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826 Valencia

New Youth Writing Center Offers Free Classes

Few things would make most people want to return to middle or high school, but for pirate lovers, writers and/or parents of teenaged children, the opening of 826 Valencia might be one of them.

Started by local author and publisher Dave Eggers, of Might Magazine, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and McSweeney'sliterary magazine fame, with the help and support of Youth Speaks, 826 Valencia, which opened its doors in mid-April 2002, aims to help students 8 to 18 years old with their writing and design skills.

This goal is taking the form of fun, free classes, like "Intro to Journalism," Photoshop, Music & Film Reviewing" and "SAT Prep," led by professionals, as well as drop-in tutoring for one-on-one help. The facility is also available to kids and teens who want to start their own zine or literary publication.

An inspiring place for free field trips for Bay Area classrooms, 826 Valencia offers a great alternative to staples like Alcatraz and the zoo. As the center's website says: "Here's an idea of what we've seen with our previous field trips: a teacher brings his or her class to the lab on a given day, during school hours or after, and the lab has, on hand, a platoon of tutors who give the students a day of extra help with a specific project -- a publication, a compilation of student poetry, anything."

826 Valencia director Nínive Calegari is amazed at the "incredible response we've received. People are dropping into the storefront, and it seems like every third person wants to help in some way."

Though 826 is fully stocked with volunteers at the moment, they are always looking for donations, ranging from new or refurbished iMacs to foreign coins -- more information is available on their website.

This summer, 826 Valencia is trying to get kids in to check out the space so they feel comfortable dropping by during the school year, when they could use some help. A few classes are still open in August, so if you know any cool kids who are looking to learn something these hot summer days, gear them towards this great opportunity.

And that brings us to the quirky-cool storefront, which is pirate-themed, and full of tubs of lard, T-shirts, McSweeney's books for sale, and very cool blowfish. I won't say more, as it's worth checking out for yourself. But as musician David Byrne raved: "Definitely one of the top five pirate stores I've been to recently."

826 Valencia, in conjunction with Youth Speaks, will be having an evening fundraiser and party on Wednesday, August 7, 2002, at Gallery Lux, 521 - 7th Street at Bryant, SF. Tickets will be available in advance at www.826valencia.com and www.youthspeaks.org.

826 Valencia
Store hours: 12 pm - 7 pm every day except Monday
Drop-in tutoring summer hours: Monday - Friday, 1 pm - 3 pm