Volunteer of the Month

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

ThursdayApril 2021

This month, we’re celebrating the work of not one, not two, but THREE amazing humans who together comprise our team of Rackham Fellows! Naitnaphit Limlamai, Rachel Cawkwell, and Lauren Rudewicz have been the brains and the muscle behind this year’s Young Author’s Book Project (YABP), an 826michigan program that, this year, partnered with a SE Michigan teacher and class for a series of sequential, virtual writing workshops. Through their work, leadership, and creativity, the YABP was an incredible success.

We reached out to Naitnaphit, Rachel, and Lauren in the fall to see if they were interested in working on the YABP this year. Even though all three of our Rackham Fellows are very busy graduate students, they all said yes! Between writing dissertations, teaching courses, taking comprehensive exams, and, in Rachel’s case, defending her dissertation (yes, you can call her Dr. Cawkwell now), these amazing volunteers met regularly with Catherine, our Education Director, to plan and implement this year’s fully virtual YABP.

A Quick Glimpse: Who Are Naitnaphit, Rachel, and Lauren?

All three of our Rackham Fellows are PhD candidates (or, in Rachel’s case, a former PhD candidate!) at the University of Michigan (UM), have past experience supporting 826michigan programs, and are professional teachers of writing, but they each have their own interests. 

Naitnaphit Limlami studies the ways that preservice English teachers learn about and enact anti-racist teaching commitments. As she describes, she investigates how “teachers can develop curricular, pedagogical, and assessment materials that remain cognizant of the ways literacy practices maintain the status quo and replicate racism and white supremacy, and in what ways teachers and students can make different choices.” Naitnaphit’s anti-racist focus informs her approach when working with teacher candidates at UM and Eastern Michigan University. Naitnaphit has supported 826michigan as a regular after-school tutor in our Ypsilanti AST program and has given us amazing advice as we’ve designed curriculum and program structures.

Rachel Cawkwell’s research focuses on ways to decenter writing instructors as primary sources of knowledge, and, in her own words, “emphasizes the power of learning that lies at the interstices of one’s own experiences, the knowledge that peers bring to the table, a wide range of conversations across disciplines, and the wisdom of community experts.” While at UM, Rachel has done a number of very awesome and inspiring things, including helping to create the new course designation of English 126, a community-based learning course that fulfills the first year writing requirement.

Lauren Rudewicz’s academic work centers on theories of the present and imagination; she explores “the many ways literatures represent that which is far from us and that which is close.” She describes her passion about how creative writing can connect young writers to their senses and “reconceptualize the things they might consider ordinary as exciting building blocks for their ideas and a site for imagining their place in the world.” As a teacher of writing, Lauren works to empower students’ creative thinking and engage them through active learning. She also designed and led our Lunch Poems workshops last summer as an intern with 826michigan!

What They Accomplished: YABP Magic!

We can’t possibly imagine a team of folks more perfectly suited to working on the YABP during this challenging year than Naitnaphit, Rachel, and Lauren! They worked with Catherine to design the scope of the YABP, based on feedback from the YABP’s partner teacher, Ms. Islam, and her students. Ms. Islam’s class decided their project’s direction, and the Rackham Fellows made their vision come to life. Since there was a wide range of interests — some students wanted to write fiction while others preferred nonfiction — the Rackham team suggested creating a combination. The end result was that students composed a fictional narrative to frame a nonfiction book, all centered around the students’ chosen theme: advice.

Each member of the Rackham team took ownership over one part of the project, creating thought-provoking questions, engaging lesson plans, and absolutely gorgeous Jamboards. Rachel designed a lesson on framing narratives, while Lauren’s lesson focused on helping students make connections between their expertise, how they knew they had that expertise, and how they wanted to share their expertise with the world. Naitnaphit’s session worked with students to translate their brainstormed ideas about their expertise into pieces of writing, and Education Director Catherine wrapped up the YABP with a session on revision. In addition to each of these major sessions, our Rackham fellows designed and led short follow-up or pre-writing sessions, too — whew!

We are so thankful for our Rackham Fellows for making the YABP not just possible but absolutely wonderful this year. Their professionalism, creativity, flexibility, and thoughtfulness allowed 826michigan to work with students in new and exciting ways. Thanks so much, Lauren, Naitnaphit, and Rachel — we are so grateful for your amazing contributions!
PS — The YABP publication, “The Book of Many Wisdoms: Adventure and Advice from Ms. Islam’s Third-grade Class University Prep Science and Math,” will be shared with students in June, and will be available for purchase from our website.

MondayMarch 2021

This spring, as so much of what we knew was crumbling, something beautiful was taking root: our partnership with graphic design student Jessica Pace. In a little under a year, Jessica has taken on several major design and illustration projects at 826michigan, accomplishing each one with remarkable creativity, generosity, and…

WednesdayFebruary 2021

The moment our team observed one of Keith’s Virtual Schoolwork Support (VSS) sessions, we knew. Here he was: our ideal February Volunteer of the Month! Keith embodies the spirit of a VSS tutor. Now, as VSS ramps up for our Winter 2021 semester, we are so thankful to be able…

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…

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…

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