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Spotlight: Passion for kids drives Broadway Center’s Mims

BY ALLIE WRIGHT | JANUARY 18, 2011 7:10 AM

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Four years ago, James Mims had a mission: He wanted to find engaging activities for school-age kids in Southeast Iowa City.

He envisioned students playing games and doing math homework instead of possibly getting into trouble. And since then, the 34-year-old has routinely held activities for kids after school throughout the week at the Broadway Neighborhood Center, 2105 Broadway, including a chess club, sports teams, and homework club.

“Each kid has her or his own thing in which he or she can excel and find passion,” Mims said.
The kids who attend the after school programs stay at the center “till we kick ’em out” at around 4 p.m., and anywhere from two to 16 kids come at a time, he said. Even if the kids don’t get work done while at the center, Mims said, just being there is a benefit.

“It’s much better that they come here and not do homework rather than out trespassing somewhere,” he said.

Dareasia Bank, 9, described Mims as “nice and fun” before she showed him her homework for the day — a worksheet about decimals.

Dareasia, sporting a dark brown ponytail with blond highlights, said she wants to be a kindergarten teacher when she grows up, and she enjoys playing games like kickball with the other kids.

While Mims sat in his office at the center on Jan. 11, he watched a video recording of the previous night’s boys’ basketball game.

Though Mims’ team lost, 26-20, the center’s youth-program coordinator continually turned back to the screen, smiling and laughing. He pointed out kids who frequently attend the after-school programs and joked about the shaky camera work — a product of a sixth-grade student.

Mims said the team helps kids learn the ropes of basketball, since many of them don’t have the opportunity to play in other leagues around Iowa City.

DaShun Jordan, 11, a point guard, is a standout on the center’s basketball team.

The sixth-grader at Twain Elementary, 1355 DeForest Ave., said a lot of his friends hang out together after school at the center.

“[Mims] teaches me the correct way to play [basketball],” said Jordan, wearing a bright red hoodie of his favorite team, the Chicago Bulls.

The Broadway Center offers rides to and from all the games for kids and parents — often with Mims driving people — and pays all the fees for registration and equipment. The center, which opened in 1988, is an expansion of the nonprofit Neighborhood Centers of Johnson County, according to its website.

Mims said the Iowa City Public Library, 123 S. Linn St., donates books for the kids to read, and he looks forward to receiving donations of sports equipment from random donors a few times a year.

He also tries to incorporate music into the lives of the youth by bringing in area musicians to teach piano and guitar lessons.

Trenton Orris, a youth-program associate at the Broadway Neighborhood Center, said Mims is laid-back and makes work fun.

Orris, who has worked with Mims since September, said they coached competing football teams last fall.

“He’s able to say or do just the right thing, and [the kids] respect him,” Orris said. “He really cares about kids a lot and wants them to do well and succeed.”


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