Dreeam Sports is starting its second year of working with young people in the Cedar Rapids area by launching a new mentorship program.
Brandon Jackson started the nonprofit in February 2019 to help make sports affordable for kids in Cedar Rapids. He added the extra “e” to Dreeam to emphasize the importance of “exceeding expectations,” Jackson told Little Village.
“From the staff and volunteers all the way to the youth participants, I want them to go above and beyond what’s expected of them to reach their full potential,” said Jackson, who has coached youth basketball teams in Cedar Rapids for many years.
The organization has evolved to include opportunities for young people to engage in volunteer activities in their community, such as raking yards or visiting the residents of a nursing home. This also reflects Jackson’s experience in community activism.
Last April, Jackson was one of the organizers of Stop the Violence, an event that focused on raising awareness about violence in Cedar Rapids and promoting unity within the community.
Jackson said he is preparing to launch a new Dreeam program to connect at-risk youth with community members who will serve as mentors. The program will be a partnership between the nonprofit, the Cedar Rapids Police Department’s Community Action Team (PCAT), Metro High School (the Cedar Rapids Community School District’s alternative school) and the Cedar Rapids family services nonprofit Jane Boyd.
“We’re [looking] for strong people who would want to help and get involved in these kids’ lives,” Jackson said.
The City of Cedar Rapids has been trying different initiatives over the past several years to combat violence, especially gun violence. The PCAT team has been involved in these efforts since it was started in 2016. The team is deployed into neighborhoods to address various problems, such as gun violence, crime and other quality-of-life issues.
Sgt. Doug Doyle, who leads the PCAT team, said the numbers behind youth violence in Cedar Rapids are “sporadic and change year-to-year” due to a large number of variables, but added that “social media has amplified a lot of the violence” in Cedar Rapids because its users often glorify violence.
“Violence among youth in Cedar Rapids is a complex problem that at its root is caused by a sense of disconnectedness, hopelessness and despair, exacerbated by a relative lack of opportunities and adequate resources and coupled with easy access to weapons,” according to a report from the Cedar Rapids’s Safe, Equitable and Thriving Communities Task Force, which the city created in 2016.
Jackson said he hopes the new mentorship program will help address those problems.
“I really want to not only bring awareness to these kids but also provide opportunities to get these kids out of their negative environment,” he said. “I want to get them around people that take them out of that environment and show them the good side to life, to help motivate them and encourage them to want to do better for themselves.”
In addition to the mentorship program, Jackson has two other new programs planned for 2020.
In March, he intends to start a program focusing on empowering youth by teaching them financial literacy, along with self respect and self awareness.
Jackson is also partnering with Cedar Rapids Parks and Recreation and Mount Mercy Jump Start Program to launch a junior NBA and junior WNBA four-week program. The junior WNBA program is scheduled to begin in April, and the junior NBA is slated for May. Registration information can be found on Dreeam Sports’ Facebook page.
“I’ve been a big community activist, especially when it comes to youth and youth violence,” Jackson said. “So I figured it’s an opportunity where I can use my organization as something to kind of help with providing programs, to get more kids engaged and give them more opportunities.”