The flagship chapter of 826, 826 Valencia, opened in 2002, at 826 Valencia St. in the Mission District of San Francisco. The original address inspired the name 826 National. It was co-founded by educator Nínive Clements Calegari and author Dave Eggers, who also founded the independent publishing house McSweeney's.
In April 2010, Dave Eggers founded ScholarMatch, a nonprofit organization that aims to make higher education possible for underserved youth. ScholarMatch coordinates students with various resources, donors, scholarships, and universities to aid in the financial undertaking of pursuing a college education.
Following the success and impact of 826 Valencia in its first two years, 826NYC opened its doors in 2004. In 2005, 826michigan, 826LA, and 826CHI were established, respectively. In 2007, 826 Boston joined the growing network, followed most recently by 826DC, which opened in 2010.
In 2008, a national office was established to support the chapters and act as a central hub of the 826 network. 826 National is an independent nonprofit organization that provides strategic leadership, administration, and other resources to ensure the success of its writing and tutoring centers.
In addition to the seven 826 chapters, there are also several writing centers that are inspired by the 826 model and mission, both domestically and internationally.
The seven chapters that make up the 826 National network each feature uniquely themed storefronts. All proceeds from the storefronts go directly to various 826's free writing programs for under-resourced youth.
826 Valencia runs San Francisco's only independent Pirate Supply Store. Located in the heart of San Francisco's Mission District, the store is the front entrance of the tutoring center. The store sells pirate clothing, eyepatches, compasses, spyglasses, pirate dice, skull flags, and secret treasures. Shoppers can also find back issues of McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, books published by McSweeney's, and essay and story compilations written by 826 Valencia students. In the summer of 2014, 826 Valencia announced their expansion to the neighborhood of the Tenderloin, San Francisco.
The second center to open following 826 Valencia, 826NYC is located in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn and features The Brooklyn Superhero Supply Company, offering capes, antimatter, and secret identity kits.
826michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan is home to The Liberty Street Robot Supply and Repair, where everything for the robot or robot enthusiast can be found, including the Is Your Little Sister A Robot? kit. 826michigan serves students in and surrounding Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and Detroit.
826CHI, in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago, is also the location of The Wicker Park Secret Agent Supply Co. (formerly known as The Boring Store), which sells spy supplies like trench coats and night-vision goggles.
826LA's storefront is The Echo Park Time Travel Mart, offering products such as Mammoth Chunks, Dodo Chow, and Anti-Robot Fluid (bottled water). In addition to the storefront in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, 826LA has a second location in the neighborhood of Mar Vista, and a satellite location at Manual Arts High School in South Los Angeles.
826 Boston, in Roxbury, Boston, opened The Bigfoot Research Institute of Greater Boston in fall 2007. Specializing in cryptozoology, this storefront offers such products as a Jungle Hygiene Kit and an unofficial Yeti Hairball.
826DC was officially established in October 2010, featuring Tivoli's Astounding Magic Supply Company storefront, purveyors of accessories and tricks for all magicians-in-progress. 826DC is located in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, DC.
The Greater Seattle Bureau of Fearless Ideas existed as an eighth chapter between 2005 and 2014, when it was known as 826 Seattle.
826 National programs are supported by over 6,000 active volunteers of various professions, ages, cultures, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Volunteers are trained by staff members for various areas of 826 programs: after-school tutoring, the Young Authors Book Project, field trips, in-school programs, and writing workshops. Volunteers can also help in administrative jobs, such as website maintenance and graphic design.
826 Valencia has attracted the support of various writers, such as Isabel Allende, Keith Knight, Daniel Handler, Amy Tan, and Erika Lopez. Other chapters have been equally successful in garnering support from literary and cultural personalities, such as writers Sarah Vowell, Sherman Alexie, David Sedaris, Zadie Smith, Melissa Mathison, and Davy Rothbart.
Other notable public figures who support 826 include Phil Jackson, Ira Glass, Jimmy Kimmel, Jon Stewart, and Spike Jonze.
Maps and Legends, Michael Chabon's first book of non-fiction, was released in May 2008. Proceeds from Maps and Legends benefited 826 National.
In June 2015, writer and director Judd Apatow released Sick in the Head, a collection of interviews and conversations with well-known comedians. A longtime friend of Eggers and supporter of 826, the proceeds from Apatow's book were donated to 826 National, 826NYC, and 826LA.
826 publishes a vast amount of student writing, in genres ranging from journalism to cartooning. Known as the Young Author Book Project (YABP), students participate in the compilation, editing, and assemblage of a book. Students take pride in actively participating in the creation of a professional product of their own work. Several publications are released each year, including chapbooks, compilations of short stories, plays, poems, quarterly journals, and collaborations with acclaimed authors. Recent publications from chapters include:
In 2014, 826 Valencia released Uncharted Places: An Atlas of Being Here, a collection of 52 personal essays by the seniors at Thurgood Marshall Academic High School. Exploring such topics as place and the metaphorical and literal concepts of home, this work features a foreword by Rabih Alameddine.
Chicken Makes the Ice Cream Taste Better was released by 826NYC in 2014. Written by the sixth and seventh grade students of P.S. 7 Samuel Stern in East Harlem, this book features short stories and anecdotes on food, family, and community. The work also features a foreword by Marcus Samuelsson.
In May 2014, 826LA released Beyond the Gates and Fences, by the students of Manual Arts High School with a foreword by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. Beyond the Gates and Fences is a collection of essays on the future, professions, and what success means to these students. It is the 11th book of 826LA's Young Authors Book Project.
In July 2015, 826michigan put out A Lantern of Fireflies, containing 25 bedtime stories penned by the ninth grade students of Huron High School. Each story features an illustration by a professional artist, including work from Jon Klassen, Lisa Brown (artist), and J. Otto Seibold.
826DC released Get Used to the Seats: A Complete Survival Guide for Freshmen in the spring of 2015. This anthology is a collaborative project between the students of Woodrow Wilson High School (Washington, DC) and Cardozo Senior High, offering advice to underclassmen. A collection of poems, essays, and short stories, Get Used to the Seats also features an introductory essay by filmmaker and DC native Spike Jonze.
I'm a Flame You Can't Put Out (also known as Soy Una Llama Que No Puedes Apagar) features poems by the students of 826 Boston, in both English and Spanish. Expounding the future goals, hopes, and passions of the fifth graders of The Rafael Hernández School, this work was released in 2014.
After the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States, 826 students across the country were asked: "What should President Obama do now?" The results were collected in Thanks and Have Fun Running the Country: Kids' Letters to President Obama, published in conjunction with McSweeney's. The follow-up, I Live Real Close To Where You Used To Live: Kids' Letters to Michelle Obama (and to Sasha, Malia, & Bo), was published in 2010.
826 National has also produced two volumes of creative writing lesson plans, titled Don't Forget to Write, for students in elementary and secondary school.
In 2015, 826 National released STEM to Story: Enthralling and Effective Lesson Plans for Grades 5-8, a compilation of lesson plans that combines STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education with creative writing. A resource for teachers across disciplines, STEM to Story provides engaging lessons, workshops, and projects that have been created by professionals in each field and tested in the classroom. STEM to Story is aligned with both Common Core State Standards Initiative and Next Generation Science Standards.