Dipen Bhakta first heard about the US Dream Academy while a student at the University of Houston. Dipen and his family moved to Houston, TX in 1999. Little did he know that the Houston Learning Center opened two streets down from him in 2002.
A Third Ward resident for many years, in 2008 Dipen desired to become closer to the community he grew up in. He started his journey as a Mentor where he volunteered one hour per week for the next five years. Being that the Learning Center, which then moved to the OST/South Union neighborhood, serving predominantly African-American students, he shared how much the Mentor Training around Cultural Competency, Village Responsibility, Developmental Relationship Framework, and being lead to learning more about the impact of mass incarceration shaped his mentoring experience.
In 2013, Dipen was given the opportunity to be the Program Coordinator. A role he says which would eventually shape his understanding of Youth Development. With much support from his colleague and mentor, Walter Hull, Dipen took the role of Center Director in 2015. Today he enjoys collaborating with out-of-school time partners across the City of Houston, implementing and overseeing research-based quality programming methods to support staff, building long-term relationships with parents/caretakers, and being intentional with young people that occupy the space daily.
If there is one thing that Dipen appreciates the most when doing the work, it is those that have helped him become a better ally to the Black Community. From colleagues today to those that sat in conversation years ago - the books they recommended, to the resources they suggested, and the experiences they shared, all have supported Dipen in his journey in understanding and doing the work.