All Together Now: Our Partnership with USF

We have partnered with 826 Valencia for many years and always cherish there commitment to community-engaged learning. Learn more about Joe Totterdell, Volunteer Coordinator, as he shares his experience working with 826 Valencia, the Community Partner Co-Educator Fellowship, and the valuable contributions from supporters and volunteers with the children of San Francisco. 

I was born in San Francisco and have lived here for most of my life – almost 25 years, a quarter of a century – and when I walk the streets, I see that a lot has changed, for better or worse. The playgrounds I used to frequent have all been renovated, and most of my childhood friends have moved away! Still, it feels like some parts of San Francisco have always been there, even if they weren’t, and that they will always be there, like the Golden Gate Bridge, which, in reality, is less than 100 years old.

I learned a lot about the Golden Gate Bridge from This Bridge Will Not Be Gray by Dave Eggers, who co-founded with Nínive Calegari the nonprofit that I work for, 826 Valencia, which provides free writing, tutoring, and publishing services to students in underserved communities and supports educators in empowering students to write. More recently, I learned that the
University of San Francisco was established long before the bridge was even conceived! Coincidentally, the Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good and 826 Valencia both opened in 2002, like cousins born a few months apart, and Mr. McCarthy, California’s former Lieutenant Governor, grew up on 19th Street between Guerrero and Dolores, just around the corner from 826 Valencia’s flagship location. Life is replete with full-circle moments, especially in this small city!

As a Volunteer Coordinator at 826 Valencia, I partner with USF students enrolled in Community-Engaged Learning courses and support them as they tutor students in writing and complete their course requirements. Our volunteer tutors play an essential role in our organization and help make our free writing programs possible. We strive to equip our partners from USF with the skills and knowledge needed to grow and thrive in their work with the community and beyond, as they navigate the constantly changing landscape of our city and help improve educational outcomes for the students who live here.

In the spring of 2023, I had the honor of participating in the Community Partner Co-Educator Fellowship through the McCarthy Center alongside local nonprofit professionals. The Fellowship, led by Star Plaxton-Moore and Jackie Ramos, felt integral to promoting the visions of both the McCarthy Center and 826 Valencia. I learned about so much, including but not limited to the barriers to participation that CEL students and faculty face, as well as how to cultivate equitable and sustainable relationships with them in order to improve the current CEL experience while promoting positive community outcomes.

What felt especially relevant from the Fellowship was the importance of coming together as a community. In the context of Community-Engaged Learning, faculty, students, and nonprofit professionals all come together and use what they know and learn to promote the Common Good, as Mr. McCarthy may have hoped when he founded the center. The Fellowship helped strengthen the bond between USF and 826 Valencia, bringing us all together. The community is full of people who are all different in some way, each individual bringing with them something to offer: knowledge, experience, and skills in unique forms. I appreciate and value my work because I have met so many people in the community who know and can do so much, and the Fellowship helped me identify ways that I could surface their knowledge and uplift their talents.

The contributions of our Community-Engaged Learners at USF have been noteworthy, to say the least. USF students played an essential role in our programs, helping fill our volunteer needs in high-demand programs and contributing a whopping 1,555 total hours of direct service with students in the 2022-23 school year! Thanks to the support of our partners from USF, students received individualized support both in their classrooms and our Writing Centers as they wrote magical adventures, recorded original podcasts, and so much more!

Class sizes are large, and classroom teachers only have so much time to give to each student; in many cases, the math simply works against teachers. By being present with our students in our writing programs, our USF partners have helped ensure that students get the individualized attention that they might not normally be able to receive in their classrooms. Haven’t we all wondered, at some point in our lives, if we are truly being seen and heard? Our volunteer tutors who come to us from USF help answer that question for our students: “We see you and hear you! You have a story to tell, so tell it.”

Learn more about our community-engaged learning here.

826 Valenciacommunity engaged learningCommunity partnerCommunity Partner Co-Educator FellowshipEducationnonprofitpodcastspublishingstudentstutoringwritingWriting CenterYouth

llombre • July 27, 2023

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