We’re delighted to welcome Eileen Chong to the team as our Interim After-School Writing Lab Coordinator! For the rest of the school year, Eileen will be the magic-maker behind our beloved After-School Writing Lab, where students join us for free volunteer-supported homework help and creative writing time.
We recently sat down with Eileen and asked her a few questions:
Name: Eileen Chong
Job Title: Interim After-School Writing Lab Coordinator
Hometown: Elk Grove Village, IL
What drew you to 826DC?
My friend worked for 826DC so I came by a couple of times to help out. I was enchanted by the space. Yes, I gawped at the ventriloquist dummy and squealed out loud with delight at the secret door. I may or may not have also spied on the burger patrons below. It was easy to imagine how delightful it must be for each student visiting for the first time, and any organization that prioritizes that moment of mysterious wonder is an organization worth working for in my book.
What’s one unusual thing on your desk right now?
A cross-stitch ornament of a dancing couple in traditional Korean dress. My mom goes through intense phases (jam, crocheting, rollerblading, etc. etc.), and her current hobby entails cobbling together loose odds and ends from around the house and cross-stitching them with flowers, leaves, our initials, random letters, Chinese characters (we’re not Chinese), and now, apparently, people.
What was your favorite subject in elementary school, and why?
Art! Art class was once a week which made it special, and it was incredibly therapeutic to make something with my hands, with resources I wouldn’t necessarily have access to otherwise. The only requirements were your creativity and commitment, and every single classmate was capable of making something worth admiring.
If you were a magician, what would be your signature magic trick?
Levitation! I actually participated in a magician’s levitation trick—I held a tablecloth and the table underneath floated—and I still have no clue how it was done. Except instead of a table, I’d be levitating the audience. Sold-out show, guaranteed.
What inspired you to get involved with this kind of work, and why do you think it’s so important?
I come from a family of readers. The library was our babysitter, and books were automatically understood to be magical, powerful things. I think people tend to dismiss reading and writing as school time drudgery, and I often hear people say, “Oh, but I’m not a good writer.” These are false perceptions that need to be debunked! I firmly believe that there are great books for every type of reader out there and that writing is a muscle that can be developed. Regardless of your ambitions, the ability to articulate your thoughts is a lifelong superpower, and this ability is further developed by—yes—reading.