Get to know Volunteer of the Month Joel Brown

Joel_headshotWe’re honored to have the opportunity to spotlight Joel Brown, one of our most committed tutors. Joel has given his time and considerable tutoring talent to our Writing and Publishing Apprentices workshop on a consistent basis for an incredible eight years. As a tutor, Joel is uniquely talented at connecting with students and bringing out their most creative ideas, and the relationships of trust and creative collaboration that he cultivates with students extend over years— he has tutored multiple students throughout their entire high school careers! We are so lucky to have such a generous and dedicated mentor in our programs. Here’s Joel, in his his own words:

“I first discovered 826 Valencia when my wife and I moved to San Francisco in 2004. It was a couple of years later before a chance presented itself to come in and help with a program called Writing and Publishing Apprentices. I had no idea what to expect, and was sure I would give all the wrong advice.

Ever since I was a kid, I have loved words. Reading them. Writing them. Dissecting them. Understanding where they came from and what they mean. But it really wasn’t until I got to work with a student on their own writing – collaborating on a piece of poetry or a story – that I really understood the process of writing, how frustrating and exhilarating it can be, all at the same time. I’ve been tutoring with the Writing and Publishing Apprentices almost continuously since 2008, every Monday night during the school year, and sometimes in the Summer, getting to work with amazing students and watch them grow as writers.

In that time, I’ve gotten married, changed jobs, had a son (named after a character from Where the Wild Things Are), been a stay-at-home dad, had another son (named after a famous San Francisco noir mystery writer), and finally found a job where words and creativity are a major part of my day. Still, with plenty in my life to keep me busy, it is the chance to come back and work with young writers who genuinely love to write, want to express themselves in words and create something uniquely their own that keeps me coming back.

These kids amaze me each and every class. Their imagination, their intelligence, generosity and willingness to be vulnerable each week are inspiring. Some of these students stay with the program through Junior High and High School, and getting to see them evolve as amazing writers and wonderful human beings is humbling. I’ve had the chance to work with students on poems of social justice, stories of fantasy, stories written in the second person, and stories about exploding boots. I’ve worked with students for several years who graduate high school, go off to college and get themselves published. I see older students helping younger students with their ideas or writer’s’ block, taking what they have learned and passing it on. I’m so proud of what these kids are able to accomplish, and honored to be a small part of it.”

We are so glad to be working and learning alongside you, Joel. Thank you for all that you do!

Read about our previous Volunteers of the Month.

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