As you probably know, we here at 826michigan are both very reliant on and very appreciative of the corps of volunteers (500 strong!) who make our programs possible. We like to take every opportunity we can to show our volunteers the depth of our love for them, in the form of a sincere thank-you, a shout-out in a group e-mail, or through our Volunteer of the Month program.
Yet still, we feel that the depths of our love remain ultimately unexpressed. Simply because OUR LOVE IS SO DEEP. (Perhaps this why the Bee Gees wrote that song.)
So, we’re trying something new in service of letting our feelings out. As you’ll read in the below article, collectively authored by 826michigan’s entire staff, Jessi Carrothers — 826michigan volunteer, Robotier, book club member, and PhD student at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health — is a one-in-a-million volunteer. And now, she’s our first-ever Robotier of the Year.
We are delighted to present Jessi Carrothers with this completely made-up, completely sincere award; we hope we have captured even a tenth of what makes her so very special to us.
— Amanda, Amy, Amy, Catherine, Frances, D’Real, Courtney, and Brandan, 826michigan’s staff.
Since September 2010, University of Michigan School of Public Health doctoral candidate Jessi Carrothers has made an important difference in the lives of school-aged students in Southeast Michigan in an unlikely venue: the Liberty Street Robot Supply & Repair, located in downtown Ann Arbor. Customers may stop in if they need an android’s battery charged or to pick up some robot cough syrup, but they don’t know the secret of Liberty Street Robot Supply & Repair until Jessi tells them. Behind the red velvet curtain located at the back of the store, an entire world awaits: the world of 826michigan, a local nonprofit offering free creative writing and tutoring services to 2,700 students aged 6-18 in Southeast Michigan.
From behind the glass retail counter in LSRS&R, Jessi introduces unsuspecting customers to the mission of 826michigan. As a member of the organization’s robust volunteer corps, she serves anywhere from ten to fifteen hours each week in the robot store. Jessi is not only 826michigan’s most frequent robotier, she’s also our most knowledgeable. Ask Jessi if 826michigan has any programs suitable for a seventh grader dealing with tough math homework, and she’ll get you started with our tutoring program. Inquire about the shelf of hardbound books near the window, and she’ll explain our publishing program, how it benefits students, and how volunteers can get involved. She’s the in-house pro at our point-of-sale system and knows better than some of the staff the rhythm and flow of a Saturday in the robot store and how a home University of Michigan football game might impact it. There’s really very little about 826michigan that Jessi doesn’t know, and she exudes a genuine kindness and charm in every interaction with a customer.
Jessi’s intimate knowledge of 826michigan’s program comes from her countless hours volunteering in every single one, both in direct service to our students and behind the scenes, supporting our volunteers. She has helped both as an assistant to our workshop leaders and as a substitute workshop intern at a moment’s notice, tried out and mastered almost every performative and assisting role in our field trips program, and tutored students every day in any imaginable subject. Just last week, Jessi helped a workshop full of high school juniors and seniors develop essays for college applications, and then tutored three days at our Liberty Street tutoring program, assisting students with everything from Algebra II to music theory. She’s also recruited and trained volunteers for 826michigan through volunteer fairs and orientations and helped to maintain a healthy, friendly volunteer corps by giving her energy and enthusiasm to volunteer social events like our board game nights, outings, and book club meetings. Although we did already mention her fearlessness when it comes to tutoring, perhaps it’s best to say that Jessi is courageous, and her heroism, and unending dedication to our students shines through no matter the volunteer assignment.
At all times — whether helping customers in the store, presenting about 826michigan at a community event, celebrating with volunteers at a social activity, or helping a student with her reading homework — Jessi represents all that we hope 826michigan can be for our community: a warm, welcoming heart, an energetic love of learning, a healthy dose of hilarity, and a steady support system. We know she takes these amazing characteristics into everything she does at work, at school, in her research, with her own writing, and in her other volunteer roles (which are numerable and incredible). We are so grateful to Jessi and proud of her efforts to better the world around her at 826michigan and beyond.