan, like many others, had to think quickly. While we surveyed families, students, teachers, and volunteers behind the scenes to understand what they’d like to see from 826michigan during this time, we quickly produced a brand-new program to keep students writing in…

ThursdayApril 2020

Daniela, one of our amazing interns, has been with us since September of 2019. In short, she has been a reliable, creative, courageous, data-processing, coffee-loving, posing-with-a-pizza-for-a-picture-taking, and important part of 826michigan. In full, Daniela is everything mentioned above and was also a regular volunteer during our Young Authors Book Project…

WednesdayApril 2020

Since the spring of 2019, Sejjad has been an active volunteer in more than one program. From After-school Tutoring in Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor, to Summer Writers Club, and even field trips, Sejjad always brings his best to the table.  For example, over the summer of 2019, Sejjad worked with…

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