Biding My Time at the Echo Park Time Travel Mart

Today marks the end of my first week as a volunteer and tutor at the always fascinating and ever-enchanting 826LA in Echo Park.

A Typical Item Sold at the Time Travel Mart 

826LA is a chapter of the non-profit organization 826National which has a total of 8 writing and tutoring centers all over the U.S. The first center was established in the Mission District of San Francisco by author Dave Eggers in 2002. Read more about the organization's interesting start here.

I first heard about 826LA during a dinner last year with my friend Kally. She told me about a friend of hers who worked at the infamous Pirate Supply Store on Valencia St. in San Francisco. Kally described 826Valencia as a wonderfully quirky institution who's purpose was not in fact, to sell pirate supplies, but to provide a space for kids to exercise and cultivate creativity. She mentioned that The Time Travel Mart in Echo Park was identical in concept. 

Though it had only been a few weeks since my "full-time" position as a freelance artist started, I already felt impatient and somewhat useless to society. Dancing is incredibly fulfilling. But it fulfills a very specific kind of void in my heart. I wanted to do something that wasn't self-serving; after looking up 826LA and reading about the various projects it put on, I applied to be a volunteer/tutor. 

826LA organizes the coolest programs for local students. It does everything from after school tutoring to bookmaking field trips. I participated in a little bit of everything this week: 

Tuesday and Wednesday - I helped 3rd grade students from Gabriella Charter School write, for the very first time, multi-paragraph narratives. 

Thursday - I was an after school tutor for 3 students, all of whom were either in the 3rd or 4th grade. Who knew "perimeter" would be a difficult concept to explain?

A Student Drew this Endearing Picture For Me
Saturday - The center put on a morning program called, "I Wanna Rock: How to From Your Own Air Band". Air guitarist Dan Crane came and taught students the fundamentals of playing air instruments. Clad in wacky wigs and leather goods we created rock-and-roll alter-egos (mine was "KareBear"), wrote lyrics to accompany a pre-chosen rock song, and performed our masterpieces.

Our Rock and Roll Costume Pieces
My Air Guitar Playing Debut
Today I plan on volunteering at the "Storytelling and Bookmaking Field Trip" during which an elementary school class visits 826LA (which is transformed into "_______ and _______ Publishing" for the day) and collaborates with us (the "writers" for said publishing company) to write a brand new story. By the end of the field trip, the students leave with a personalized published book complete with illustrations and professional binding. 

Sounds like fun, huh?