After finishing his undergraduate degree, 26-year-old Tymon Emch took time off to study for the MCAT and work and volunteer at a hospital. He hoped the latter experience would move him a step closer to his goal of becoming a pediatrician. During that year after college, it occurred to Emch that medicine might not be exactly what he wanted. So he changed directions. Today, Emch works with Bend youth, but in a different way than he once imagined. Emch founded Cada Casa, a non-profit organization focused on community education.
Cada Casa stands for community, academics, sports and arts. And similarly in Spanish, comunidad, academia, deportes, arte. The idea first came to Emch while he was couch surfing his way to Peru where he planned to work as the activities director at a children's home.
"It really started to focus more on education when I was in Peru. I found that their education system was very much forced upon the students, even more so than ours," says Emch, "It was there I started to focus on the idea that through sincere passion or sincere interest comes legitimate education or learning."
Upon returning to Bend, Emch felt something was missing in the arts here. He had been involved with Poethouse Art before leaving for Peru. When he returned, he took on a more organizational role. In January 2010, he started to organize the Poethouse and began to formulate classes to offer to the community.
"The Poethouse has been integral in the development of Cada Casa and in some regards, perhaps is Cada Casa at times. It's basically given me the facility, the instructors and the opportunity to hold such classes," says Emch.
A few of the first classes offered included bilingual soccer, screen-printing and T-shirt design, puppets and digital photography. Since the initial unit of classes, the curriculum has expanded to include spoken poetry, comedy and apparel design.
"Stand-up comedy or slam poetry are classes that are more than poetry or writing; in a lot of these classes there's an exploration or a rediscovery of the creative side within you," says Emch.
Classes last six-weeks and are offered for a fee of $75, a portion of which goes toward expenses, like paying rent. Most of the instructors volunteer their time, and the $75 per student can often go toward allowing another student to take the class.
"We have this policy, which has really put us in an interesting predicament at times, but we've always said that any student that wants to take a class, but may not be able to pay for it, can still take it. Over the summer 49 percent of our students didn't pay at all," says Emch.
In order to continue this practice Cada Casa went to the community and asked for sponsorships. Art studios, Top Leaf Mate Bar, and other groups and individuals have sponsored students, allowing them to enroll in Cada Casa's classes. Schools, non-profits and rehabilitation centers subcontract with Cada Casa and currently account for roughly half of the enrollment at Cada Casa.
According to Emch, publicity has been the greatest difficulty. Currently, Emch and fellow instructor Mosley Wotta, of local hip hop fame, make presentations in schools in hopes of sparking student's interest in taking a class from Cada Casa.
"It's always been my goal for the kids to go home and be like, 'Hey mom and dad I want to take this class.' That's tough because kids don't always communicate well with their parents, or they don't remember what they saw in school."
Initially, Emch, who coaches competitive soccer for Oregon Rush, relied on families he met while coaching to get Cada Casa off the ground. As Cada Casa grows and progresses, Emch has learned that one of the unfortunate things about community education is that when instructors who are passionate members of the community go away, sometimes the classes do, too. For example, when storyteller Guy J. Jackson left Bend for Los Angeles, his storytelling class did, too.
As for the future, Emch's first goal is for Cada Casa to officially become a 501(c)(3) non-profit by the end of August next year, which will allow the community to make tax deductible donations to the organization. He'd also like to be able to offer classes for free, which would likely come from grant money, and open classrooms in other communities, like Redmond. Emch dreams of opening international schools, too, but for the time being he's concentrating on developing new classes, like action sports cinematography, if finances allow.
For Emch, the most rewarding part of watching Cada Casa grow and succeed has been seeing students rethink the idea of art. Whether it be exposing a J Bar J kid coming out of the judicial system to art, which he or she might not otherwise have seen; or seeing Naomi Wright, last year's Summit High School valedictorian, re-imagine the idea of art through slam poetry. That's what Emch thinks is really cool.
"One of the big things that Cada Casa, and The Poethouse as well, tries to do is show the young Bend community that there is a world or art and culture out there," says Emch. "And so what we do is we offer the opportunity to show them music and different types of art."
The Art of Comedy
Tymon Emch is always looking for new, cool classes to offer the community. He helps instructors develop a curriculum and gages student interest. This fall, Cada Casa started to offer a class on stand-up comedy, which not only sparked interest in the youth, but also in Bend's adult population. Realizing that the content would be very different between the two age ranges, Cada Casa offers two classes - one for adults and one for youth. Instructor and local comedian Jake Woodmansee teaches students how to handle hecklers, process material into jokes, arrange jokes, and perform on stage.
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