Many people associate video games with coding, but one local non-profit is out to show it’s much more than that.
DreamYard, which began in 1994, is an organization that has partnered with 45 schools in the city that helps students achieve success through the arts.
In 2006, it opened the DreamYard Preparatory High School, 240 E. 172nd Street and in 2009, in collaboration with BronxPro Real Estate (a unique, mission-driven affordable housing developer), developed a multi-arts and digitally integrated community art center that serves more than 300 students weekly.
Recently, DreamYard expanded to video games. On Tuesday, November 12, it launched “BX Start,” a video gaming center at 1017 Home Street in Foxhurst. Rudy Blanco, director of entrepreneurship and gaming at DreamYard, told the Bronx Times, said the center has a lot of potential.
“We need to form that [gaming] community because there’s no place for us right now,” Blanco said. “We’re putting a call out for all Bronx gamers. The gaming industry is so much more than playing and coding.”
Blanco, 35, who has been with DreamYard for 10 years, explained this project didn’t happen overnight.
He taught special education for six years at DreamYard Prep and eventually became the technology specialist.
Blanco started a coding club, but quickly realized many youngsters had a yearning for more than that.
“There’s this flawed practice that this [coding] is the way to go with technology,” he explained.
So, four years ago, the high school began a scholarship, where students were asked to write a narrative for a video game, and much to his surprise, numerous applications were submitted.
“We put it out there thinking only gamers would respond,” he said.
He didn’t end the writing and gaming there. In 2017, DreamYard Preparatory and AT&T teamed up to provide opportunities for a dozen DreamYard students to have summer internships at borough AT&T locations.
With the success of these programs and his vision to help kids succeed through technology, Blanco knew he had to do more. So, he continued to hound his bosses for a space and low and behold, they found one on Home Street.
Blanco couldn’t contain his excitement when discussing the center. Since the soft launch, where 250 people attended, his phone has been ringing off the hook.
There will be a journalism and gaming program; it will look at career paths in gaming, game design, social media and marketing, how to pitch games and much more. Everything is free and open to sixth grade and up.
“Our focus is not coding,” he stressed. “I would have never thought to tie journalism and gaming.”
According to Blanco, the goal is to have a series of workshops the second week of December and begin full programming in February.
“This is my baby it feels amazing,” he exclaimed. “There are so many parents that are lost and don’t know what to do. They just want their kids to be around other people.”