Meet Our May Volunteer of the Month: Leeann Duggan
1. How did you first get involved with 826NYC and why did you decide to volunteer?
Years ago on a trip to San Francisco, I visited the 826 Valencia Pirate Supply Store, and became low-key obsessed with this one-stop shop for all my map-making, treasure-burying, and scurvy-prevention needs. I also bought some books of students’ writing there, and was enchanted with the crazy-creative and wacky writing within (just ask anyone I subjected to one of my dramatic readings at house parties). After years of thinking about volunteering here in Brooklyn, I finally signed up for an orientation in September and started at the after-school program that month. Now I wonder what took me so long!
2. What’s your favorite part of volunteering at 826NYC?
I’m a writer and editor, and know first-hand how much adults like me struggle with originality — children do not have this problem. Every single week, I experience multiple “wow” moments of the students being so unself-consciously creative, off-the-wall, hilarious, or moving through their writing and just in conversation. I feel lucky that I get to connect with that effortless joy, intelligence, and creativity these students have, and I feel like it’s actually helped me be a better writer, too, or at least a less boring one.
As a bonus — maybe I shouldn’t admit this but — I’ve probably learned more about middle and high school math than I ever learned the first time around. When I high-five a student over successfully multiplying fractions, it’s because we both learned something that day!
3. What do you do when you’re not at 826NYC?
I’m the Editorial Director at Novella, a creative-writing club for women here in NYC, and I’m also a freelance fashion and beauty writer. When I’m not doing that, I’m into running, cooking, reading, being an avid comedy nerd, and searching out the best Buffalo wings in New York City (I’m a Western New Yorker by birth and sorry, but NYC’s can’t hold a candle to home). Oh, and I recently took up skateboarding, which I really don’t recommend in one’s mid-30s.
4. What advice would you give a new volunteer?
If you’re thinking about it, just do it! Sign up for an orientation — I was surprised just how much 826 has going on, and how many different ways there are to be involved. It’s honestly been more rewarding than I could have possibly imagined, and if you, like me, do not have much experience working with kids, don’t worry — the intimidation factor dissolves pretty much instantly as soon as you walk into this magical space.
5. What are your superpowers?
Getting life stories out of my Lyft drivers, trimming my own bangs, and waking up 10 minutes before my alarm goes off (I don’t like it but this super power chose me).