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2020 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Uptown Stories

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Education, Educational Services

Mission: Uptown Stories inspires kids to discover and develop their inner voices in a diverse community of writers. Based in upper Manhattan, we offer small-group writing workshops for children ages eight to fifteen, led by master teachers and professional authors. To ensure our workshops are accessible to all children, tuition is pay-what-you-can. Uptown Stories creates an exciting, challenging, and supportive community in which young authors thrive.

Target demographics: young people, ages 7-17

Direct beneficiaries per year: 287 students publish 1700 pages in 28 workshops

Geographic areas served: Washington Heights, New York City

Programs: The Elements of Fiction, The Game of Poetry, Girls Rising, POW! Writing and Drawing Comics, It's Your Thing, Beasts and Battles, and Monsters Are Us.

Community Stories

22 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

3

Client Served

Rating: 5

My daughter has taken numerous writing classes at Uptown Stories. The instructors are outstanding -- engaged, excited, and truly interested in the students' work. They let the kids be kids while gently nurturing their creativity. At the end of every term, each class has a public reading at a bookstore, and an anthology is published that includes writing from every student. It's such a thrill for the kids to see their work and names in print!Uptown Stories is a tremendous asset to the community, and I'm extremely thankful for them.

Comments ( 1 )

kreuther Thank you so much for your words of support! We're so thrilled to be able to support all the young writers and artists uptown.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

What a special group of people that run this great program. They really care foster the care of the written language and share that love with their students. They have such creative classes and are really there for their kids. I love the anthology that gets printed so that each child can be a printed author. Spectacular. - Wade

Client Served

Rating: 5

My daughter has been doing their workshops for six years now, and they have been life changing for her. The writing instruction is terrific--she has grown into a confident and creative writer, secure in her own voice but also willing to experiment. Resistance and procrastination around writing assignments for school have entirely disappeared. But it's even more than the writing--Uptown Stories has been the place where she can be entirely herself, a space of deep trust with her teacher and peers. And that is utterly priceless for an adolescent.

Previous Stories
3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The Uptown Stories workshops are amazing--my daughter, now 13, has been enrolled in them for more than two years. They have given her a place to express herself outside of family and school, to nurture her skills and self-identity as a writer (again, crucially, outside of school), and a confidence that I wish for every teenager. I love the ethos of Uptown Stories--they run on a shoestring but still pay their excellent instructors, and they have developed a cheerful, cheeky roster of "small jobs" to leverage volunteer assistance.

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

Uptown Stories has given my daughter a voice. She's become a passionate writer who has the skills and opportunities to tell her stories in many ways. We are so grateful for this wonderful organization and its excellent, caring teachers!

Board Member

Rating: 5

I am truly fortunate to be involved with Uptown Stories, a small but mighty local nonprofit whose deeply dedicated teachers and staff go to great and creative lengths to reach, teach and support youth, ages 7–17, in Harlem, Hamilton Heights, Washington Heights (Uptown Stories' home), Inwood, and the Bronx. In addition to developing their young writers' personal expression and language skills, Uptown Stories' teachers and staff nurture a community that supports each other unequivocally -- through the typical ups and downs of adolescent life, and now, through the ravages of Covid-19. Perhaps best of all, Uptown Stories, with a decade under its belt, operates on a unique "pay-what-you-can" model because this organization believes children should not compete against each other for access to their workshops. Uptown Stories never asks for proof of need; they only ask that families pay what they can afford. Right now, during the pandemic, over 85% pay reduced tuition.

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I've had the privilege of being an actor for some of the stories that the students have written at a live reading. Uptown Stories does wonderful work and guides young people in discovering and expressing their creative voice.

2

Client Served

Rating: 5

Launched with good intentions and scant resources, I had realistic (low) goals for Uptown Stories when I first heard about it five years ago. I signed up my then-10-yr old for a poetry class hoping he'd make a new friend, encounter a poem passed over in his public school, or simply enjoy the small-group lessons.

Happily, the experience has far exceeded my (and his!) expectations. Over the last five years, Uptown is the one independent extra-curricular organization I have returned to again and again for my son. He has bonded with a dozen kids from both his school and the neighborhood (they communicate outside the Uptown class on a regular basis), found a supportive platform for self-expression before and during the pandemic, and has been inspired by a dynamic, creative teacher who upended his cynicism toward formal education. Now 14, he assumes meeting with a diverse group of girls and boys outside of school to discuss, deconstruct, and write poetry is a part of his weekly schedule and life.

Uptown has also worked hard to become an asset to our NYC neighborhood, standing firm in its mission to be inclusive and maintain a "pay what you can" tuition model that is a financial burden but keeps its doors open to all. I couldn't be happier about the quality of the program for my son and our community.

2

Client Served

Rating: 5

I have taken Uptown Stories classes for five years, and the classes are great. I have gotten better at writing, and, as a result, reading as well. After a long time frustrated with my abilities, I now love to write, and am proud of my work.

1

Donor

Rating: 5

Uptown Stories offers a nurturing place for young writers as they engage and explore their imaginations and their voices. My 17-year old son has been lucky enough to have this creative outlet in his life since he was in 4th grade and I can honestly say that Uptown Stories has changed his life. I am a big fan of Uptown Stories and its mission to provide a safe space for young writers from all walks of life.

2

Client Served

Rating: 5

Helped my daughter find her voice. A very positive and affirming experience!

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I've been helping out at Uptown Stories for over three years and it's been one of the best experiences of my life. As someone who loves to write but unfortunately struggled to find the time and space to in my later years at school, it's refreshing to see an environment where writing creatively is actively encouraged and fostered. The teachers and workshops that Uptown Stories offers are top-notch and wholly inclusive - no genre or idea is rejected. It gives kids the space not only to pursue their creative voice but also to meet other like-minded individuals, something that is important especially for young authors. Not only that, but they get the opportunity to be published at the end of it!

On the professional side, all the people I've met at Uptown Stories are very committed to the goal of the organization and passionate about helping the kids. We've had meetings on weeks when there aren't any workshops just to continue seeing how we can better the organization. There's never a dull moment and I'm glad to have been a part of this journey for three years.

1 Jajaida G.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

My daughter took a summer camp course here this past summer. She presented her story at a local bookstore and it was amazing! They even did a Facebook live broadcast for working parents. A great resource in our community and an even better resource for our kids to have a love of writing.

1

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I sent my son to this program over the summer. As a single working mom, I struggle with childcare and paying for summer programming, so usually my son has to spend his summer at work with me. Uptown Stories so generously has a pay-what-you-can policy that allowed us the opportunity to enroll. My son really loved the experience. He wrote a science fiction story and created a whole world with a map. He was extremely nervous to present, but with a little encouragement from the instructors he read his entire piece proudly. I was very impressed with the content of the class and with the confidence it gave my son, as well as how much he enjoyed himself.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Writing is a powerful powerful thing to be able do. And not everyone learns how to do it/is given the opportunity to practice it, to the extent whereby they feel confident in their ability to tell and share their stories with the world. Uptown Stories helps solve for that. Which is amazing. Because we NEED everyone's stories to be told in order for us to be able to morph into the diverse and inclusive world we all wish for. A world whereby we embrace ourselves and others, honestly, and with a full heart.

P.S. Storytelling is now being taught in the corporate world! Because people are finding that they reach a "inability-to-tell-a-story" career ceiling!

P.P.S. Plus, the future for our species/race (as humans) is all about storytelling. That's if you're to believe Yuval Harari, author of "Sapiens". TED Talk, here: https://www.ted.com/talks/yuval_noah_harari_what_explains_the_rise_of_humans?language=en

2

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I was privileged to lead a workshop this Summer (2018) for 8-to-12 year olds on Monsters. The experience was superlative, from the feedback I got designing my syllabus, to the support from staff, the efficient day-to-day operations, and especially the engagement of students and parents. The children were on-time, focused, collaborative and hard-working and cheerful. We did a range of activities, from reading and writing to film screening and artwork. The mission of Uptown Stories (see their site: www.uptownstories.org) and the fact that it is a neighborhood place and flexible about fees make it very special. Finally, the look of pride and achievement on the faces of the kids who participated in a culminating reading at the local bookstore, WORD UP, was priceless. The students come back workshop after workshop, a real testament to the power of creative process, led by the indomitable Kate Reuther.
Amy Handelsman, Instructor, Uptown Stories

3 Emma J.1

Board Member

Rating: 5

Having been on all ends of Uptown Stories (as a student, a volunteer, and a staff member), I can confidently say that Uptown Stories is a triumph in the nonprofit world. It is one of the few places that I feel like is committed to the mission of creative freedom while still admitting the sacrifices an organization has to make to stay afloat. This is no Google or Buzzfeed where the desks have treadmills and Drake plays in the background while you update marketing analytics, Uptown Stories is committed and hardworking. Yet we still celebrate the spirit of play and creativity in our professional lives by hosting weekly "work party" and building connections.

As a student, Uptown Stories is a space where you are listened to and your feelings are affirmed. As a volunteer, it's a learning environment where you are encouraged to step out of your comfort zone. And as a staff member, it is an incredible professional experience that teaches you responsibility and openness. The key word to describing my work experience at Uptown Stories is openness - without the boundaries of a corporate structure, I've learned InDesign, marketing, e-mail etiquette, grant writing, and more. Since I have worked with the organization in some form for the past 7 years, Uptown Stories has shaped who I am. If you are a volunteer looking for an open environment to grow in, Uptown Stories is a place for you. As a parent, the transparency of the organization allows you to assess whether your child would fit the program, but I can't recommend it enough for a child who wants to stretch their creativity or even a child who doesn't. Writing isn't something you can force someone into, but it is often something you grow to like when it's reframed for you in a non-school environment. Uptown Stories is just that. 5 stars is not enough to describe how much this organization has done for me.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

It has only been three weeks since I started interning at Uptown Stories, but I can honestly say it's the most enjoyable job I've ever had. Not only are the directors and supervisor extremely supportive of the work that you do, but they also allow room for flexibility in your schedule. My supervisor always tells us if we're ever bored with one task, we can always switch to doing something else. Fortunately, that option has never been of use to me because there is always something different to do and I have a pretty equal balance in my schedule between assisting with a workshop and doing administrative work on my laptop.

As for the workshops, if I knew about Uptown Stories as a kid and lived near Washington Heights, I would definitely have enrolled. I love that the class sizes are small, so it's easier to focus on and help students who are struggling with their writing. The way Uptown Stories' workshops is run is different from that of a public school. Kids are encouraged to be creative and imaginative, without worrying too much about grammar and spelling. In our Nature of Poetry workshop, we also take field trips outside the classroom and it becomes a much more meaningful and memorable learning experience for the children.

Overall, I really love working here and I'm grateful to be a part of such a great team. My coworkers are all awesome and it's worth my long commute to come be a part of the students' day and contribute to a fun learning experience for everyone.

3

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Hi, my name is Annette and I am a summer intern in Uptown Stories. Honestly, it is one of the best places and environment for a child. Their summer workshops are where children get to be themselves and explore. Every Friday reading surprises me because when they first come in on Mondays they are shy and doing their own thing. By Friday, they have their own groups of friends and are smiling. Uptown Stories makes them feel comfortable with their true selves and their environment. Seeing them grow is amazing because everything is so different once they grow up and at this moment in time they are free. Everyone should send their child here because they open up and take risks.

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The experience was invaluable. My bosses really care that you're gaining new experiences and knowledge. I learned a lot about graphic design and marketing through the internship that I couldn't have obtained any other way. You get a lot of responsibilities and they vary wildly so you get exposed to all the facets and elements of a nonprofit. The environment is very chill and everyone is really nice and accommodating.

3 petersills

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Interning with Uptown Stories was fantastic. Our "Creating Otherworlds" instructor brought writing genre fiction to life for young kids with lots of map-drawing and craftmaking. I had a rewarding experience working individually with an initially tentative student who wrote a stunning short story. At the end of the week, the students read their work with confidence and flair. As an administrator, I gained valuable experience soliciting donations and formatting work in InDesign for our anthology. And my co-workers are the chillest!