I discovered WriterCoach Connection this fall. Or, to be more exact, I re-discovered this wonderful nonprofit organization.
It was pure serendipity.
I had wandered over to the Solano Stroll. The yearly street fair is a giant Berkeley-Albany free-for-fall. Solano Avenue is filled with music (I've played there in the past), food vendors, crafts, knick-knacks of all kinds. Along with the entertainment, you can browse the modest booths of community nonprofits.
When I spotted the WriterCoach booth, I headed over to take a look. I thought it was aimed at people like me--writers. Well, it was, but in a different way. The organization was looking for adults to serve as volunteer writing coaches in area public schools.
Then I remembered. I had read about the organization online the previous spring. From a modest start in 2001, with a few dozen coaches at Berkeley High, the WriterCoach Connection had expanded to hundreds of volunteers at close to a dozen middle schools and high schools in Berkeley, Albany, Oakland, El Cerrito.
At the time, I had thought about getting involved. I did hesitate, because they wanted a regular weekly commitment, during the school day, of course. Then I discovered I had just missed the deadline for the last of the six-hour trainings that are required of volunteer coaches. I made a mental note to check back in a few months. But it went the way of so many of my mental notes.
But now I had another chance.
So I chatted with the volunteers manning the booth on Solano Aveneu--including the woman who ran the program at my neighborhood school, Berkeley's Martin Luther King Middle School. Yes, home to the famed Alice Waters Edible Schoolyard Project. I had walked by King Middle School many times. I jogged regularly on the school track. But I had never been inside. Suddenly, for all sorts of reasons, I realized that I needed to do this. I signed up for the next training slot.
Now, my week is different. Four days a week, I see my adults psychotherapy patients. Tuesday used to be my one free day. "My Day to Work at Home," as I used to call it. Well, my mornings are still free. But now, in the afternoonds, I get to spend a couple of hours hanging out with with eighth graders. Working on their school writing assignments.
It's wonderful, intellectually challenging. A gift to be able to do this. In some ways, it may be contributing to my own growth as a writer as much as my own adult writing group (which, coincidentally, meets on Tuesday night.)
I could say more, but I won't. Check out their website and read about this wonderful organization:
Oh, by the way. Volunteers are needed for the current semester and I hear there are still slots available in the training sessions.
You won't regret it.
Causes Blair Kilpatrick Supports
Louisiana Folk Roots, National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, Habitat for Humanity/Musician's Village New Orleans, Doctors Without Borders