Volunteer of the Month

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

SundaySeptember 2019

Summer 2019 graced us with the most incredible interns ever! Here’s what makes them special.

Olivia Grantham
Olivia sought us out from the start. She started volunteering with our field trips program and was a strong presence for the classes of young people visiting here to write fantastic and wonderous stories. She was able to do an internship with us through a U of M program that also supported her desire to work with non-profits in Detroit. Olivia was a great help in helping us start our WOOS program this summer and was able to do a lot of the foot work as far as preparing content for the 3-4 grade cohorts we hosted.

Sarah Thong
Sarah is an energetic and ever-helpful and flexible human! She came into her Volunteer & Outreach internship passionate learning about non-profits and diversity, equity and inclusion. She has gained incredible experience working with our Words On Our Streets (WOOS) program and because of that she has decided to take a year off from college and join City Year: Detroit. We are so excited and inspired that she will continue to partner with students and families in our community!

sarah, alex, and allyAlexandra Smereka
Alex was another welcome asset to our tutoring space first and later again at WOOS summer program. Alex’s love of writing and her creativity were helpful in getting students to discover their own new ideas. She also helped in researching content standards and curriculum for our summer program. Her attention and care for our young people was invaluable and made them feel at ease in our writing spaces. 

Ally Stapleton
Rapport could have Ally’s middle name, she did an amazing job engaging students through conversations of infinite topics.

Meaghan Blakenship
Meaghan is always helpful with all manner of tasks from the totally normal to the slightly absurd! Furthermore, she is a stellar candidate for a future in publishing, as she appears to get great satisfaction out of completing to-dos ranging from creative to mundane, big picture to task oriented, general to detail-y. Also she is always wearing an extremely stylish pair of glasses.

JoAnna Barbaro intern joanna crafting with student marika
JoAnna is an all-star family writing laboratory team member! She has helped us to lead family-centered writing events in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Detroit this summer, and has become well-seasoned in the art of writing odes, puppet theatre, award acceptance speeches, and imaginary menus. She welcomes families to our events by explaining each station and participating alongside students and families, and she prepares all the materials so that each family member has what they need to write and imagine. JoAnna, thank you so much for logging many miles (and lifting many crates) and crafting many puppets in the service of summer programs! You have taken initiative, held space in a warm manner, completed the set-up and facilitation work of three to four humans at a time, and done it all while bouncing someone’s three-year-old on your lap and chatting about what’s good at the movies lately.

Tanuja Tase intern tanuja at work
We’re so glad to have Tanuja on our Washtenaw programs team this summer, supporting both the Ann Arbor Writers Club and the Ypsilanti Writers Club! Whew! Tanuja traveled around Washtenaw County for us, learning the bus system and fearlessly (and frequently) taking it to Ypsilanti. Tanuja was responsible for volunteer recruitment this summer, reaching out to all of our past Writers Club volunteers to recruit for this summer. She also wrote the introduction to our Writers Club chapbooks, managed student information in our Salesforce database, supported our After-school Tutoring and Field Trips programs during the school year and lead many icebreakers to make our students feel welcome. Whew! Tanuja has done this all with unwavering cheerfulness, and she’s always willing to jump in wherever needed.

intern arielAriel Everitt
This summer, Ariel has done an outstanding job of supporting our Ann Arbor Writers Club students! Because of Ariel’s efforts with communications, we were able to recruit many of our school year tutoring families to this program, allowing us to fulfill that long-requested dream of summer “tutoring” for families. Not only did Ariel send out mass emails, but they also called each individual tutoring family AND send personalized emails, ensuring that everyone was well-informed about the program. Also! They brought their background as a writer to our program, leading mini lessons on how to start your story like a movie, and creating supplementary resources (like a “bowl of problems”–a jar with slips of paper containing different problem ideas that student writers can pick out).

Emma Theiss
Emma is a powerful evaluator, standing strong and bright before a summit of papers and numbers that is stacked very high! We are so lucky to have volunteer-turned-intern Emma (an AAPS graduate and current Kalamazoo College student) supporting research and evaluation. Emma has compiled reports of feedback from students and families, preparing the ideas and suggestions for our staffers to easily understand and use in program planning. She’s sought out quotes from volunteers, students, and families for 826michigan to use in grant proposals and tabulated our program statistics for the year, which will help us share the story of our work with stakeholders. She has also scaled the Everest of data projects with her good humor and patience: organizing and preparing more than a hundred student writing samples for review through 826 National’s partnership with the National Writing Project.

FridayJuly 2019

If you have ever talked with Lara Zielin, then you know how enthusiastic she is about writing, about Ypsilanti, about 826michigan, and about living! We are so lucky to have Lara as a long-time volunteer and board member. Many of you will recognize Lara from her recent stint as a…

MondayJune 2019

“Can I work with Chris?!”   In our Ann Arbor After-school Tutoring Program, this is a common greeting shortly after students sign in for the day. Our June 2019 Volunteer of the Month, Chris Engers, is a beloved student favorite. Since January 2017, Chris has been an after-school tutor at…

SaturdayMay 2019

Elizabeth Bihary is one of our newest volunteers. She has jumped right into building wonderful relationships with weE-Bots at the Detroit Public Library’s Redford branch. Although she’s not studying anything connected to education at Oakland University , she has an amazing knack for releasing our young authors from writer’s block….

TuesdayApril 2019

Genevieve Jones is a long-time roboteer, having started volunteering with 826michigan in Ann Arbor, she has continued to bring her passion for working with young people to our Detroit space this year. Her consistency and calm has been anchoring to our tutoring space at the Detroit Robot Factory. As we…

TuesdayMarch 2019

Josi Ezinga was an essential and indefatigable part of a small team of volunteers that hosted two classes of Erickson Writers Club in the fall. She is a super-volunteer for five classes of Writers Club this winter—two at Erickson Elementary and three at Estabrook Elementary. That’s a lot of work!…

FridayFebruary 2019

Tom Arata is a tutoring all-star! Such a bright and caring beacon in the after-school universe that we couldn’t believe he had not yet been named VOTM (or, as we thought more about it, VoTOM!). Tom has been tutoring with our program in Ypsilanti since mid-academic year 2018, when he…

WednesdayJanuary 2019

Our January 2019 Volunteer of the Month, Beverly Manko, first came to 826michigan to attend one of our Courageous Conversations dialogues. In these sessions we talk with volunteers about creating space in our programs to have conversations about identity with our students.  Beverly is a docent at the University of…

SaturdayDecember 2018

Hatt Merlino has been such a welcome part of the Detroit After-School Tutoring volunteer roster. Their calm demeanor has helped set such a good tone in our tutoring space in Detroit this year. They have a unique way of engaging students in a warm and attentive way, with a sensitivity…

ThursdayNovember 2018

Sandy Karolak is 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…

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