'Science Rocks!' Says Tech Tutor
Deshjuana Bagley, who friends call Desh, was turned on to technology as a seventh-grade student at Westbrook High School in Beaumont, Texas. "There was a good mentoring program with great professionals from the area," she said. "I learned programming on the Apple IIE." She went on to study electrical engineering at the University of Texas in Austin and computer science at the University of South Florida. "I wanted to be a successful African-America woman," she said, "climbing the corporate ladder." Today, instead of conquering corporate America, she shares her passion for science at her brainchild, TechPlayzone, wondering if the next Thomas Edison, George Washington Carver or Desh Bagley is somewhere in the excited group of children.She met her future husband, Daryl, while interning with Mobile Oil in Texas. "We married in 1995 and moved to Tampa," she said. "So I concentrated on raising a family and finishing my degree at USF." The Bagleys moved to Brandon in 2000 so they could live closer to their church family, Bay Area Church of Christ in Mango. "Brandon was a great move for us," she said. "This community is awesome, very diverse, and I don't have to feel like an outsider because my life is faith-based." Bagley listened when her children came home from school saying they didn't fit in because they weren't devoted to sports or video games. "Daryl and I were saying 'But you're great at math and science!'" she said. "But there's something wrong when they can't feel exuberant about the fact that they can understand these advanced concepts. I started thinking, 'Let's get them together with like-minded kids.' Science rocks!" The idea behind TechPlayzone was born, and Bagley put together a business plan. She launched the business in 2005, bringing her after-school program to Edison Elementary School in Tampa. "We offered learning and technology in a fun environment," she said. "Parents started noticing their kids had an advantage; they were more excited and confident about math and science." In March 2006, TechPlayzone moved into its own space in The Village At Boyette, 13208 Boyette Road in Riverview. The after-school center features tutors, robotic LEGO tables, a state-of-the-art computer lab, a video production studio and all kinds of support for homework. "I'm so glad we took the risk," she said. "This is a huge testimony. Using the talents God gave me, showing other moms we can go for it, and step out in faith." Bagley was a finalist for the Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce small business award in 2008, and she is moving into the future with much confidence. "We have 20 kids and the capacity for 46," she said. "We pull from seven local elementary schools and three middle schools. We also sponsor a robotics team, and we're looking forward to going to state competition again this year." Bagley is as energized and motivated as ever. "I get to wake up every morning and feel really excited about what I do," she said. "The kids love it, and I can't wait to get here. "This is our mission," she said. "I want them to say 'Yes I'm going to college' and 'I want to go into science or math.'" Beyond TechPlayzone, Bagley is involved with the Student Advisory Council at Cimino Elementary School in Valrico, works with children at her church and volunteers for service projects with the Delta Sigma Theta sorority. She also is an accomplished public speaker who talks to women about living life with purpose, setting goals and stepping out in faith. "I'm optimistic," she said. "Parents will sacrifice for their children, and they realize this is an investment in their child's future. Life is about perseverance and discipline and faith; if you know why you're doing what you're doing, it gives you the motivation." MEET DESHJUANA JONES BAGLEY Owner, TechPlayzone in Riverview BORN: Lafayette, La., 1970 EDUCATION: Westbrook High School, Beaumont, Texas; University of Texas, Austin; University of South Florida MARRIED: Daryl Bagley, 1995 CHILDREN: Daryl Jr., Darrian, Devin, Dariya and Deshara MOVED TO BRANDON: 2000 MEMBER: Bay Area Church of Christ; Delta Sigma Theta Sorority
Correspondent Derek Maul can be reached at derekmaul@ gmail.com.