DORCHESTER (CBS) — Shai Mendez is a senior at Jeremiah Burke High School in Dorchester, planning for his future.

“I’ve always been a writer, ever since I was eight,” Mendez said. “That’s when I discovered I had talent with it … I could write for anyone and you know, they’ll always need me.”

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Shai Mendez. (WBZ-TV)

Yes they will. That’s the idea behind “The Writers’ Room,” run by the local chapter of national non-profit 826. Students get help improving their writing skills from trained tutors from universities like Northeastern and UMass Boston.

What started in San Francisco 15 years ago at 826 Valencia Street now has 6 chapters, including Boston. It’s all free of charge.

“We’re here for teachers and students during the day, and then after school, the space turns in to a creative writing hub with slam poets, literary magazines, journalism club,” said 826 Boston Executive Director Jessica Drench. “It’s really exciting.”

At 826 Boston’s “Writers’ Room,” students get help improving their writing skills from trained tutors from universities like Northeastern and UMass Boston. (WBZ-TV)

Drench said the group’s expansion from its headquarters in Egleston Square to inside Boston schools not only gives kids valuable extra help–it also takes a lot of pressure off time-strapped teachers.

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“The feedback has been extraordinary,” she said. “One teacher we worked with said that it’s changed the way he teaches writing.”

And 826 Boston is expanding to more Boston Public Schools. They plan to open at least five more writers’ rooms like this one at the Burke over the next five years.

Students work in the Writers’ Room at the Burke School in Dorchester. (WBZ-TV)


Individual donors make it all possible. Jeremiah Burke High School Headmaster Dr. Lyndsa McIntyre thinks that concept is the key to the future.

“In order to change the status quo, we gotta shake things up and cannot prepare children for the 21st-century opportunities without partnership with those that live beyond the walls of this school,” said Dr. McIntyre.

“It’s been amazing,” said senior Ronicia Da Veigh. “They give us all the support we need to write things for colleges, for essays, for our classes.”

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If you’d like to volunteer they offer training and they’d love your help even if it’s only for an hour a week. Visit for more information.

Paula Ebben