116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Darryl English’s NewBo City Market businesses, WeDream Technical Solutions and WeDream Cyber Cafe, are geared toward providing customers with access to technology — but he’s also passionate about empowering students to build their own futures.
English’s stall at NewBo City Market is always full of half-assembled computers and screens — a sight that would catch anyone’s eye, especially curious kids.
“They always seemed to be astonished by what I was doing and wanted to know more about computers and how to build them,” English said. “This provided an avenue for me to engage with students and find out their level of interest.”
From there, he quickly had the idea to open a gaming cafe with a STEM-learning aspect. This summer, English was awarded a Kiva loan to build the cybercafe.
Volunteering and educating at-risk youth have been in English’s heart for a long time. English started volunteering as a student at Alabama A&M University in 2006. He had the opportunity to serve more than 2,000 volunteer hours in disaster areas in the states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. However, he says, he discovered his passion for connecting with students in Cleveland, Ohio. While volunteering to remove lead paint in underprivileged seniors’ homes, his group also held leadership conferences and basketball camps to reach at-risk youth and connect them with local churches and organizations.
English remembers the barriers to learning technology that he experienced while growing up and wants to jump start students on a path to STEM mastery.
“Taking my passion of serving and combining it with my knowledge of technology gave me an idea to develop programs that could impact and affect the growing need to fill technology-based positions,” English said. “The reason I am so passionate about STEM is not only the opportunities it brings but the level of exposure to potential career opportunities. Because of the lack of resources I had while pursuing a career in information technology, I found myself having to learn a lot of things on my own. Now looking back and having over 20 years of experience in information technology I want to be a resource for more students like me.”
In his initial ventures, he has had a chance to connect with at-risk youth by volunteering at Metro High School’s robotics program as a coding mentor, as well as with their STEAM program. The commitment to Metro students led the Cedar Rapids Community School District to recognize English’s contributions with an Outstanding Building Volunteer award last school year. English also received a Governor’s Volunteer Award during a recognition ceremony held in June.
On the immediate horizon, English will launch an “E-sports League +STEM program” (registrations open Dec. 8), ROBoCode robotics and coding club, and start a Lego League team. In the future he intends to host Lunch and Learn workshops to help parents, students and teachers learn more about esports, STEM careers, and girls in gaming. weDream’s Technical & Vocational training classes will focus on learning professional applications like Windows 11, Microsoft Office Suites, Gmail, and Adobe Design applications. The business also intends to host seminars on cybersecurity.
“We see technology all around us and at times we assume that everyone has access to the same technology. That is not always the case,” says English. “Using my experiences to produce a tech hub where technology is accessible to everyone is a passion and endeavor of mine that is a consistent driving force. Seeing young people not only play on devices, but understand the technology behind it so they can become trail blazers and innovators of new technology, is a mission that I have pledged to continue.”
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