Our neighborhood is the heart of 826LA. Without our neighbors, we just wouldn't exist. It’s the moms and dads, local café workers, teachers, retired lawyers, part-time musicians, designers, college students, and many others who make our work—supporting students aged 6-18-years-old with their writing—possible. Folks may stop by one of our Time Travel Marts to pick up some Wooly Mammoth meat, but they leave knowing that there's a place in their community can adults and young people can connect, be creative, and learn from one another.
The Lozano family are our neighbors. They've been part of 826LA since we opened our center in Echo Park. Four years ago when their eldest daughter Dayanara first began coming for free tutoring and writing support, she was struggling to assimilate to a school system vastly different from the one she'd come from in Mexico. With help from our caring volunteers, Dayanara was able to turn her grades around and build her confidence with speaking and writing in English. She's now one of our most prolific young writers. Dayanara was recently named our 826LA Author of the Month, and her framed photo is the first thing every person sees as they come into 826LA.
Dayanara's sisters Ana and Yamilka, ages 6 and 7-years-old, have been following in their older sister’s footsteps. They come into 826LA most days to work with local volunteers on their homework and on their writing. Their mother, Emma Lozano, is an integral part of our organization, too. As president of our Parent Advisory Board, she leads students' parents in creating initiatives to support our programs and to encourage their children. When she picks up her daughters at 826LA, Emma stops to greet other parents from the neighborhood and finds ways to get them more involved with their kid's education.
The Lozano family exemplifies what great neighbors do: they participate and engage with their community. A few weeks ago, 826LA unveiled a new collection of student writing at a book release party. As always, the Lozano family was there. Dayanara and her sisters stood proudly in front of the microphone and read their stories. Volunteers from the neighborhood cheered them on from the audience. Emma brought homemade tamales and made sure each and every volunteer, student, and staff person had more than enough to eat.
One thing I've learned through my work with 826LA is that people will care for one another if they have a place to meet that is safe and friendly. We try to provide an environment like that at 826LA. To be good neighbors, we must be accepting and genuine in our desire to connect with others. Volunteers do that when they give their time to kids from their community. Their efforts not only help students and families like the Lozanos, but they improve all of our lives.
Joel Arquillos is the executive director of 826LA. They're competing to win $100,000 from LA2050.
Hang out with your neighbors on the last Saturday of April (a day we're calling "Neighborday"). Click here to say you'll Do It, and we'll send you GOOD's Neighborday Survival Guide and a bunch of other fun stuff.
Photo courtesy of 826LA.