CEDAR RAPIDS — Vicente Javier knows that if he offered an extracurricular algebra class to Cedar Rapids youth, turnout probably wouldn’t be great.
But if he puts math and science together with Little League Baseball and basketball, Javier thinks the project will be more effective.
“Sports is only part of it but we need to focus on education more than anything else,” he said.
Javier is the vice president of MAD DADS, a group that aims to boost community engagement and decrease violent crime on the southeast side of Cedar Rapids. About 10 volunteers spent Saturday afternoon knocking on doors in the Wellington Heights neighborhood getting input from the community and recruiting more volunteers.
Javier grew up in the Dominican Republic and played professional baseball in the United States until an injury in the early 1990s ended his sports career.
“If you get injured, (your sports career) is pretty much over,” he said. “Education is the way to go instead of looking at rappers and sports stars.”
The Cedar Rapids MAD DADS chapter started last fall when organizers grew tired of reports of gun violence and fights in the area. In addition to youth sports opportunities, the group is putting together neighborhood beautification projects and other community events.
“We’ve got to raise our kids the way we want them to be raised,” said Isaiah Jones, president of the group. “If we keep sitting back and letting them do what they want, we’re going to keep having results that have been coming out.”
The volunteers had success going door to door this weekend. Many of the residents they spoke with liked the project and offered input.
“So far it’s half and half — some people are glad we’re out here and some just brush it off. But as they see more participation from us, they’ll be more inclined to be a part of it,” Jones said.
Beyond cutting down on crime, the men said they also hope to change attitudes toward the southeast side.
“It’s an area that has some challenges, but it’s not a terrible area,” said Jeff Carter, who lives in North Liberty but works in the Wellington Heights area. “That’s the perception we’re trying to fight.”
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