826LA’s 6th Annual Great LA Personal Statement Weekend: The Power of Community


826LA board member DeAnna Gravillis and veteran 826LA volunteer Muffy Marracco with students at GLAPSW.

On the morning of November 14, empty classrooms at West Adams Preparatory High School became warm and bustling spaces filled with low chatter and the sound of fingers against keyboards. With the help of more than 70 volunteers, students morphed their ideas into the personal statement essays they’ll need to apply to college. By the end of the weekend, over 170 high school seniors left the 2015 Great Los Angeles Personal Statement Weekend having learned not only how to outline an essay, but also more about themselves — and that their story is worth telling.



Retired Mendez High School teacher, Heriberto Garza spent four hours with a Roosevelt High School student helping him write several essays.

The Great LA Personal Statement Weekend provides students from local public high schools with the one-on-one help they need to write their personal statement essays and prepare for college. For the sixth consecutive year, 826LA held the event in partnership with LA’s Promise at West Adams Preparatory High School in South Los Angeles, a location central to each of the six participating high schools.

“This huge event takes a lot of planning. No small detail is overlooked,” says In-School Assistant and AmeriCorps VISTA Member T Sarmina.

Communication and collaboration are paramount. There are many people involved in the planning and execution of Personal Statement Weekend, including teachers and college counselors from each high school, LA’s Promise, 826LA staff, and of course the volunteers, who make writing personal statements just a little less intimidating, and expressing yourself a little more fun.

Students may also have difficulty knowing exactly what each college — be it a University of California, California State, or private institution — expects. One student described the impact of working with a tutor on their writing process:

“Working with a tutor helped me get through the personal statement process. It helped me review and fix the structure [and] gave me a better understanding of what colleges expect from every student.”


“I’m going to college!” says a happy Roosevelt High School student after an afternoon with her tutor.

Said another:

“Honestly, working with a tutor didn’t only change my personal statement, but my life. I am grateful that my tutor took the time to review my personal statement. My writing process was changed from a laundry list draft to something that really represents me and reflects my personality.”

The 6th Annual Great LA Personal Statement Weekend was a huge success: over the course of the weekend, over 170 students each received four hours of one-on-one help telling their stories.

“I know many of those students will continue to write and develop their stories,” says T. “They are empowered. That is the biggest success.”

826LA thanks the students, teachers, and staff of the participating high schools:


Students of Roosevelt High School after a empowering day of writing.

College Bridge Academy Watts
Edward Roybal Learning Center
Manual Arts Senior High School
STEAM Legacy High School
Theodore Roosevelt Senior High School
West Adams Preparatory High School

826LA would also like to extend a special thank you to Trader Joe’s for donating snacks and lunches to keep our young writers energized!

Interested in helping college-bound scholars year-round? Become a volunteer!

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