In its inaugural year, The International Congress of Youth Voices united nearly 100 students, ages 16 to 20, from around the world to learn with and from accomplished writers, activists, and elected officials. Youth delegates came to us from the United States, Iraq, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Syria, Ireland, Australia, Iceland, Burundi, Honduras, Cuba, Denmark, Venezuela, Zambia, and Nepal. The event, founded by author Dave Eggers (co-founder of 826 National) and nonprofit leader Amanda Uhle, took place August 3, 4, and 5, 2018, in San Francisco.


The International Congress of Youth Voices is an annual event, and plans for the second gathering will be announced in January 2019.


Student delegates are chosen based on their commitment to leadership and social justice and their passion and eloquence as writers. The event is designed to provide a path to leadership for all delegates and represents a continuum from students who have exhibited potential in local writing and tutoring programs to writers and activists who have already made notable achievements at a very young age.


Politics of the world affect young people as much as anyone else, and they have little to no voice as major decisions are made. The Congress was founded as a means to amplify their ideas and energy and to unite young people for a weekend of collaboration.

In August of 2018 the first class of delegates met for three unforgettable days together. Friday evening, they enjoyed dinner during a sunset boat cruise around the San Francisco Bay. Civil rights icon the Honorable Congressman John Lewis gave remarks after dinner and took questions from individual students and offered them encouragement. On Saturday, the students arrived at the San Francisco Public Library to find an exhibition of their own work; the library developed a display at its Grove Street entrance of student-written publications from around the world. The rest of the day was spent hearing from and interacting with powerful voices in journalism, activism, media, and beyond. Ev Williams of Twitter offered advice. Alia Malek spoke about her work in Syria and her family’s immigration experiences. Brian Yorkey talked about making 13 Reasons Why and the importance of teen mental health. After an enriching day at the library, students walked to the nearby Nourse Theater for a special conversation about activism and storytelling with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Later, when the curtain opened onto the stage full of our youth delegates, 1200 audience members roared with applause and then listened to Adichie, Khaled Hosseini, and Jose Antonio Vargas speak alongside several of the young delegates. They spoke about gun violence, about feminism, racial equity, homelessness, and much more. Sunday morning, the delegates gathered at San Francisco’s War Memorial and worked together on a written statement about their time together and about their collective plans for the future. The manifesto they created--by the youth, for the youth--was published by The Guardian on August 12, 2018 and reached by its worldwide audience of 20 million.

The weekend of the Congress has ended, but our student delegates remain engaged in their work and connected to us. Congress staff members are helping students write and place op-ed style writing in major publications. We’re connecting with high school teachers who want to bring our delegates as in-person or virtual guest speakers to their classrooms. We’re fielding numerous requests from organizations, educators, and individuals who want to nominate young people for the 2019 event. And we’re looking toward the future with the confidence, hope, and heart these young people have shaken free in all of us.



The International Congress of Youth Voices is presented by The Hawkins Project and made possible with support from people and organizations in the United States and internationally, including dozens of youth-serving organizations that nominate student delegates. 

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The Guardian US is the official media partner for The International Congress of Youth Voices. Their support makes possible a global platform for student delegates' essential perspectives.

Learn more on our Partner Organizations page.


Founded in 2002 by author Dave Eggers and award-winning educator Nínive Calegari, 826 Valencia inspired a network of creative writing and tutoring centers now eight cities strong: San Francisco, Ann Arbor/Detroit, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York City, and Washington, D.C.

Its reach also includes dozens of other community writing and tutoring organizations in the U.S. and internationally which espouse a similar ethos: that writing is essential for every young person and that adult volunteers providing one-on-one attention can make all the difference in a young person's life. Learn more about our nominating organizations below:

826 Boston: Boston, Massachusetts, USA

826 Boston is a nonprofit youth writing and publishing organization that empowers traditionally underserved students ages 6-18 to find their voices, tell their stories, and gain communication skills to succeed in school and in life.

826 CHI: Chicago, Illinois, USA

826CHI is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6 to 18 with their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write.

826 New Orleans: New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

826 New Orleans' mission is to cultivate and support the voices of New Orleans' writers ages 6-18 through creative collaborations with schools and communities.

826 Valencia: San Francisco, California, USA

826 Valencia is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting under-resourced students ages six to eighteen with their creative and expository writing skills and to helping teachers inspire their students to write. Our services are structured around the understanding that great leaps in learning can happen with one-on-one attention and that strong writing skills are fundamental to future success.

826DC: Washington, DC, USA

826DC is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6-18 with their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write.

826LA: Los Angeles, California, USA

826LA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6 to 18 with their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write.

826michigan: Detroit/Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA

826michigan inspires school-aged students to write confidently and skillfully with the help of adult volunteers in their communities.


Other centers around the world

Austin Bat Cave: Austin, Texas, USA

Austin Bat Cave is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that provides children and teenagers (ages 6-18) with opportunities to develop their creative and expository writing skills. We connect a diverse population of young writers and learners with a vibrant community of adult volunteers in Austin. All of our programs are free.

Berättarministeriet: Stockholm, Sweden

We work for a Sweden where all children are safe, are confident in the written word, and have the opportunity to actively participate in community life.

Bureau of Fearless Ideas: Seattle, Washington, USA

The Greater Seattle Bureau of Fearless Ideas is a corps of youth and adults, staff and volunteers, families and local citizens who believe that the power of words, well-written and well-spoken, can open doors to important opportunities. Our tutoring, writing, and publishing programs prepare young people, ages 6 to 18, for a successful future by developing strong writing skills, championing diverse communication styles, and motivating young people to share their stories. Programs at each Fearless Ideas center reach into the surrounding neighborhood to involve adults and businesses in helping youth become engaged citizens and confident leaders. All programs are free and open to families from any socio-economic background.

Chapter 510: Oakland, California, USA

Chapter 510 & the Dept. of Make Believe is Oakland's only youth writing center fronted by the world's only magical bureaucracy. We provide free in-school tutoring, creative writing workshops, and publishing opportunities for K-12 students in Oakland, California.

Children's Radio Foundation: Cape Town, South Africa

The Children's Radio Foundation uses the medium of radio to create opportunities for youth dialogue, participation, leadership, and active citizenship, training and mentoring a new generation of youth broadcasters across Africa.

Desert Island Supply Co.: Birmingham, Alabama, USA

Our mission is to help students develop the creative tools they need to explore and document their worlds.

Fighting Words: Dublin, Ireland

Our aim is to help children and young people, and adults who did not have this opportunity as children, to discover and harness the power of their own imaginations and creative writing skills. At its core, Fighting Words is also about something much broader and more inclusive. It is about using the creative practice of writing and storytelling to strengthen our children and teenagers – from a wide range of backgrounds – to be resilient, creative and successful shapers of their own lives.

Girl Forward: Austin, Texas, USA

GirlForward is a community of support dedicated to creating and enhancing opportunities for girls who have been displaced by conflict and persecution.

Lake Erie Ink: Cleveland, Ohio, USA

Lake Erie Ink is a not for profit 501(c)3 that provides creative expression opportunities and academic support to youth in the Greater Cleveland community.

Louisville Story Program: Louisville, Kentucky, USA

The Louisville Story Program strengthens the bonds of community by amplifying unheard voices and untold stories. Through rigorous writing and oral history workshops, and with professional editorial support, participating LSP authors from historically underrepresented communities document the richness of lived experience in Louisville communities from the inside out, and in their own words. Their work is published in professionally designed books, exhibits, and radio programs that promote dialogue across the community and increase awareness of overlooked aspects of Louisville's culture and history. Our authors are paid for their work, and we leverage their achievements into as many additional professional, educational, cultural, and social opportunities for them as possible.

Mid-Continent Oceanographic Institute: Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

Mid-Continent Oceanographic Institute (MOI) empowers underserved K–12 students to think creatively, write effectively, and succeed academically alongside a community of caring volunteers.

Mighty Writers: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

The mission of Mighty Writers (MW) is to teach Philadelphia kids ages 7 to 17 to think and write with clarity so they can achieve success at school, at work, and in life.

Ordskælv: Copenhagen, Denmark

Ordskælv is a nonprofit writing and publishing center.

Read and Write Kalamazoo: Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

Read and Write Kalamazoo exists to support the growth and learning of youth through the cultivation of reading and writing skills.

Richmond Young Writers: Richmond, Virginia, USA

Richmond Young Writers is a creative writing incubator for ages 9-17. We write, we read, we laugh, we cry, we get messy, we polish things up, we bond. We make each other better.

Sydney Story Factory: Sydney, Australia

We're a not-for-profit that runs creative writing and storytelling workshops for marginalised young people aged 7 to 17. Supported by our community of expert storytellers and volunteer tutors, young people are empowered to create stories of all kinds, which we publish and celebrate. Young people develop the skills and confidence to find their voice and shape the future.

The Telling Room: Portland, Maine, USA

The Telling Room is a nonprofit writing center in Portland, Maine, dedicated to the idea that children and young adults are natural storytellers. Focused on young writers ages 6 to 18, we seek to build confidence, strengthen literacy skills, and provide real audiences for our students. We believe that the power of creative expression can change our communities and prepare our youth for future success.