Christian Long

Dave Eggers: TED Prize wish: Once Upon a School

In TED Talks on May 23, 2010 at 8:36 pm

Reflection by DEVON H.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Dave Eggers: TED Prize wish: Once Upon a School

When I was at my junior high we were required to have 20 hours of community service every year. Half of those hours were required to be performed at a place called The Village Library. It is a little place in Bedford attached to Mission Central. The Village Library is a place where kids from the neighborhood can come to get their homework done. Dave Eggers has created a similar place in San Francisco called 826 Valencia.

Dave’s initial goal was for every child to have at least an hour a day of one-on-one time with an adult to work on their English and writing homework. There was no possible way to make this happen in schools, so he created this place where children could come to have this one-on-one time. When they first got the space they were not allowed to only host a tutoring center. The space was sold for retail and therefore, had to make a profit. When they were making renovations to the inside of the space they realized that the building looked like the inside of the hull of a ship. They then took this idea and made the shop into a store of pirate supplies. They had planks, peg legs, eye patches, and all kinds of stuff for pirates.

When they first started tutoring they didn’t have any students for many weeks. They finally got the word out, as well as trust from the community that they were qualified to tutor English. They eventually got many students to come in on a regular basis, and soon had to bring in more tutors than the original 12 to match the number of kids they had coming every day. They now have 1,400 volunteers tutoring at the center. This was such a great concept that many people opened their own tutoring/retail stores. Some of the other examples were a tutoring place that doubled as a superhero supply store. Another doubled as a 7/11 time traveling mart. They even have a slushy machine that has a sign on it saying “Out of Order, Come back yesterday.” There are now these tutoring centers all over the United States, and there is even one in Dublin, Ireland.

So, for Dave’s wish he says, “We wish that you – you personally and every creative individual and organization you know – will find a way to directly engage with a public school in your area and that you’ll then tell the story of how you got involved, so that within a year we have 1,000 examples of transformative partnerships.” They also created a website called “Once Upon a School” where people can tell their stories, and to spread the concept of every child thriving by the one-on-one contact.


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