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July 11, 2023

Belated: The Adventure Begins!, Graciela Batista, 2024, BFA Illustration

by gracielalalalala

I say “Belated: The Adventure Begins!” because this past month has been but the precursor to this summer’s main spectacular: 826LA’s Write On! Summer Camp and today, it started. I’ve chosen to hoard my blog posts until now because I suspect quite a lot of stories from the next two weeks and I only wish to give you the most thorough look into what me and my colleagues have been working hard to prepare for. However, before I get to the first day anecdotes, let me tell you a bit about my time up till now.

Me upon arrival (only one of those suitcases and duffel bags are mine, I promise there was no overpacking)

I arrived on June 5th, absolutely thrilled, only to be welcomed to the city of angles by an awful case of June Gloom (a Californian term I learned quite quickly, that describes cloudy, overcast skies with cool temperatures during early summer.) It was like that for two, never-ending weeks and it made sitting-at-the-computer office work a little more difficult than it had to be. I will admit, the traditional desk work that has taken up the majority of the past month was tedious but mostly because the first day on the job was so overwhelming with joy; it made the lack of people actively shuffling through the space incredibly palpable.

The first day I came into work was, coincidentally, the last day 826LA was hosting a field trip for the academic year. At 10am, a swarm of 40 1st-graders gathered into the back patio and I had no idea what was going on. Mari, the leader for the field trip, saw me lingering around task-less and recruited me to help. She described her role as “a three hour long, one woman show” and that it was. In the span of 10am – 1pm, the students wrote the characters, plot and conflict for an original story as a group, had it illustrated, typed up, printed and bound, complete with an author picture for each booklet. The whole procedure run like a well oiled machine, ending with priceless smiles from the children when they realized they would have their own book to take back home and personal feedback from the teachers concerning their individual contributions. Three of them even ran up to hug me at the end! It was a day I will never forget because I realized how much an experience like it can impact a student and how well run a place has to be, to deliver that kind of change.

The days and weeks after were significantly less underwhelming, but I’d like to think equally as important. I’ve spent most of my time developing lesson plans with the team, creating slideshows, calling families, and ordering 400 individual snacks all in preparation for camp. My original ideas considering visual art informing the creative writing process were somewhat dialed down in the process upon realizing the already decided upon theme for this year’s summer programming was music. It seemed to me that visual art, writing and music were going to be a lot to mush together in a two week endeavor, so I took a more subtle route in my lesson plan writing including poetry writing inspired by music videos and learning ode writing by studying it’s muse hands-on. We got actual tomatoes and socks for the kids to hold as they listen to Pablo Neruda’s odes — I’m psyched for that day.

Me, calling families to confirm their child’s assistance

Anyways, that’s mostly been it — clicking and clacking away on administrative duties. I’ve realized the behind the scenes requires more than I ever thought. I know I promised a run down on the first day of summer camp, but I feel it only makes sense in a second blog post recounting all there was to this first week, plus then I’ll leave you wanting more. That was my first month in LA, and now the adventure will begin, wish me luck.

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