‘Strengthening families, changing lives and restoring hope’: Frederick Newell of The Dream Center

“Our mission is strengthening families, changing lives and restoring hope,” said Frederick Newell, executive director of The Dream Center in Iowa City.

Newell founded The Dream Center in 2012 as a volunteer-driven, youth leadership program focusing on young men of color who have been negatively affected by having an absentee father. His first group of young men, who started as seventh and eighth graders in Iowa City, just completed the program last year. One hundred percent of these students not only graduated from high school, they are currently enrolled in college.

As Newell continued to work with young men in the community, he began to notice that young women were facing the same issues as well. He expanded the program to include all youth struggling with the issues caused by an absentee parent.

The Dream Center not only focuses on academic success, it also provides a performing arts academy that has grown from a dance class to include spoken word, theater and poetry.

Newell’s goal is to provide all youth with the opportunity to have a mentor, but he also knows that sometimes adults need someone to push them to new heights as well.

Frederick Newell — video still by Jason Smith

In 2012, Newell began working with a father, Darin. Newell and Darin focused on improving Darin’s performance in his role as a father. At the same time, Darin became inspired to be a mentor as well. The two began doing research through the National Fatherhood Initiative and learned about the 24/7 Dad Curriculum Program. With community support the they were able to initiate and begin teaching the curriculum. The 24/7 Dad Curriculum Program is a course that is practiced by thousands of organizations across the country to help train fathers to be the best dads they can become, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

“The next thing you knew, our Fatherhood Program not only was Darin, we had about 17 dads with whom we were working with,” Newell said. The program teaches dads to look at where they are today, where they want to be tomorrow and how they can be the father they want to be regardless of the barriers in front of them.

“We don’t call it a support group, we just call it a brotherhood meeting where all brothers from all walks of life can come together to get this good knowledge about who we are as men, who we are as fathers and how to better support one another”.

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