If you were hoping for battle bots, then you may have found the truth somewhat anti-climactic, but the Liberty Street Robot Supply & Repair is a pretty cool little place regardless. It is part of 826 Michigan, a nonprofit dedicated to helping local kids get the one-on-one attention they need to develop strong writing skills and become successful in the future. 826 is a national nonprofit organization that was started by famous writer and editor, Dave Eggers. The original store, 826 Valencia, is in San Francisco, California and has a pirate theme. Since then, seven other chapters have sprung up around the country. Each chapter has a different theme including Bigfoot, superheroes, time travel, and more. 826’s main goal is to inspire young people and foster their creativity. Thanks to tons of help from bright volunteers, interns, and of course, shoppers at the store and donors, it is possible for young kids to get help with the skills they need to succeed in and out of the classroom.
Liberty Street Robot Supply and Repair has been around since June of 2005. Program Director Amy Sumerton is happy with the organization’s progress so far. “I remember, early on, hearing someone say that if a non-profit could make it through its first five years, it was pretty much set, and thinking, five years? That’s a LIFETIME from now. And now, here we are, and that five-year milestone already feels so far behind us.”
So far, they have not only been prosperous, but also very effective at what they do. “We believe that the more fun a student has, and the more directly we speak to a student’s interests, the more we can help students find the fun in learning,” Sumerton said. “That’s why our programs are more than just extra homework. Students can come to 826 for help and inspiration for all kinds of things, from poetry to storytelling, writing songs to writing college entrance essays, finishing novels to starting haikus. And of course, homework of all kinds too.”
826 Michigan is always improving their outreach to the local community. They now offer many programs for local kids. Drop-in tutoring is available for free in the shop on Monday-Thursday. Also available are free after-school and weekend workshops designed to foster creativity, strengthen writing skills, and provide students with a forum for executing projects they might not otherwise have the support to undertake. Workshops range from the playful to the practical, and all are taught by volunteer writers, artists, educators, and publishing professionals. There are volunteers with residencies in five local Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti public schools. Their job is to assist teachers with what they need and work with students in small groups, especially those students struggling.
All students who work with 826 Michigan will have a chance to have some of their work published in the annual journal, the OMNIBUS. The OMNIBUS is available at the store and all profits directly benefit 826 Michigan. The Liberty Street Robot Supply & Repair not only has some awesome little gadgets, but also a great cause to support. Some items are available through 826 Michigan’s online store, but most of the exciting robot components are only available in store. If you are ever in town, the robot shop is an awesome place to check out. Even if all you feel like doing is window shopping, you are sure to be greeted with a friendly smile. ~Jack Durham, Regional Director