By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
Following the decision to open 826LA in Venice and put the fund-raising wheels in motion, Eggers’ next move was to partner up with Steve Barr’s Green Dot charter high schools: Animo Venice and Animo Inglewood. 826LA would be an on-site tutoring center for neighborhood kids, but its tutors would also work off-site on the two start-up Animo campuses. The Animo students would also be invited to special weekend 826LA workshops, like the center’s inaugural one in March, “How To Make a Skate Video,” led by filmmaker Spike Jonze. On the books for summer: workshops on SAT essay writing and songwriting (with members of Ozomatli).
“Los Angeles has 800,000 students in its school district,” says Eggers. “All you can do is say, ‘We’re gonna start here with this room and the students who are closest to get to it and the tutors who want to come to it.’ We know we are going to help those students that come in after school, so let’s take care of that first. And then you say, we know the Animo schools exist, we can create our first school partnerships with these schools. It’s just steps. You just chip away. Are there are a hundred more steps to take? Absolutely. Every school, every neighborhood should have a free tutoring center. In L.A., there needs to be at least 1,000 centers. But right now, we’re still trying to pay the rent on this one.”
Tutoring is only phase one of the 826 plan. As in San Francisco and Brooklyn, 826LA will also operate as an independent student publishing house, releasing artfully designed book anthologies of student work (complete with back-cover student blurbs) as well as single-author student monographs and a McSweeney’s-esquestudent lit journal, The826LAQuarterly.The first 826LA book, RhythmoftheChain:YoungWritersExploreTeamwork,is out this month and features contributions from 42 Animo Inglewood students with an introduction from former Laker coach Phil Jackson. The book (which Weeklyeditor Deborah Vankin helped edit) was actually Jackson’s idea. After hearing about 826Valencia from his ex-wife (one of that center’s most active tutors), he approached Eggers and Animo Inglewood about the teamwork project and then held several meetings with the students. “I’m amazed at the level of work these kids are doing at Animo,” Jackson wrote in an e-mail. “These young students will have the courage and the experience to work towards other projects and hopefully use their experience with teamwork to bring together their communities in the process.”
On a recent hot and sunny Saturday, the student editorial board of Rhythm of the Chainwere all huddled inside 826 to get a lesson on anthologizing from writer David Ulin. The one male member of the board couldn’t make it, so it was up to the eight young women who rushed there on the 10 freeway from Jamba Juice gigs and SAT prep tests to figure out how to organize the book’s 42 pieces, which now include a 55-page screenplay. “We’re looking for echoes,” Ulin tells them. “It’s important to find anchors.” With help from their English teacher Annette Gonzalez, the students begin to group the essays thematically, stacking them in piles across a table.
“Are we going with the idea of the Cycle of Life?”
“Should we put the Deaths together?”
“What’s the difference between Unity and Coming Together?”
As they debate, Jackson walks in, towering over everybody in the room. The girls are not fazed. They look up quickly to say hello, then get right back to work.
The day is almost over, and they have a book to finish.