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Posted on Fri, Apr 16, 2010 : 12:25 p.m.

The 7AM Challenge: Finding amazing moments at 826michigan

By Amy Sumerton

Last week, one of our very best interns at 826michigan, a man named Eric Canosa, suggested that we partake in the 7AM Challenge this week. Originally, the 7AM Challenge was a concept conceived by my fiancé and me, the premise being that if we got up at 7 a.m. every day for a week, we could, we thought, get a lot more done.

As it happened, we didn’t get that much more done. We watched some bad morning TV, we maybe did a few more dishes, we took longer showers.

The 7AM Challenge that Eric proported, though, was different. The conceit of THIS 7AM Challenge was to find seven amazing moments over the course of a week.

Did we do it? My friends, I got the seventh — arguably the eighth, but I’ll get to that in a minute — 7AM Challenge e-mail at about 11 p.m. last night. We did it with time to spare.

Keep reading to find out our 7 Amazing Moments at 826michigan this week!

Note: This wound up being waaaaay longer than anticipated. Allow me to recommend getting a cup of coffee or tea and taking a few moments to relax and read it.


Monday, one of our long-time tutoring students, a middle schooler named Victoria Trojan, wrote a pretty AMAZING story, about Eric and 826, featuring zombies and a tea party, no less! Ready? Here it is:

A zombie on a TV show, in a house with his cats, hated his acting life and QUIT. So the cats walked to 826 and everyone there ran away except for Eric. Eric just stood there and Eric said, "Do you need help with homework?"

The zombie said, "NO!"

Then the zombie's cats walked up to Eric. But Eric was allergic to cats and puffed up, red, and went to the hospital. The zombie was all alone, so he had a tea party with his cats. Then, Eric got better and joined the tea party with the cats and the zombie.

Then, they played house! Eric was the mean old man person with ten cats, and the zombie was the maid. They had the best time playing house, but then the 826 kids came back and said they hadn’t finished their homework. Eric said, "Oh NO." (The reason Eric said “Oh NO” was because the founder of 826 said the reason he made 826 was so kids could finish their homework and have the rest of the day to have fun . . . also, to pair kids with caring adults.)

Eric told the 826 kids to come in and do their homework. After all the kids finished their homework, Eric and the zombie with his cats played house again, and it was the most dramatic game of house EVER! When house was done, they were thirsty, so they had some tea. Then, 826 had to close, so the zombie left 826 with his cats.

Eric locked up 826, but it was hard to close the door 'cause there was so much fun in 826, it took a couple minutes to close and lock the door. Then, Eric left...

The next day, tons of kids were outside 826 because the kids who'd finished their homework told everyone, and all the kids from Ann Arbor finished their homework from then on.


AM #1: Pretty sweet, right? Students aged 8-18 can get free homework help Monday through Thursday from 3:30 to 5:30 at 826michigan, located just inside the Liberty Street Robot Supply & Repair, 115 East Liberty.


The “2 a.m.” e-mail came Wednesday. It was from Eric, and it said: “I saw the first ever issue of Robotimes, and it overloaded my capacitors with joy.”

Robotimes, pronounced “robot-imes,” is our brand-new student newsletter. Written by 826 staff and volunteers, it features comics, a word search, essays, information, 826oneforty entries (submit your short short here, and watch our twitter feed for the winning submissions!), and more. It’s, well, pretty exciting. Now students from all of our programs, from tutoring (both at 826michigan and at West Middle School in Ypsilanti) to our In-school Residencies (this year, we’ve been working in Huron High in Ann Arbor and West Middle, Adams, Erickson and Chapelle in Ypsilanti) to workshops to field trips and beyond could hear from our AMAZING volunteers.

AM #2: Robotimes. Stop by the robot shop. We’ll show you a copy.


Here, I will turn it back over to Eric, who put AM #3 pretty succinctly:

Angela Scott [a new and already indispensable volunteer] and Tom Krawford [former Volunteer of the Month] worked so WONDERFULLY today with our new student, Briana. They were patient and varied their strategies, including an attempt to use visual learning to teach mathematics. Angela is fresh out of orientation so she still had all the Really Great Ideas from the video, and my additional suggestions, fresh in her mind. Tom and Angela had a lengthy debrief with each other after the student left and discussed what went well and what could have gone better. Then they had an EVEN LENGTHIER discussion with me about pedagogy and working with students that have learning disabilities.

To sum, AM #3: I’ll reiterate it for the one millionth time: Our volunteers are AMAZING.


Every day at tutoring, students and tutors fill out forms about how the session went. As you might imagine, sometimes these forms are hysterical. (Have I mentioned our students are brilliant, creative, talented and hilarious, or did you already guess that?)

On Wednesday, Alex filled out a really detailed "Today at Tutoring" slip. Here’s an excerpt: May well be allergic to math. Standard allergen tests should be administered.

AM #4: Our AMAZING students have a sense of humor about their challenges. (Wouldn’t it be great if we could all carry that attitude with ourselves every day?)


Our tutors are a varied crew, ages 19 to 80, with all different interests and expertises. Some of our volunteers are even, well, kinda famous. Take Jim Ottaviani. Yes, the famed graphic novelist.

Jim tutors for us every Wednesday. This Wednesday, Jim Ottaviani worked with one of our more challenging students. The session was extremely productive in terms of completed homework and learning outcomes. Jim seems to have a natural ability to bring out the best in any student and, honestly, we don't know what could be more awesome.

AM #5: Our tutors are AMAZING.


Yesterday, our publishing intern, Jared Hawkley, our AmeriCorps member, Frances Martin, and I had the distinct pleasure of delivering our latest book to the printer. Those of you who’ve been into our storefront, the Liberty Street Robot Supply & Repair, have probably seen some of our student publications.

Every year, 826michigan publishes two professionally printed books of student work (and countless ‘zines, chapbooks, catalogs, and more). One is the 826michigan OMNIBUS, our student journal. The other is an in-school publication, wherein we publish the work of students we’ve been working with in area schools.

This year, we present: Don’t Stay Up So Late: A Treasury of Bedtime Stories, written for children by children. A hundred and fifty children, to be more precise. This book is the culmination of the second year of our In-school Residency there. We’ve been sending volunteers into five different classrooms there every Friday, where they’ve helped the teachers with anything they need, from working one-on-one with students who are behind to facilitating small group work to grading papers and more. In this case, the “more” including teaching a bunch of workshops on make believe stories, fables, mysteries and tall tales, all of which are compiled in this collection.

Don’t Stay Up So Late: A Treasury of Bedtime Stories will be released in June. And trust me when I say you’ll want a copy of this gorgeous, illustrated, hardcover book. (We’re excited to get it back!)

AM #6: Publishing student work is AWESOME. I kid you not, seeing the faces of the young, newly published writers when they see the book their stories are in for the first time is the best moment of the year. Does it build confidence in writing? And how!


Yesterday, our team of AMAZING Thursday tutors continued work on the yet-to-be-named trivia/robot building board game. Tutor Whitney Jones was in charge of the entertainment category, and she made one of the questions about Troy Bolton (a character in High School Musical). We decided there should be an 826 talent show, and it in we would sing a rendition of "Status Quo" from the first movie.

That’s right, our volunteer tutors are MAKING A BOARD GAME.

AM #7: Volunteering at 826 is AMAZING. In addition to helping students finish homework, write stories, and express themselves, volunteers are often called upon to tap into their own creative juices.

Are you still here? If you are, that is the OFFICIAL EIGHTH Amazing Moment, because, let’s be frank: This was long. Thanks for reading it, and thanks for your continued support of 826 (really, lately, it’s been a little overwhelming).

Amy Sumerton is about to celebrate her fifth anniversary of working at 826michigan. She thinks it's, pretty much, the coolest place EVER. She lives on the west side with a man she intends to marry, who looks a bit like Spiderman, and their two cats, Bureau and Vander, who are named after veterinarians.