Miami People

This Former UM Basketball Player Is Changing Miami’s Non-Profit Game

What’s News With This Story: 

–Brandon Okpalobi has made waves in Miami’s non-profit space with his organization Dibia Dream. 

-The non-profit exposes at risk youth to unique opportunities in STEM fields and in sports. 

Okpalobi is a former University of Miami basketball player. He also runs a for profit youth sports training company. 

Okpalobi has big dreams for the organization and hopes to see it expand to more locations across South Florida and other parts of the world. 

 


Giving is a trait that Brandon Okpalobi exercises every day.

This young CEO of a youth training program works with children frequently to unlock their potential through sports.

A former University of Miami basketball player, Okpalobi became an entrepreneur and nonprofit founder after his playing days ended.

And in many ways, Okpalobi has never been part of a more important team than he is now.

Okpalobi, 35, founded Dibia Athletic Development in 2011.

The company, which trains young people in various athletic skills operates in Miami, New Orleans and overseas in Bermuda and the Bahamas.

He also expects to expand the program to Latin American and Nigeria soon.

In 2014 he was able to expand the brand to Dibia Dream, a non-profit that helps underserved youth develop life skills.

Okpalobi said that he gives back to his community because of the example he saw from his father.

“In 2007 my father took me to Nigeria and built a community center for his village,” Okpalobi said in an interview with RISE NEWS. “I saw the impact from it and I realize I need to give back more because that is going to bring the change we want to see.”

Okpalobi grew up in New Orleans to a Nigerian immigrant family.

He was a standout high school basketball player and attended the University of Miami in the early 2000s.

He was a guard on UM’s basketball team from 2001 to 2005 when he went undrafted in the NBA Draft.

When playing in the NBA was no longer his goal, Okpalobi used basketball as a vehicle to  pursue other ventures.

“Basketball is my everything,” Okpalobi said. “It brought me to Miami, it kept me in Miami, it allowed me to start my for profit and opened up doors I never had.”

Dibia Dream is Okpalobi’s nonprofit that he launched in 2014.

This venture exposes under-served children to activities like art enrichment, science education and athletic training so they can develop new skills.

It has quickly become established in Miami’s growing non-profit space.

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Through this program, Okpalobi has helped expose over 4,000 children to experiences they would have never otherwise experienced and has given out 600 scholarships for summer enrichment experiences.

One of the major features of Dibia Dream is STEM Saturdays.

On Saturdays during the school year, Dibia Dream allows students to participate in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) projects.

Okpalobi designed the program to be a “safe haven” for at risk kids during the weekend.

In 2016 Okpalobi was a recipient of the BMe Community Award.

This is a $10,000 grant given to black men leaders in South Florida who are trying to better the community.

Okpalobi used his grant to expand the STEM and arts program at Dibia Dream.

“We want to give the kids as many options as possible,” Okpalobi said. “When kids have more exposure to these things they tend to look at different career opportunities.”

According to Okpalobi, Dibia means “master of knowledge/wisdom” in Igbo.

According to the Dibia website:

“The term refers to traditional healers, experts and doctors. The process of becoming a DIBIA involves years of training and many levels of initiation. DIBIA means TRAIN TO BE GREAT.”

In July 2017, Dibba Dream partnered with the Nyah Project to bring 10 students to South Africa.

The group worked with three schools on various projects and made an impact in the area according to Okpalobi.

Okpalobi has done a lot to serve the children and he plans to do even more in 2018.

Coming up in January, Diba Athletic Program is organizing the sports clinic for Zo’s Winter Groove, the event hosted by former Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning.

He also plans to open two more facilities for Dibia Dream in North Miami and Liberty City.

Okpalobi’s latest act of giving was a toy drive he organized with Eneida M. Hartner Elementary School on December 20th.

The goal was to give toys to the less fortunate and homeless children at the school, but there was a problem.

How do you give toys to poor kids without embarrassing them in front of their classmates?

To keep the privacy of the children who were less fortunate, Okpalobi worked with 14 year old Ransom Everglades High School student Jack Fitzpatrick to provide a lunch from Jimmy Johns and a toy.

Fitzpatrick and his family raised $10,000 on GoFundMe for the kids at Eneida M. Hartner.

Last year, he raised $5,000 for the same cause.

Okpalobi is highly regarded at the school.

“It’s a blessing to have someone within the community to reach out and wants to be apart of the school,” Dr. Derick R. McKoy, the Principal of Eneida M. Hartner Elementary School told RISE NEWS. “He wants the best for children and he helps Eneida Hartner bring the world to the children.”

McKoy drove the point home further.

“You know the African Proverb, ‘it takes a village’?,” McKoy asked during an interview. “Well, I’m happy Brandon is in my village.”

——–

RISE NEWS is South Florida’s digital news magazine. Follow us on Facebook to make sure you never miss a story!

Have a news tip about this topic or something completely different? Send it on in to editor@risenews.net.

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Brutally Bullied As A Kid, She Never Thought She Could Be A Beauty Queen. But Now Miss Hollywood Has A Chance To Win It All

As a little girl Isabella Logins would have never dreamed of being Miss Florida.

She was just hoping that the pain would stop.

Viciously bullied as a child, Logins grew up fighting back self-doubt.

Over time, she learned to love herself and not pay attention to the opinions of others.

But it took time.

And it was painful.

“When I was little I was picked on all the time,” Logins said in an interview with RISE NEWS. “Kids were mean to me and would make fun of me for being ugly, annoying, or just because they felt like it.”

She said that the bullying had a traumatic impact on her.

“It made me feel really sad and it made me feel really bad about myself,” Logins said. “It took me a long time to get myself to not think about what they would tell me.”

A Miami native, Logins graduated from Alonzo and Tracy Morning High School in North Miami.

She’s now a 22-year-old senior at FIU and the reigning Miss Hollywood USA.

Quite a long way from that insecure girl who bullies loved to pick on.

Logins will be competing in the Miss Florida 2018 pageant December 14-17 in Tampa.

She took an interest in pageantry about two years ago for the career networking aspect, but found that competing has helped her grow in other ways. 

Reflecting on her experiences through elementary and middle school, she did not expect to ever be involved in pageantry

“I thought [pageants] were only for extremely beautiful women and when I was younger I didn’t feel extremely beautiful,” Logins said. “But I’ve had to grow into a more confident person.”

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Her pageantry career has been successful.

Logins’ first pageant was for the crown of Miss Florida Keys 2017, where she ended up winning the title.

That victory made her eligible to compete in the Miss Florida 2017 pageant, where she finished in the top 16. 

In the Miss Florida pageant this year, Logins will be representing the Global Children’s Rescue as her cause

A non-profit, Global Children’s Rescue works to educate the public on human trafficking, as well as helping in actively rescuing missing children and human trafficking victims.

Isabella Logins at a Global Children’s rescue event. Photo Credit: Victoria Salas/ RISE NEWS.

The group is made up of a team of former federal, state, local, and military investigators.

“[Logins] took it upon herself to find us,” John Rode, founder of the Global Children’s Rescue said in an interview with RISE NEWS

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, out of 18,500 endangered runaways reported in 2016, one out of every six of those children were suspected of being entered into sex trafficking.

Logins believes that child sex trafficking is an important issue because it is occurring in most communities, yet much of the public is totally unaware.

Logins uses her social media platforms to share statistics and information about how common of an issue human trafficking is.

In a recent post on her Instagram, Logins encouraged people to send their family members a picture of themselves occasionally.

This is to give police a more accurate photo to use in case a person goes missing.

“It’s something that’s always interested me,” Logins said. “Sometimes girls go missing and we don’t have a real photo [of them].”

On average, a missing child’s case costs $25,000 and solving a human trafficking case can cost up to $100,000 according to Global Children’s Rescue.

Logins uses her platforms to promote Global Children’s Rescue fundraisers and events.

Her aim is to also reach younger people who might not be paying attention to how common human trafficking is and hopefully prevent future tragedies. 

A broadcast journalism major at FIU, Logins one day wants to be a successful anchor for a news channel.

“I would love to win [Miss Florida 2018] not just for personal growth, but for the cause,” Logins said.


RISE NEWS is South Florida’s digital news magazine. Follow us on Facebook to make sure you never miss a story!

Have a news tip about this topic or something completely different? Send it on in to editor@risenews.net.

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“Did this South Florida Entrepreneur Just Invent The Next Tofu?”

Did This Miami Entrepreneur Just Create The Next Tofu?

What’s New With This Story: 

-Miami entrepreneur Taylor Cohen invented a new food product that is spreading fast throughout the Magic City.

-The product is a lentil based alternative to tofu called Adashah.

-Cohen and her brother Brandon started a business around the product in 2015. They now make over 600 pounds of it a week and distribute to over 15 South Florida restaurants.

-della test kitchen in Wynwood swears by the product, and it is a huge hit with customers.


Taylor Cohen was just your typical food justice warrior and outdoor educator a few years back.

Yeah, exactly.

Nothing typical about her.

Now Cohen, a native of Surfside, has taken her passion for making change to the business world.

Along with her brother Brandon, Taylor is poised to change the way South Florida looks at meat alternatives.

Her product is called Adashah and it is a unique lentil based food that is most similar to tofu.

She invented the product in the years following her diagnosis of Colitis.

Taylor Cohen is the creator of Adashah.

Doctors gave her a strict nutritional regime but few of those foods spoke to her.

“I started eating more of a plant-based diet and eliminating animal proteins from my diet,” Cohen told RISE NEWS. “I was focusing on the vegan meat alternatives that are on the market right now. But what I saw was that pretty much everything either had soy or gluten or I read the ingredients and they were full of chemicals that I didn’t understand.”

Cohen said that she wanted to create something similar to tofu in how it picks up flavors, but also something that would taste great on its own.

She seems to have made just that.

In just over two years, Cohen has scaled up to servicing over 15 restaurants from Boca Raton to Doral.

She said that she creates over 600 pounds of the stuff each week.

The product is a trade secret but Cohen said that it is 100 percent organic and preservative free.

Luis Garcia, the manager of della test kitchen in Wynwood loves Adashah.

He told RISE NEWS that his customers can’t get enough of the stuff and that he likes it much more than tofu.

To learn more about how to get Adashah, visit their website: https://adashah.com

RISE NEWS is South Florida’s digital news magazine. Follow us on Facebook to make sure you never miss a story!

Have a news tip about this topic or something completely different? Send it on in to editor@risenews.net.

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This Barry University Professor And His Martial Artist Friend Want You To Die

Death is not a calming thought for most people.

But these guys aren’t most people.

They want you to die. But only after you listen to their podcast.

Brian Lemmerman and Cory Hardaker are interesting figures in the growing South Florida Mindfulness firmament.

Both are young and deeply believe in the power of living in the moment.

Hardaker is a meditation teacher at Innergy Meditation in Miami Beach and a skilled martial artist.

He also teaches self defense to adults and anti-bullying prevention to children.

Lemmerman is a professor of Mindfulness at Barry University in Miami Shores who previously ran an advertising agency.

Together they make up Mindfulness of Doom, a recently launched weekly podcast about “life, peaceful living, and existential dread.”

The episodes are funny and light in tone but they tackle some pretty meaty topics.

Along the way, the hosts remind their listeners that we are all going to die at some point, so we might as well be happy with the time we have.

We recently interviewed sent Lemmerman some questions via email (because we are busy and are GOING TO DIE!). Here’s what he had to say:

RISE NEWS: Tell us about your background and how you got involved in Mindfulness.

Brian Lemmerman: I was born in Miami and grew up in Broward County. I studied Architecture at the University of Miami and graduated at the height of the last recession when there were no jobs available in my field. In response, I started an advertising agency with some friends and taught myself web design and marketing to support myself. It was a fun occupation, but learned it wasn’t my passion. I sold my shares in 2012 and got back into the world of architecture and urban planning for 2 years until one evening in May 2015, I was struck by a vehicle and sustained a brain injury that put me out of designing for almost a year. In the meantime, I continued my 5-year mindfulness practice, and I found daily meditation to be the most effective tool on my healing journey. I decided to teach mindfulness to help others who have their own healing including removing internal barriers that keep us from pursuing our passions. For a while I did some marketing consulting while getting my teaching career started, and as of August, I made the big leap to mindfulness full-time. We’re now working on a business to teach mindfulness and meditation online at a deeper level than our podcast offers. I’m also currently teaching as a Mindfulness Professor at Barry University.

Cory Hardaker (L) and Brian Lemmerman (R) are the hosts of Mindfulness of Doom.

RISE NEWS: How do you explain mindfulness to someone who has never been exposed to the concept before?

I describe mindfulness as an art of paying attention on purpose and without judgement. Many people have this idea that mindfulness and meditation are interchangeable terms, and that meditation should somehow be relaxing and peaceful. In practice, one is mindful as long as they are aware that they are paying attention. And for a first-timer, staying aware and consistently paying attention are difficult tasks. The process is anything but relaxing and peaceful. The mind spouts off all sorts of distracting thoughts and daydreams that pull at our attention every moment. Meditation is one expression of mindfulness, and there are endless meditations one can add to their practice. One of the most common and basic meditations is a breath meditation where one sits cross-legged on the floor and simply watches their breath for a period of time. From the outside, it looks peaceful. Almost certainly however; the practitioner’s mind will be thinking hundreds of noisy thoughts during the session. The point of the meditation is not to stop the thinking. It’s to stay focused on the breath despite the thinking. The mind is designed to think. Why stop it? The heart is designed to beat. It too can be distracting in silence. But why stop the heart? This kind of practice strengthens the mind’s focus and attention, just like weight-lifting strengthens our muscles. Inner peace and unexplainable feelings of joy happen to be fortunate by-products of the work-out.

RISE NEWS: Where did the idea for the podcast come from?

For us, the podcast is a passion project that allows us to share our knowledge and experience with a larger audience. Cory and I began meeting over the summer to concept a larger business idea, of which Mindfulness of Doom is one component. Ultimately, we’re committed to creating a global university or retreat center that serves to educate people in real life skills such as mindfulness, interpersonal communication, physical well-being, financial literacy, and many of the other important skills our mandatory childhood education system doesn’t teach. This school will be made available online first, and the podcast is our first step.

As our first foray into podcasting, we’ve gotten some feedback on roughness in terms of sound quality and editing. We’re improving with quantum leaps each week.

RISE NEWS: Miami is a stressed out place. How do you think mindfulness could help make things better?

I hear people say Miami is a stressed-out place. I hear them say things like “people here are rude and impatient” or “Miami is a shallow party city”. That may be true for some people. One important distinction I learned while practicing mindfulness is that my attention creates my reality. If I choose to focus on my automatic judgements of other people and believe the automatic generalizations my mind invents about places, then some of these phrases might become true for me. Instead, I’ve learned to manage my attention and remain aware of what I choose to believe. As a result, I tend to be surrounded by people who do the same and live in a different story about their surroundings. Miami is a story, and we get to tell it. I choose that Miami is a peaceful and community-oriented place. I live as though this is true, and it becomes real for me. If I’m the minority in this mindset, some might say I’m crazy. If enough of us make the choice to believe and live differently, the collective story about Miami will eventually shift. To change the world, we must first start within.

RISE NEWS: What are you ambitious for the podcast? Where do you see it going? 

We recently launched our Patreon Page and are actively seeking regular monthly contributors to help support us in our transition as entrepreneurs sharing mindfulness in this unique way. We plan to continue producing the show weekly, and as our listening community funds us, we will hire staff, seek high-profile guests, and continue to improve production quality. Cory and I have a book idea, and dreams of traveling to do live events. As we grow, we plan to connect with masters and practitioners all over the world who are making a difference one mindful breath at a time.

Fans can become funders for as little as $1/month. Every contribution helps! http://patreon.com/mindfulnessofdoom/

RISE NEWS:  The name, Mindfulness of Doom is obviously pretty unique. But how do you keep the podcast from becoming dark and depressing though? 

Given its name, we acknowledge that Mindfulness of Doom can be an odd first choice for someone getting into mindfulness, but we’ve learned from experience that putting mindfulness in the context of our own mortality creates a sense of urgency to live the most fulfilling lives we can right now while we’re still on earth. The name has a dark yet geeky sound to it, and on first impression, listeners find the podcast light-hearted and humorous. We joke about the end of the world in every episode, but the Doom we’re talking about isn’t apocalyptic. We’re simply acknowledging that this life of ours has an end-point sometime in the future. Getting past the fear of our inevitable demise and honoring our mortality brings a sense of inner contentment and clarity on who we are and what we must do next.

You can subscribe to the Mindfulness of Doom podcast on iTunes, iHeartRadio, TuneIn or Stitcher.

RISE NEWS is South Florida’s digital news magazine. Follow us on Facebook to make sure you never miss a story!

Have a news tip about this topic or something completely different? Send it on in to editor@risenews.net.

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This Johnson & Wales Student Wants To Fundamentality Alter The Way You Look At Snack Food

Davian Watson is crazy for flavored nuts.

Well, actually he’s loko about them.

A junior at Johnson & Wales University in North Miami, Watson is also the founder and CEO of Loko Nutz.

He’s a constant presence at local farmers markets and is hustling to get his unique product out to the masses.

A Kansas City, MO native, Watson says that Loko Nutz was created out of boredom for his usual go-to snacks.

We recently spoke to Watson about his company and what it’s like to be a young entrepreneur in the Magic City.

RISE NEWS: How would you explain what Loko Nutz is to someone who has never heard of them before? 

Watson: Loko Nutz are outrageously flavored nuts designed to help families and friends live a little through snacking guilt-free. The recipes originated from a combination of my Kansas City culture and newly developed pallet for Miami cuisine. I also use customer feedback to create new outlandish flavors via Facebook and in-person suggestions at my farmer’s market booth.

RISE NEWS: What have you learned from starting a business?

Starting a business has taught me the importance of maintaining an organized schedule in my personal and professional life so that Loko Nutz can develop and expand. It is my responsibility to ensure that I am performing well in school and at work as a student assistant for a high volume department so that my business will continue to grow.

RISE NEWS: What are the biggest challenges with your business?

Currently, my biggest challenge is my lack of knowledge about the business world. I want to already be at the top of the small business owner market, for everyone to know about the Loko Nutz brand, and to instinctively think Loko Nutz whenever a snack craving rises—but I know it takes years of hard work and dedication to become a household name. Therefore, I guess you can say that my second challenge is my lack of patience.

RISE NEWS: Is it hard starting your own company as a young person?

Starting your own company at any age presents its own unique set of challenges; but with determination, ambition, and the right support system, I have found myself reaching new heights and learning new information every day!

RISE NEWS: How are your sales? How are you getting your products out to the public?

I am overwhelmed at the positive responses I have received from the Upper Eastside Farmers Market, my peers, and chefs here at Johnson & Wales University. Currently, I am working on the anticipated December launch of my online store, www.lokonutz.com, and expanding my social media presence. I currently sell at Upper Eastside farmers markets located at Legion Park on Saturdays 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

RISE NEWS: What does your family think about you starting your own business?

My family have been my biggest supporters and advisors. They believe with hard work and persistence anything is possible. It seems they cannot get enough of Loko Nutz!

RISE NEWS: Do you have any friends who help with it or is it all just you at this point?

I have a dedicated group of friends that are my go-to people whenever I am testing out a new flavor that will potentially join the Loko Nutz menu. Fortunately, I already know that no business gets to the top on their own and I am extremely grateful to those who have taken time out of their day to give feedback on packaging ideas, tasting new flavors, and even driving to the Upper Eastside Farmer’s Market to purchase one, two or three bags of Loko Nutz.

RISE NEWS is South Florida’s digital news magazine. Follow us on Facebook to make sure you never miss a story!

Have a news tip about this topic or something completely different? Send it on in to editor@risenews.net.

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Hollywood Hills QB Becomes First Girl In Florida HS Football History To Throw A Touchdown

History was made in Broward County on Thursday night when Hollywood Hills High School quarterback Holly Neher threw a 45 yard touchdown pass to receiver Alexander Shelton.

It was the first time that a girl had thrown a touchdown in the history of Florida high school football.

And it happened on Neher’s first ever snap.

She would finish the night with two completions and 66 total yards. Hollywood Hills lost to Hallandale High School, 21 to 7.

WATCH:

Pretty awesome!

Watch More: “Why Miami’s jail dog program has worked” 

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Meet Miami’s “Cuban Confederate”

Chris Cedano is a lighting rod on the streets of Miami.

He is openly racist and believes that bringing back segregation is the right way to improve society.

We have run into him a few times at various protest events around the area. (He is a constant presence at protests.)

While he considers himself a Confederate sympathizer, he is also a Cuban-American.

That reality has caused many people to call him out on social media as a “Cuban Clayton Bigsby.”

Only in Miami.

We also ran into him at a prior event earlier in the Spring.

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