Volunteer of the Month

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

WednesdayAugust 2018


safiya merchant is august 2018 volunteer of the month

Safiya Merchant joined the 826michigan volunteer team in August of 2017 and has been a non-stop force of enthusiasm, humor, and support ever since. She has helped in nearly every program in Washtenaw County (in-schools, workshops and drop-in writing, after-school tutoring, family writing laboratories), making time to work with our students outside of her full-time job at the University of Michigan. Safiya is a much-asked-for, much-appreciated regular tutor in our Washington Street Tutoring program, where she worked with students one-on-one on almost any kind of homework assignment you can imagine, subbing in multiple evenings a week when extra support was needed at the end of the school year.  

A former journalist, Safiya asks students great questions to get to know them as they work together. Students open up to Safiya because she opens up to them, connecting about shared experiences and empathizing with the challenges of multi-part homework assignments and school projects and the pressures that come with them. Students also love Safiya because Safiya is dedicated — she does not give up on a student or an assignment, carrying on a conversation until all concepts are reviewed — and because Safiya knows when to ask questions, when to listen, and when to step back and encourage the student to try it themselves. In addition to her real connections with students, Safiya also easily bonds with other volunteers and engages in thoughtful debrief conversation during the post-program huddle, following up about highlights and lingering questions each day. It is through this rich back and forth that our programs improve for everyone, and we are so grateful to Safiya for her authentic engagement at all times.

Safiya’s background as a K-12 education reporter at the Battle Creek Enquirer and with the Daily Herald newspaper in the Chicago suburbs give her a unique insight into how to support students in honing their distinct voices no matter the writing assignment. Safiya brought this experience into our writing lab by designing and facilitating a program on journalism for some of our youngest (and most brilliant) writers, the Wee-bots. During this program, students had the chance to tell us what they knew about journalism (more than you think!) Students then interviewed each other and the results were magical.

We know there are many more reasons to celebrate Safiya; writing about them all would take us so many days. Suffice it so say, Safiya is AMAZING and a wonderful part of our 826michigan community. We are glad to honor her as our August 2018 Volunteer of the Month!


ThursdayJune 2018

“Oh, don’t tell me that. Now, I’m nervous.” This was Suzanne’s response when we let her know that our illustrator for a recent Storytelling and Bookmaking field trip was to be our good friend and 826 founder, Dave Eggers. While she has long admired Dave’s work, it is now us…

FridayJune 2018

In the world of volunteering at 826michigan, there is sprinting and there is long-distance volunteering. Some folks are sprinters, and can volunteer for a couple of months, several times a week—but—because of other commitments in the world, or new jobs, have to reorganize their schedule and can no longer volunteer….

FridayMay 2018

Can’t you just hear the sweeping, melodic rhythms of Pomp and Circumstance ringing out in the spring air? What a time of reflection, achievement, and completion. With graduations looming and graduates dashing around to finish credits and find gowns, it’s a bittersweet time at 826michigan–this is when we reflect on…

WednesdayApril 2018

Once in a blue moon are we graced with volunteers like Maria Garcia. The University of Minnesota graduate is a chemist and chemical engineer. She’s also multi-faceted–she balanced her engineering course work with singing soprano in the campus choir and found time to master both French and Spanish. Maria walked…

WednesdayFebruary 2018

Omari Baruti joined 826michigan in the fall of 2016 with the goal of leading STEM workshops in Detroit schools. To get started, he made it his mission to learn about 826 by volunteering as an after-school tutor on Liberty Street. There he has continuously helped students in all subject areas—from…

ThursdayFebruary 2018

Susan is a regular volunteer with field trips on Liberty Street and we are so lucky to have her walk in the door on Wednesday and Friday mornings. These field trips require many different roles to be filled, several of them theatrical. Not only is Susan a dependable volunteer, but…

TuesdayJanuary 2018

Putting together a music festival is no easy task. Putting together a music festival where the artists donate their talents and performances for a local nonprofit organization, well that’s just plain tough. Enter the Mittenfest Booking Team. While it has seen many faces over the years, one thing is consistent:…

FridayDecember 2017

Every month, we seek out a volunteer to highlight for their outstanding contributions to 826michigan, and each year that we grow, it becomes so much harder. Annually, we can only recognize twelve of the more than five hundred dedicated, outstanding humans who support our students each year. Closing out a…

WednesdayNovember 2017

Shiraz Ahmed is a top-notch journalist, world traveler, and outstanding volunteer. He hails from the Lone Star State’s biggest city—Houston, Texas—and has made it a point to become an active part of the Detroit community ever since he made this city his home. Shiraz began volunteering with 826michigan in 2015, consistently…

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115 East Liberty Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
(734) 761-3463
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(313) 818-0255