Brandon Okpalobi: The Trailblazer Who’s Teaching Life Skills On and Off The Courts

The Quintessential Gentleman Magazine caught up with the founder and Executive Director of Dibia DREAM, Brandon Okpalobi. Okpalobi shares his commitment to providing access to a blend of STEM and Sports to minority students. The hope of this program is to build confidence to excel academically and socially.

When and why did you start Dibia DREAM?

I started DREAM on October 6th, 2014. This is after noticing that we were not impacting enough youth who ‘looked like me’ with my for-profit business, DIBIA Athletic Development. I was determined to really change the narrative and began taking a deeper look into the education disparity that exists between groups. I quickly noticed that there were not many quality OST (Out of School Time) programs available for youth in communities predominantly populated by minority groups. Also, the increase in youth gun violence and other violent behaviors made me really think about how to create the change that was desperately needed. Being well traveled, I noticed that this problem wasn’t just an American problem; rather it is a global issue. This discovery has led me to establish programming in Bermuda as well as begin talks to expand to Columbia, South Africa, and Nigeria.

On a more personal note, in the second grade, I was just like the kids that I currently serve. I see myself in them today. As a child, my high energy was focused in the wrong areas and that caused me to get in trouble often. I would earn all A’s in my classwork but also earn F’s in conduct. Eventually, I was kicked out of second grade and sent to a creative arts school where they channeled my negative energy into art. By pushing me toward artistic expression, my thought process changed. I became an entrepreneur in the 3rd grade. I started a clothing business where I sketched and used acrylic paint on shirts and sold them. A couple of years later, when I was in the 5th grade, I had a mentor say to me, “Brandon, you are extremely intelligent and can be anything you want when you grow up, but this behavior and acting out must stop today.” From that day on in Ms. Foleys class, I changed my behavior. With DREAM, I am able to bring educational opportunities to youth in underserved communities. I can also serve as a mentor to kids like Mrs. Foley was to me in order to help them win at life.

What was your organization’s biggest triumph of the past year?

As a young organization, we have to work double time to be recognized as a viable organization worthy of support from funders, partners, and the community.

At DREAM, we pride ourselves on providing optimal quality programs to youth and their families. So, in partnership with our DREAM Academy site Eneida M. Hartner Elementary School, it was an honor to be named the ‘2017 Best After School Program’ by the Miami-Dade Coalition for Community Education.