No one is normal.

Mario Affatigato Coe College Student Submission

“I know this sounds a little corny, but I’ve really liked Iowa; I’ve really liked Cedar Rapids in particular,” said Mario. “I think it’s a much better place to live. It’s a much better corner of the world than people who live here even imagine. I don’t think they can fathom how nice this place is when compared to the world at large.”

Susan Blad

We call her “Susan the Hatmaker” with all the affection the title can carry. This woman was willing to send her address to a stranger (who texts with improper grammar, no less), to make him a hat, to respond with an open heart. Who is she?

LetSultanaLearn Campaign Called Off

We can help change Sultana’s Story, and we want you to be involved. On Tuesday, June 14th from 9:00am to noon, Central Standard Time, we’re asking hundreds of thousands of people to blitz Twitter and other social media with the hashtag #LetSultanaLearn.

Frank Morosky

“I do great business during white elephant gift-giving season. A lot of people buy them as gag gifts, but many others have told me that I’ve saved their lives.”


What are you looking forward to most about coming to the United States?

“I’m most excited to see the sky without walls.”

Tréa Champagne

“On weekends we’d go to parties from house to house with their friends and neighbors. My grandparents and their friends would play cards and dance. It was an honor if I got to step in for my grandmother. It fueled my love of Irish dancing.”

Ebony Watkins Feature Profile

The problem is, she’s not normal. She’s outstanding. She’s strong and intelligent and caring and has overcome experiences in her life that most of her peers–thankfully–will never have to face. Her history, her abilities, and her grit have shaped her into a person that others will always treat as special, because she is, well…special.

Stacey Walker Man in the Gap

I always try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt so that I can make a fair assessment of them. And I think that if you can’t get to that point as an adult, you will be seriously handicapped in whatever you’re trying to accomplish, because good people come in all shapes, forms, and sizes, but so do bad people. And sometimes you just gotta do the hard work and sit down and get to know a person before you can find out who’s who in this world.


A new video from Corridor Characters, produced by Flow Media. Take a walk with us through Cedar Rapids’ “ghetto” and see what life is really…

Elwie Apor Harris Feature Profile

Like many places in the Philippines, powerful storms and flooding were a frequent problem. “I remember the lights would go off,” Elwie explains, “and we used to make shapes out of our hands with the candle light, and we would make our own little canoes and we’d canoe through the neighborhood. The water was only like a foot deep, but we were kids, so it seemed so high to us. So we would canoe through our village and get everyone smiling, waving at people and flinging the water. We made the best out of what we had.”

(Click below to read Elwie’s full story.)

Jacinto Catherine McAuley Center Feature Profile

When Jacinto was 12 years old, he left his parents and siblings in Guatemala and set out on a journey to Iowa. He came to the very heart of the nation which had devastated his own for decades. The nation that funded the killing of his uncle and thousands of others was the same that provided him with a new future.

Erick Catherine McAuley Center Snapshot

The Rwandan genocide was a hundred-day killing spree that left somewhere between 500,000 to 1 million people dead. Ten-year old Erick survived, with machete scars on his neck to remind him of all the family and friends he lost. He walked seven days with other refugees until he reached a protective camp across the border in Tanzania. He lived in the camp until he was 22 years old. Then he came to the U.S., and eventually Cedar Rapids, IA.

Sofia Mehaffey

“I decided I was going to be a different person. I was never going to lie again, never going to cheat, never going to put myself around people who were not good for me and were not going to help me out in life and were not about good things for their own lives. And once I made that change, that choice, I feel like things just sort of started clicking. And I’ve noticed throughout my life that the more I make those kind of choices, the more good things happen.”

Josh Booth

“As a kid I would look out my second-floor window, and I would see guys across the park shooting at each other. I remember times hearing stories of people dying. We would be in what they call the projects. That’s where we lived. And I would be walking, and my mom would say, ‘Hey, you smell that? That’s a dead body.’”

The Koepke Brothers Feature Profile

“When I hear him talk, I hear myself talking. I don’t care if it’s the golf course or the garden, we’re both dealing with children. What I love about it too is having people approach me in public and acknowledge that some of the same stuff I’m teaching in gardening is directly applicable to the content and life skill stuff he teaches and coaches.”

George Elossais – Iowa Big student EntreFEST Snapshot

“Right now I’m working on an urban farming project where we’re going to start using aquaponics to grow lettuce at New Bo. And then I’m also building an autonomous drone that visually tests for nitrogen on farm fields. And I’m also working with Shawn Cornally, the founder of Big, to develop our student information system that we call Barbeque.”

Ryan Pendell – Silicon Prairie News EntreFEST Snapshot

“Within my monastery experience, I had a deep, profound sense that I could go anywhere and do anything and everything was going to be okay. Just this really deep sense that everything’s going to be okay. And I think that, in terms of trying to search for a career, or meaning, or what am I supposed to do with my life, that was kind of the culmination of that. So, once I let go of trying to figure out what I was supposed to do with my life, that was kind of when I figured it out.”

Simeon Talley – Guns X Butter EntreFEST Preview Snapshot

“After I finished school at Iowa I thought, Oh, you have to go elsewhere, you know? I should move to Denver or Chicago or further west. Cool, creative cities where real opportunities exist. But at some point it just clicked that you don’t have to go elsewhere to do something cool. People are doing really amazing things here, and I wanted to be one of them.”

Winston Jimenez – Community Financial Access EntreFEST Preview Snapshot

“Independent of nationality, socio-economic status or religious preference, most of us seem to share a fundamental understanding that we are part of a bigger story. Most of us understand that we are but a single piece of a 7 billion pieces puzzle. But we are a very important piece, as without any one of us the puzzle will not be completed. To the puzzle maker, each piece is important and each piece matters.”