At 11 years old, Arden Pala of Rancho Bernardo has accomplished more than many adults dream of. He's the author of three books about travel and inclusivity and is Los Angeles Film Festival's best child actor of 2020.
But his accomplishments are just a part of what makes this sixth-grader at Francis Parker School stand out. He also has a huge desire to help others and is incredibly humble about what he's achieved.
“Mom please no, it’s not time to brag,” he bashfully says as his mom lists his accomplishments in an interview with NBC 7 -- inventor, writer, actor featured in productions at the Old Globe; the list goes on.
Instead, Arden wanted to focus the interview on his new book, "The Adventure of Noah's Flying Car Through Mexico."
The book -- the third installment of his picture book series about a young boy who experiences different cultures through travel -- is now being sold on Amazon, and all the proceeds are going to the San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund, which supplies funds to organizations and people struggling locally during the coronavirus pandemic.
"There’s so many problems in the world. I want to solve at least of few of them and help solve them. So I felt like, you know, why don’t we just donate all the funds to [the relief fund] because that’s going to help some people out here with their life,” Arden said as to why he was choosing to donate his proceeds instead of keeping them.
The proceeds from Arden's first two books, "The Adventures of Noah’s Flying Car Through Turkey" and "The Adventures of Noah’s Flying Car Through China," were also donated to organizations, one supporting the homeless and one for animal shelters.
"I wasn’t surprised as a parent when he wanted to donate proceeds for the book because that has always been part of his identity," his mother, Zeynep Ilgaz said. "Giving back has always been part of who he is as a person. He continues to volunteer at the soup kitchens and he’s always donating his time and his allowance to people in need."
Arden started the book series when he was 8 years old. As a Turkish-American, he said he was bullied in elementary school for being different. He thought the books would be a fun way to encourage people to learn about different cultures.
"I was different and I was bullied sometimes about it but I wrote these books just to tell other viewers that it was okay to be different," he said.
In the latest installment, Noah -- the lead character, who is based on one of Arden's true-life friends -- takes his flying car to Mexico, where he travels around the country, swims with dolphins, visits historical sites and shares facts about Mexico's culture and its people along the way.
"I hope this book tells other people a lot about the country and if they want to, if they like this so much, and they feel like, you know, this sounds really really fun, go there themselves personally,” Arden said.
Arden was inspired by his own travels and each book is based on a country he has visited before. It wasn't the only part of the book inspired by his real life.
"When I was 8 years old I wanted to invent a flying car," Arden said.
Now, he's not sure what he will do with his future -- whether or not he will write another book, whether he will become an actor, an inventor, or something else entirely. but he's hopeful that "time will tell."
“I feel like I can do anything I put my mind to and if I work hard enough I can accomplish almost anything," he added.
The pre-teen is also aware that he is lucky to have supportive parents and other adults around him who encouraged him to succeed, funded parts of his book and offered advice along the way. His Old Globe director, James Vasquez, even wrote the forward of his latest book.
He thanked his parents, his directors and had a special shoutout to one teacher.
"She inspired me, my teacher, Mrs. Robinson. She inspired me to do a bunch of other shows and she was a great resource," Arden said. "And she helped me a lot with these books and I just want to thank her for that."