Los Angeles, CA — There was a time when all Angeles Echols-Brown wanted to do was sing and act. She even attended Cornell University and obtained a masters degree in fine arts and did the requisite off-Broadway thing in New York.
But being the practical Southern girl that her momma raised, Echols-Brown always had a “good job” on the side.
“I taught English and math to make a living. I never waited tables,” explained the Tennessee transplant.
It was during one of those side jobs in Los Angeles in 1987, where she had come to make a television pilot, that Echols-Brown found her life taking an unexpected twist.
“. . . I got a part time teaching job at Trinity Lutheran School, and I started tutoring kids. Parents coming from Trinity asked me to help their kids, who were having problems with reading. I created a program to teach kids to read phonetically, and before I knew it, I had 10 to 12 kids . . . in a one room apartment.”
Her afterschool program just continued to grow, said Echols-Brown, recalling how two of her young students used to study in the bathroom–one laying in the tub, and the other seated on a pillow covering the toilet seat. One of those two young ladies is about to graduate from U.C. Berkeley.
Students also studied at her house until 8 and 8:30 at night.
Four years later, Echols-Brown realized she was auditioning less and less and teaching more. She would dumpster dive at schools for books and furniture and clean up everything with her mother’s old stand by–Ivory soap.
She also found herself at a crossroads.
“I just needed to know what I was going to do with my life. I prayed; I went to God, and said give me a sign, if you want me to do this.”
Echols-Brown said God sent her a sign during a trip home that Christmas paid for by 20 to 30 of the parents of her afterschool tutoring students.
“I got bumped to first class, and sat next to this multi-millionaire who lost his wife in a horrible accident. He came to see the program, bought us McDonald’s lunches, and moved (me) and the kids into a building on Sixth Street. I never auditioned again,” said Echols-Brown, who by this time had created the nonprofit organization Educating Young Minds (EYM).
From that humble beginning, EYM has grown to include five additional. They are the morning home study for youngsters who are in the City of Angels home study school.
“Instead of going home between 9 and 3 p.m. and doing their work alone, they come to us,” said the EYM founder.
There is also a Saturday program that features remedial classes in English and mathematics as well as well as preparation for the standardized test such as the SAT and ACT; a six-week summer program that focuses on English and math skills building; and a college scholarship program that awards EYM graduates four years of financial assistance as well as a laptop computer.
EYM currently has 265 active members and 145 on its waiting list. To get into the program, parents and their kids must apply during one of two open periods held each year. Admission is based on availability and the commitment shown by both students and parents.
Funding for the program comes from grants, donations and fundraising activities. The next funding event will be held June 28 at the LAX Marriott, and proceeds will go to the EYM scholarship program. Last year’s event featured Three Mo’ Tenors.
For more information on EYM, contact (213) 487-2310 or 3325 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 400, Los Angeles, CA 90010.