UNT Dallas' lead role delivers first 826 chapter-in-development in Texas

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students at an 826 workshop

826 National and partners, the University of North Texas at Dallas and AT&T, announced the launch of 826 Dallas Project, an initiative to build a new chapter of the acclaimed 826 National Network. 826 Dallas Project will work to build the writing skills of Dallas youth, as it progresses through 826 National’s Chapter Development Process.

With a generous initial investment from AT&T, and diverse community support from organizations such as Big Thought, For Oak Cliff, Paul Quinn College and The Writer’s Garret, 826 Dallas Project seeks to become a thriving nonprofit organization to serve Dallas youth as a fully contributing member of the 826 Network.

“For 18 years, the 826 Network has activated and inspired writing education that celebrates the power of youth voices, promotes an effective approach to supporting literacy development and emphasizes the importance of writing in the cultivation of the next generation,” said 826 National Network Growth Director Doug Keller. “When 826 Dallas joins our network, it will be a local force in the education community, ensuring that Dallas youth are able to access the power and the joy of writing — and contribute to our national movement.”

While 826 Dallas Project is in its formative stages, it is being incubated by the UNT Dallas Foundation.

“UNT Dallas is proud to play a significant role in bringing the first 826 project to the state of Texas,” UNT Dallas President Bob Mong said. “826 will foster a vibrant and encouraging environment for our young, urban Dallas students to explore their passions and creativity, to share their ideas and advocate for their communities, while promoting a pathway to academic success through the power of the written word.”

826 Dallas Project has already successfully implemented the 826 model in the Dallas community. In 2019, it hosted two successful college essay workshops in which first-generation, college-bound seniors worked one-on-one with volunteer tutors. The workshops served 114 students from six high schools. With the support of more than 50 volunteers, 100% of the students reported that the workshop they attended helped them improve their essays.

This work continues even during the COVID-19 pandemic. The 826 Dallas Project recently launched its first Young Authors’ Book Project at Trinidad "Trini" Garza Early College High School. The program operates remotely with juniors and seniors in Mexican-American and African-American history classes to produce a professional quality publication about their lives during the coronavirus crisis.

Dallas is a flourishing city that boasts the second-largest public school district in the state, and the 14th-largest in the nation. An overwhelming majority of students (86%) come from low-income households. Nearly half of all students (43%) are English Language Learners. State testing indicates an achievement gap — across all subjects and grades — for these students. President Mong contacted 826 National in 2017 with the goal of bringing 826’s model to the Dallas community to address this critical gap. Since then, 826 National and the Dallas community have worked to develop 826 Dallas Project. Utilizing the leadership of AT&T, the 826 Dallas Project is on the path to serving thousands of Dallas youth for years to come.

“Now, more than ever, AT&T is committed to finding new ways to empower young people to be change makers, leaders and innovators in their communities,” said Mike Peterson, vice president, AT&T External Affairs in Dallas. “We are glad to partner with 826 National to expand their efforts in the Dallas community and help more young people access their rich portfolio of programs and content. We look forward to watching 826 grow here in our hometown, inspiring local young writers for generations to come.”

826 Dallas Project is working to build a community of dedicated volunteers to work one-on-one with students in the 826 mode. They also need volunteers to offer pro bono support toward creating publications, collaborating on their eventual 826 youth writing center and championing their work in the community.

The written words of Dallas students are essential to telling the story of America. 826 National is honored to share and celebrate their stories.

Learn more at 826dallasproject.org

To learn more about how you can get involved with 826’s movement for writing and creativity, please visit 826national.org.