A native of New Orleans, Okpalobi graduated from the University of Miami with a degree in Computer Information Systems after walking on the Division 1 basketball team and earning a scholarship his senior year. Though he had worked for major corporations such as the Orange Bowl Committee, Deloitte & Touche LLP and The Miami Heat, Okpalobi always had an eye toward the community. “Having a heart for the community is something my parents instilled in me at an early age,” he says. “My father Chief Chuka Okpalobi built a community center for his village back in Nigeria. I went to the grand opening with him and witnessed him making a difference through service. This opened my eyes and my heart to look for ways to be the change for my community.”
“Nelson Mandela said, ‘Sport has the power to change the world,’ and through the universal language of sports, STEM and education, DREAM will change the landscape for youth to ensure that they will have a bright future.”
About Dibia DREAM
Okpalobi’s own experiences with underserved youth pushed him to think big and look into developing his own program. “What you see daily is that minority and underserved youth are not afforded the same opportunities their affluent peers,” he says.“These kids need a chance. They need someone to tell them that they are special.” After founding Dibia Athletic Development in 2001, Okpalobi found he needed to think bigger in order to impact the community. “Over time, one thing I noticed was that I was not impacting children of color in the way I had dreamed,” he says. “As a result, in October of 2014, I launched DREAM (Development through Recreational Education for Athletic Minds). Merging STEM and sports brings together the best of both worlds.”
Covering All Bases
In addition to afterschool programming, the DREAM arm works with community partners to take care of additional needs. ”To serve our kids better, we developed the Carrying DREAMS Home Initiative, a childhood hunger prevention program,” says Okpalobi. “We partner with the Hyatt Regency New Orleans to provide youth in DREAM Academy, DREAMPaks at the end of each week to take home. DREAMPaks include non-perishable foods and healthy snacks to make sure youth and their families have nourishment through the weekend.” Okpalobi has also looked into expanding beyond Miami and New Orleans, creating programming in Bermuda and looking into options in Jamaica, Dubai and Nigeria.
Okaplobi admits he has a lot on his plate, but takes great care to give each aspect of Dibia DREAM his all. “At the end of the day I know our youth need more and we have the privilege to be able to provide more,” he says. For the community part, he says there are three main ways to reach out. First, becoming a DREAM Avenger volunteer and engaging the DREAM youth through STEM Saturdays, DREAM Academy or Summer of DREAMS. Second, via partnerships. We are always looking for like-minded organizations to come together and support us to expand our services and engage more youth through our programs,” says Okpalobi. FInally, financially; The program is completely free to scholars and their families, so financially supporting the initiatives helps Okpalobi and his team achieve their mission of helping the youth they serve.