Thursday, April 9, 2009

Dave Eggers and his education dream

I'm trying to work through a huge backlog of TED talks, and had the chance to see Dave Egger's acceptance of the 2008 TED prize while collating packets for Monday.

I have a soft spot in my heart for Dave Eggers, not necessarily because of his writing (which I haven't read), but his genuine commitment to the written word, communities, and education. He founded 826 Valencia, which is a writing and tutoring center in the Mission neighborhood of San Francisco. The storefront is a pirate store. Seriously - it's totally awesome. But what's even awesomer is the incredible effects that 826 has on the local community. The students involved in the program have put out some fantastic writing (which I actually have read), some of which has been published.

The reason I am familiar with Dave Eggers is because he wrote the foreward for the First Exposures book that was published in 2006. Even though he's writing literally about photography, he may as well be discussing arts in general. From his foreward:
A camera is a tool of power and control. The person behind the camera can shape their reality -- to make it more beautiful, more orderly, more sensical (or less so). For a teenager who might feel confused by their world, and even powerless against the things he or she doesn't like about their world, having the power to shape it, or even change it, through a camera's frame -- this is an important thing.

First Exposures is doing all this -- giving young people some control, an outlet, a filter. And the results speak for themselves...You'll see a city that might be different from the one you know, or these students might have finally captured, for the first time, the city you live in. All because they were given cameras and some guidance. When they're given the chance to shape and show you their world, the world becomes that much more their own. And the stronger they feel, the more confidence and a part of the creation of that world, the better off they are and we are.

His TED talk is inspiring to me, not just because he took the time from being a busy famous "local" writer, but because it is so obvious that he cares deeply about the transformative power of one-on-one mentorship, and giving students outlets for creative development. It's hopeful to think that those of us who work with young people - especially teenagers - may be doing something right (and I mean this in the original sense: I am full of hope).

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