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Voices of Diversity: Iowa City Community Center Changes Lives
IOWA CITY, IA (CBS2/FOX28) - It can be tough to be a single, teenage parent. That's exactly the position Frederick Newell was in. Yet, he found a way to thrive. It's a life lesson he's now sharing with fathers and children in Iowa City through the community center he founded and now is the Executive Director of, The Dream Center.
Frederick was just 18 when he moved from Chicago to the attend the University of Iowa. He brought his then toddler son, Amir, with him. Amir often attended classes with his father.
"I would say I struggled tremendously with learning how to balance parenting versus learning how to be a student," Newell said.
With his family in Chicago, Newell also struggled to find a community support system for single dads. It was a challenge that after graduation, inspired Newell to open up The Dream Center where he could support other young men and fathers.
Robert Walker is one of those young men. He is an eighth grader at Southeast Junior High. Walker came to The Dream Center when it first opened in 20111. He's now a leader on the center's basketball team. His younger brother, Remy, 12, also plays on the team. It's Robert's goal to serve as a role model for Remy after their father died a few years ago.
"(I'm) just leading by example because he might not listen to everything. Maybe by showing him, he'll know what to do," Walker said.
Newell, now 26, has also stepped up to be a father figure for the boys.
"He was the first person to teach them how to tie a tie a tie," Kimyata Goines, Robert's mother said.
"I call them my little brothers, but a lot of the young men in my program think of me as a father figure," Newell said. He explained that he often gets 100's of cards on Father's Day.
Walker said Newell has inspired him to be a better person than he was when he first arrived at The Dream Center.
"He was always a good kid, but he had some issues with his attitude, his leadership skills," Newell said.
But, Newell's guidance and the Center's welcoming atmosphere have made all the difference.
"Its made a difference by giving me somewhere to go after school on the weekend, somewhere to hang out, somewhere I can feel safe in the community," Walker said.
"I am kind of excited because he's came a long way," Goines added.
And Newell has come a long way as well. He graduated in four years with a Bachelor's Degree in Social Work. In addition to his work at The Dream Center, he is a Minority Family Advocate for Partnership for Safe Families. He is now married, and has six kids.
The Dream Center is also moving to its new permanent location at 611 Southgate Avenue, Suite A. The Center hosts a Youth Leadership Academy, a Fatherhood Academy and a Performing Arts Academy in addition to the community center's weekly activities.