“Sweet Spot,” by Mike Sugerman
NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — In Park Slope, Brooklyn, there might be the world’s only superhero supply store.
It’s a place where you can pick up a can of immortality, fill up on invisibility fuel, buy an old-school mind-reader or anything else a superhero might need.
But it’s also a place where you can change a child’s life, because behind a secret door in the back other superheroes are at work – at 826NYC.
“826NYC is a nonprofit organization that helps students sort of explore the endless possibility of writing,” says Executive Director Joshua Mandelbaum.
Underserved kids are learning to express themselves in fun ways and learning to write.
“We see writing as connected to everything you do as a human being out there in the world,” Education Director Rebecca Darugar says.
Between their Park Slope workshop and many schools, upwards of 400 volunteers help give students the attention that others in more affluent districts might get.
“They have to handle behavior management for those 30 students, as well as the education of those 30 students,” says Mandelbaum. “The relationship that an educator has with the class is going to be different than one of our volunteer mentors who’s just working with three students every day.”
The 826 program was started in San Francisco by author Dave Eggers and has spread across the nation.
Each program has a kid-friendly retail space in front. In San Francisco, it’s a pirate store.
The stories the kids write are made up or real, silly or poignant.
“One story was about this boy’s father who brought his family here from the Dominican Republic, and the father was a drug dealer and he was murdered,” Mandelbaum says.
The stories are bound together into books, which gives the kids a real sense of accomplishment.
“The books that they get published in are just a huge motivator for them, and they get to have like a lavish book release party where their families and all the tutors are listening to them read their original work. And that’s just something that people love working towards, especially students,” says volunteer Leeann Duggan.
The power of words – reading and writing them — is what’s super here.