Bryon A. Dickens
Students Connecting With Mentors for Success, Oklahoma City Community College
Bryon Dickens joined the staff of Oklahoma City Community College in 2015 to create a mentorship program for male African American students who at the time had the lowest grade point average and highest dropout rate of ethnic demographics at OCCC.
A successful African American entrepreneur and image consultant, Dickens launched Students Connecting with Mentors for Success to get students on the path to academic, personal and professional success. When he began the program in July 2015, the average GPA of black males at OCCC was 2.03. By fall of 2016, program participants had a 3.23 GPA, and the fall-to-spring retention rate was 95.5 percent, compared with 65.4 percent campuswide.
The program focuses on connecting students with professionals in their area of interest who offer support, guidance, and engagement according to each student’s need. Members also receive mentoring and learn valuable life lessons from Dickens himself. The program has had such success that it is expanding to serve African American women and Hispanic students.
“I firmly believe that any student, regardless of ethnicity or zip code, can rise to a standard that is set by someone who believes in them and offers care, support, and accountability,” Dickens said.
In recognition of his leadership and guidance, student program participants wrote numerous letters of support recommending Dickens himself as this year’s outstanding mentor for Students Connecting Mentors for Success.
“Mr. Dickens is the most influential mentor I have ever had,” wrote Cesar Gonzalez. “This year alone, Mr. Dickens has made a big impact in my success in college. He has connected me with great academic advisors to ensure my academic goals are met, motivated me to maintain a high GPA throughout the semesters, and encouraged me to apply for the Presidents Leadership class earlier this year. He has truly gone out of his way to help me be successful in college.”
OCCC student Rylee Norman said before he joined the program, he was unprepared for college and barely getting by in class. Dickens helped him get the support and resources he needed and helped him “become a better man and a better student.”
“I am now in the last semester of college, and it has felt like a cruise with the help and support of others,” Norman said. “To me, Mr. Dickens is Mentor of the Year every day!”
William Mongou, an international student thousands of miles away from family, said Dickens helped overcome challenges after he had a car accident and helped him successfully apply for scholarships to cover college expenses. “Mr. Dickens uses a non-judgmental approach to not only understand the lives of each member of this program, but most importantly to make each member better.”
Jerod Hill described Dickens as a “Mentor on a Mission,” who helps students see their potential and fulfil it through hard work and education. “Mr. Dickens doesn’t just help us realize our potential, he paints a picture of who we can be and treats us like we already embody all the attributes of that picture.”
About the Program: Oklahoma City Community College’s Students Connecting with Mentors for Success is designed to provide African-American and Hispanic students with mentors and intra-campus resources to facilitate successful academic achievement, higher retention rates, and graduation completion. The program focuses on connecting students with professionals in their area of interest who offer support, guidance, and engagement according to each student’s need.