On July 8, 60 kids from ages 7 to 12 had the power to shut down Café 826LA. I could not believe it when I heard them chant together “Shut it down, shut it down!!” What was once believed the best café in Los Angeles had become the worst café in history and I had the opportunity to be part of it.
As I am an intern this summer at 826LA in Mar Vista, a non-profit dedicated to supporting students ages 6 to 18 with their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write, I have the honor of learning how educators plan and create lessons that encourage kids to have fun but learn at the same time. Being a teenager myself, I never knew the hard work it takes and the feeling of satisfaction once a lesson is completed. During the beginning of summer, the Summer Associates came together to create lessons based on specific themes like food, nature, science, arts and culture and time travel for the English Language Learners Camp. For five weeks, kids ages from 7 to 12 come to camp and expand their knowledge.
The first week, food week, gave the kids a chance to learn about persuasive writing, sensory details, how to write restaurant reviews and much more. Summer Associate Jo Ellen, leader of Food Week, planned to open the worst café ever, so the kids could experience real world scenarios. Cafe 826LA opened due to the generosity of the owner, Mrs. Barnacles, who gave the food for free. Jo Ellen, welcomed the kids and the worst waiters in the world sat the kids and that’s when the fun started.
I was excited to see the kids reactions due to experience they were about to encounter. They ordered pizza, burgers, fries, soda and steak, but what the waiters brought down made them cringe.We brought peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that were bitten in, sandwiches with grass, pencil lining in, and aluminum foil. Some sandwiches looked like someone had grown bacteria in it and some were too “poisonous” that you would not want to give it your worst enemy.
The kids were not going to let Mrs. Barnacles or us get away with it. With a vote of confidence and anger they spoke their opinions and stood up what they believe in. The kids had had enough of the bad service, they decided to shut it down and write to Mrs. Barnacles. One student wrote that it was the most disgusting food he had ever eaten and he hoped they would shut it down and fire everyone! We had achieved our goal, the kids wrote some terrible reviews. They demanded Mrs. Barnacles to close the cafe and she listened to them. At the end of the day the cafe was closed permanently and the kids were happy because they finally got the good peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. This generation of kids proved that with knowledge you have the power to do anything you want.
Mrs. Barnacles ended up firing me from the cafe, but it’s OK because the kids voices were heard and food week was a success. What intern can say they were fired from an imaginative cafe? Only if you’re from 826LA! 826LA has a unique vision for education and I am so proud to be a part of it. Interning at 826LA has began to change my perspective in life and has made my summer really exciting. I am so excited to see what comes next. The world deserves to experience what 826LA brings to the table! ELL Camp ends August 6, if you are interested in volunteering at 826LA or want to learn more about it, go to http://826la.org/index.php?page=home. Let’s all remember we have the power to change the world. The kids at ELL Camp did, so you should too.
For more pictures check out 826LA on Flickr.