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826LA celebrates heartwarming, hilarious “TELL ME A STORY: Untold Stories of Los Angeles”

On Wednesday, June 6, 2018, 826LA hosted our fourth annual TELL ME A STORY event, Untold Stories of Los Angeles, at the stunning Vibiana in Downtown Los Angeles. The evening celebrated honest, heartwarming, hilarious tales about the City of Angels, including those written by students with the support of 826LA’s free programs.

Thanks to the support of many, 826LA surpassed our goal and raised $600,000 to help fund our free writing programs and a brand new 826LA Writers’ Room in an LAUSD high school, which 826 co-founder and author Dave Eggers proudly announced was the most funds raised by any 826 chapter in the history of the organization.

The 826LA Writers’ Room at Manual Arts is 826LA’s third programming space, on the Manual Arts High School campus. Modeled after 826LA’s writing centers, the Writers’ Room has provided support for more than half the school’s students since opening in 2015. 826LA staff and volunteers help students with college applications to get into their dream schools and enable teachers to take on ambitious, long-term writing projects, like 826LA’s annual Young Authors’ Book Project. Now, thanks to the success of TELL ME A STORY, we’ll able to bring the Writers’ Room model to another LA high school.

“You learn more about a culture by looking at its children…There is no such thing as an at-risk child. There is such a thing as an at-risk world. That is the only difference. There is nothing wrong with you.
We are perfect in every way. I’m so proud of you.”

— Robin Coste Lewis, Poet Laureate of Los Angeles

TELL ME A STORY: Untold Stories of Los Angeles began with an outdoor courtyard reception at Vibiana where guests had the unique opportunity to mingle with 826 co-founder Dave Eggers, LA Poet Laureate Robin Coste Lewis, volunteers, fellow 826LA supporters, and most importantly, a few of our very own 826LA student authors from our 826LA Writers’ Room at Manual Arts High School and our Youth Advisory Board from both sides of town.

Check out more photos from TELL ME A STORY: Untold Stories of Los Angeles on our Flickr here.

The evening’s festivities opened with musician and dedicated 826LA Field Trips volunteer Benjamin Booker, who performed the song “Believe” from his hit album “Witness” to a packed audience. (Fun fact: Benjamin has volunteered more than 100 hours at 826LA this academic year alone!)

826LA high school student Kevin Morales then captivated the audience, reading an excerpt from his published story “Ana Maria” in the 2018 Young Authors’ Book Project publication Through the Same Halls about the hardships and life lessons he learned being raised by his grandmother. (“Because of my grandma, I try to be fearless, I am less afraid.”)

High School senior Jose Cisneros followed up with a video and an emotional reading from his college personal statement, which he wrote with the support of volunteers and staff from the 826LA Writers’ Room at Manual Arts High School. (“I spoke with all of my teachers, and they told me it would almost be impossible to get my grades back up above a B, but I was determined.”) Cisneros quickly brought the crowds from tearful silence to a roaring applause when he proudly announced that he would be attending UC Berkeley in the fall.

High school senior and 826LA Writers’ Room student Valeria Rodriguez then took the stage to bravely read from her own college personal statement. (“My grandmother’s near death triggered a feverish desire to become a finely skilled writer that can capture the shades of the rebosos my great-grandmother once made and the taste of the labour generations before me bore.”) Rodriguez’s beautiful storytelling and radiant smile once again won everyone over as she proudly announced she would be attending Stanford University for college this fall.

Next up, Poet Laureate of Los Angeles Robin Coste Lewis reminded the crowd that “There is no such thing as an at-risk child. There is such a thing as an at-risk world” before reading a playful but profound poem she had written in the made-up language she and her sister shared with other children in the community when they were young.

Actor, restauranteur, and Echo Park native Danny Trejo then lightened the mood and kept the audience laughing with stories from his school days in Los Angeles, where advice from teachers to get a high school diploma weren’t exactly his top priority. Because as Trejo liked to put it when he was a student, “I live for the right now!”

Actress Xosha Roquemore then took the stage with her own untold LA story, speaking openly about growing up in Los Angeles and what it’s like to be a “unicorn,” a.k.a. a real Angeleno in a “transient city” where everyone comes from somewhere to make it in the City of Angels.

Without missing a beat (pun intended), Reggie Watts wowed everyone with his unique blend of comedy, beatboxing, and musical artistry, keeping us giggling and entertained throughout the whole performance.

Comedian Jimmy Kimmel then closed the evening’s entertainment with hilarious tales about his first few years living in Los Angeles and that one time he snuck into the Oscars Governors Ball, proving that if you follow your dreams and you don’t give up, you can make it happen!

The night ended with 826 co-founder and author Dave Eggers and 826LA Executive Director Joel Arquillos taking the stage to thank the audience and request that all 826LA educators in the room stand up and take a bow for their dedication to our students.

826LA is sincerely grateful to everyone who made this year’s TELL ME A STORY possible. Thank you to each and every one of you for your continued support of our students and our mission.

826LA would like to thank the following sponsors for their generous support of TELL ME A STORY:  

Carolyn & Louis Lucido
Goldhirsh Foundation
Eastdil
Henry & Inell Chase
Terena & Anders Eisner
Griffin Capital
Arthur J. Gallagher & Co
Bad Robot Productions
Boulevard Partners
Matthew Cherniss
Stacy & Chad DePue
Dumo
Jodie Evans
PwC
Kira Snyder & Allen Blue
Sarah Rosenwald Varet & Jesse Coleman
TaiLopez.com / The Knowledge Society

Jamie Wolf
AT&T
Baker Marquart
The Broad Foundation
Carrie Clifford & Paul Boese
DreamWorks Animation/NBCUniversal
Ellen Goldsmith-Vein & Lindsay Williams
Lesley & Vincent Fiorillo
HBO
Kaiser Permanente
Susan Ko
Microsoft
Nickelodeon
Louise Nutt
Paramount Pictures
Redeye Reps

Georgina & Thomas Russo
Vista Investment Group
Wells Fargo
Brookfield Property Partners
Alison Cotter
Karen & Ted Coyne
Lynne & Jimmy DeWitt
Maren Levinson
Naomi & Bob Odenkirk
Kerith & Marvin Putnam
Diane & Michael Neimand
Sylvie & Steve Rabineau
Union Bank
United Talent Agency
Meredith Westgate Russo
Peter & Nora Wendel

A very special thank you to our spectacular TELL ME A STORY Host Committee:

Tell Me a Story Co-Chairs Henry V. Chase and Scott A. Ginsburg

Inell & Henry V. Chase
Matthew Cherniss
Carrie Clifford & Paul Boese
Alison Cotter
Karen & Ted Coyne
Stacy & Chad DePue
Lynne & Jimmy DeWitt
Terena & Anders Eisner
Jodie Evans
Lesley & Vincent Fiorillo
Jamie & Scott Ginsburg

Ellen Goldsmith-Vein & Lindsay Williams
Claire Hoffman & Ben Goldhirsh
Christine Jaroush
Susan Ko
Maren Levinson
Carolyn & Louis Lucido
Krystyn & Al Madrigal
Diane & Michael Neimand
Louise Nutt
Naomi & Bob Odenkirk
James Ponsoldt

Sylvie & Steve Rabineau
Georgina & Thomas Russo
Meredith Westgate Russo
Eileen & Kevin Shields
Kira Snyder & Allen Blue
Sarah Rosenwald Varet & Jesse Coleman
Vendela Vida & Dave Eggers
Heather Waters & Glasgow Phillips
Peter Wendel
Jamie Wolf

And last but certainly not least, thank you to the following TELL ME A STORY in-kind sponsors:

Aesop
Evelyn Ellias
ROK Drinks
Gabriella Sanchez

TELL ME A STORY: Untold Stories of LA Press:

L.A. Weekly’s “826LA’s ‘Tell Me a Story’ Benefit Supports Programs for Young Writers”

Getty Images’s “826LA Presents ‘Tell Me A Story: Untold Stories of Los Angeles”


Photography courtesy of Colleen Callahan and Tina June Photography.

Read about last year’s TELL ME  STORY event here. Read about students who have gone from the 826LA Writers’ Room to their dream colleges here.

 

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