On May 23, we at 826 Valencia hosted our first ever Storytellers’ Showcase in honor of our 15th anniversary and our biggest book release ever. 250 students, families, volunteers, and other community members joined us at the Strand Theater for merriment, ambrosia, and best of all, to hear our students read and discuss their stunning work.
Before a panel of students took to the stage, our Youth Leadership Advisory Board led activity stations scattered throughout the theater to share wisdom about the qualities of a successful leader. The Strand was abuzz with excitement as guests collaborated with our YLABers to write notes of appreciation, build marshmallow towers, and more, while enjoying food provided by La Palma Mexicatessen and La Victoria Bakery, and browsing the latest 826 publications on display in the lobby. The Showcase also marked the unveiling of the newest Quarterly–number 25!
Upstairs in the Rueff Theater, we celebrated the release of this year’s Young Author’s Book Project, We Are Here, Walking Toward the Unknown. Several selected students read excerpts of their pieces to the peers and volunteers who worked with them on the project for months. Their stories, based on themes in Frankenstein, featured dystopian futures, technology gone awry, and feeling misunderstood. We then presented our YABP partner teacher, Mr. Chow, with our Teacher of the Month award for his incredible work.
Finally, everyone shuffled into the theater for the main program featuring six young writers from our programs. Each student was introduced by a different community member and then read a piece of their published writing. Max Anders, a teacher at Mission High school, introduced his student Carlos Gomez: “In my ten years of working with high school students in San Francisco, I have only met a handful of students who inspire me like Carlos Gomez. Carlos is quite possibly the kindest and hardest working young man on the planet.” The student readers shared their powerful, whimsical, engaging pieces, including a moving monologue about breast cancer, an article about civil rights in bathrooms, and a poem dedicated to sushi:
Oh the waiting, the waiting,
the waiting for my love, sushi.
The anticipation, the boredom,
are like watching a turtle trying to do a hundred-meter dash.
We capped off the night with three of our students’ parents on stage, sharing letters they had written to their children. There wasn’t a dry eye to be seen and we are so glad we had this opportunity to honor the families we work with every day.
Thank you to everyone who made it to the Showcase, and all of our staff, volunteers, friends, families, and community members who make our work possible. It was a truly magical gathering of the 826 Valencia community!