“Play Connects” Impacts … 826 Valencia Workshop Program

The Toy Industry Foundation’s (TIF) Play Connects program invites Toy Industry Association (TIA) member companies from across the nation to nominate charities in their own communities to receive grant funding. In 2011, four nominated charities were selected to receive $10,000 each to help at-risk children through play, education and mentorship programs. Over the course of the summer, Toy News Tuesday is profiling the charities that received grants to showcase how the funds are making an important difference in children’s lives. 

August 3, 2012 | 826 Valencia’s Workshop Program in San Francisco, California, is among the four 2011 Play Connects grant winners that were nominated by TIA member companies. Nominated by Wild Planet Entertainment, Inc., 826 Valencia’s $10,000 grant contributed to helping students explore new genres of writing and improve their skills outside of the classroom, enabling the program to hold 63 workshop sessions during the fall of the 2011-2012 school year.

826 Valencia Workshop Programs are writing-based classes that annually serve approximately 6,000 students between the ages of 6-18.  Their classes focus on a range of subjects, including playwriting, historical fiction, songwriting, creative writing, and more.  Designed for 8 to 12 students, the workshops run from two to four weeks. These classes are free of charge and are held in the evenings and on weekend afternoons throughout the year.

Through the 63 workshops that the TIF Play Connects grant funded, 187 students participated.  Trained volunteers ran the workshop sessions and helped the students produce seven chapbooks of compiled student writing and one class-posted blog.

Some of the workshops offered to students included:

Looking Through Yer Crusty Spyglass was led by a former 826 Valencia student and a volunteer. It was a crash-course in photography and featured storytelling through images.  Students photographed the Mission District neighborhood and held a gallery night to share their collaboratively written story and the photographs that accompanied it.

The Treasures from the Deep workshop allowed students to collaborate to create maps and write letters with clues for potential treasure hunters. Youth worked on problem solving, communication, teamwork, self-awareness, and the ability to relate to others.

The 826 Valencia Workshops Program has provided students with resources that allow them to develop writing skills outside of their school classes and give them the chance to contact professionals and view writing as a career or creative outlet, not just as an assignment.

At the end of the programs, students that participated completed evaluation forms to provide feedback on the sessions.  One student replied: “I really enjoyed meeting these amazing authors and performers, and being a part of a class full of intellectuals.  I also loved being in a room full of teens that share the same creativity that I do.  I got out of my writer’s block.”

The 2012 Play Connects grant cycle is now open; the nomination period has been extended to September 4, 2012. Each TIA member company (full or associate) in good standing can nominate one community-based charity. Up to three grant recipients will be chosen by a committee comprised of members from the TIF Board of Trustees. For more information, visit the Toy Industry Foundation website.