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SBJ Editor Eric Olson interviews Dream Center Executive Director Jody Dow about the nonprofit’s first two years in operation.
SBJ photo by Wes Hamilton
SBJ Editor Eric Olson interviews Dream Center Executive Director Jody Dow about the nonprofit’s first two years in operation.

Dream Center to expand youth program

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The Springfield Dream Center is working to expand its after-school youth program, the nonprofit’s executive director said this morning.

Jody Dow, the leader of the 2-year-old north-side betterment nonprofit, spoke before a crowd of around 110 people at Hilton Garden Inn for Springfield Business Journal’s monthly 12 People You Need to Know live interview series.

Dow said the youth program, dubbed DC Academy, will move to five days a week from three starting in the fall semester. The K-5 program — currently available to Bowerman Elementary School students at no cost to families — also will begin accepting middle school children into its ranks.

“We focus on social and emotional tools,” she said. “How do we increase your social skills? How do we give you coping skills that keep you in the classroom?”

Dow said the expansion of the DC Academy program followed Springfield Public Schools teacher input and an assessment of needs on the north side.

Teachers, she said, have told the Dream Center they went to school to learn how to teach but have issues with certain children who are unable or unwilling to be taught.

“I can’t teach a kid who’s not in the room,” Dow said, referencing teacher concerns brought to the Dream Center. “I can’t teach a kid who’s in the buddy room, in the principal’s office, who’s sitting in the back crying. I can’t teach a kid who won’t keep his hands to himself.”

Dow said the Dream Center is hustling to get the program ready for expansion by the fall semester.

“My team’s freaking out a little bit,” she said with a laugh. “I’m not freaking out yet. I’ll freak out on July 31. There’s plenty of time to figure it out between now and then.”

The Dream Center runs on a roughly $550,000 budget, and it also provides food, clothing, budgetary classes, addiction services and resources in partnership with other nonprofits. The budget comprises $300,000 from fundraising and $250,000 from North Point Church, which helped launch the center.

The center — part of a national group of roughly 60 other Dream Centers — operates out of a 53,000-square-foot campus donated by Hamlin Memorial Baptist Church in the Woodland Heights neighborhood at 829 W. Atlantic St.

In July 2017, Springfield philanthropist Bobby Allison donated more than $1 million for the Betty & Bobby Allison Activity Center, complete with a renovated basketball gynasium, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting.

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