Mr. Dodds shares his story of service in Oakland
Bringing a lifetime of experience to Sankofa United!
Mr. Keith Dodds is Sankofa United’s African American Male Achievement Facilitator. He’s in his second year at Sankofa United in 2022, but has spent his entire career in support of his native Oakland community. Mr. Dodds thinks of schools as places where wonderful things can happen.
He recalls fondly, when he was in fifth grade, his teacher gave him an amazing opportunity--the chance to go away to Summer camp sponsored by the YMCA. He always felt like Mrs. Bastrom had a special eye on him, especially after this experience. After graduating from McClymonds High School and then Grambling State University, Mr. Dodds returned to Oakland and to a career in public service. First as a Camp Counselor at the Alameda County Los Cerros Boys Camp. From there Keith Dodds went on to work for the City of Oakland as a police officer, soon to be placed in the schools--one of which included the same school where Mrs. Bastrom was now principal--Marcus Foster Middle School. He describes playing basketball with the kids on campus and reconnecting with his former teacher, feeling like she was proud that he’d made the choice to give back to his community.
After a while, he was asked to take on a new role in the police department, which included bringing in faith leaders to homicide scenes as a liaison in OPACT, Oakland Police And Clergy Together program. Oakland’s homicide rate dropped significantly while he was working in the OPACT program. While he was still an officer, and active community leader, he also earned a Masters in Public Administration from Cal State Hayward.
Mr. Dodds wanted to get back to students, and when he retired from the police department after 25+years of service, he began work as an Intervention Specialist with OUSD in 2014. In 2017, Keith taught in a special day classroom at Prescott Elementary before coming to Sankofa United. Here, he works with all African American boys in the second through fifth grades. Students join him in classroom groups to go through the curriculum, which is centered around understanding Black history and excellence.
Mr. Dodds explained a recent project with the AAMA students. He emphasized to them that they are all “Black Gold"--in fact more valuable than gold. He asked them to carry themselves as good students, to demonstrate their exceptional value. The program envisions that Mr. Dodds is in touch with these boys as they progress on throughout their education in the Oakland public school system.
Informally, Mr. Dodds wears other hats on campus, making sure the boys in his program have what they need and watching out for all the kids at the school. He has a little office upstairs at Sankofa, adjacent to the library.
Mr. Dodds has been married to his high school sweetheart for over 30 years. They’ve raised five children, all of whom have gone to Historically Black Colleges. Two attended his alma mater, Grambling State University, and the other three graduated from Howard University in Washington, DC.
Building Legacy of
Excellence & Engagement
at Sankofa United After School
Mr. D. celebrates 16 years at Sankofa United
& 20 years with BACR!
There are few people who have been at Sankofa longer than Derrick Wesby. Mr. D was hired to work at Sankofa Academy in 2006 when the school first opened with that name and has been here making a positive impact for students ever since through his work as the Bay Area Community Resources After School Program Coordinator. Mr. D’s work with BACR dates back even further, as he was first hired into a role as a youth leader with BACR as a freshman at John F Kennedy High School in Richmond in 2002. He worked on their teen pregnancy prevention project through all four years of high school before being brought on to their team as a staff member at Sankofa. Mr. D was born in Richmond but his parents were in the army and he lived all over the US before landing back in Richmond for High School. This upbringing, and the differing level of resources he experienced moving to The Bay compared to what he saw growing up in cities like New York informed his interest and passion in promoting high quality enrichment programs for Bay Area youth.
Mr. D. Has taken inspiration from many great teachers including Mr. Tanner, an elementary school teacher who not only taught Mr. D. but also taught his mother and auntie. Mr. Tanner’s career was illustrative of the impact an educator can have in a community through consistent commitment over time. Mr Tanner’s work in the classroom also helped to unlock Mr. D’s academic excellence. Mr. D. now finds ongoing inspiration in the team that surrounds him at Sankofa who he refers to as a “mini-family.” He relies on team members for idea sharing and appreciates the trust between them. He particularly appreciates Ms. Erica’s professional and personal mentorship and calls her his “spiritual advisor.”
In his role as BACR After School Program Coordinator, Mr. D. does a remarkable amount to supplement the students’ experience in after school with additional high quality enrichment programs. Students and families love programs including the Prescott Circus Theatre class, West African Dance, Salsa, Percussion and more through Destiny Arts Center, STEM enrichment and financial literacy through Nexplore, and a new dual program called America Scores which pairs playing soccer and - wait for it - poetry. All of these programs (and more!) are organized through partnerships, budgeting, and fundraising Mr. D. oversees.
Mr. D also shares his many hobbies and talents with the After School program. An accomplished photographer who began taking pictures in kindergarten, Mr. D. is supporting the first After School yearbook which will be published this year and has donated many old cameras to the enrichment program. Mr. D. also loves basketball, and has previously been named coach of the year when he led the Sankofa Academy middle school team to the Oakland Athletic League championship during the 2015-2016 season. He proudly displays the enormous trophies in his office.
If you have new ideas about After School or would like to help, Mr. D. encourages you to strike up a conversation and share your thoughts with him any time. He’s always happy to build new relationships and grow and strengthen the Sankofa United community.
Going forward, Mr. D. hopes to continue to grow and train the after school staff to step into future leadership roles. In addition to this legacy, he hopes to someday leave behind a tree or a bench on the Sankofa United campus to commemorate his long career. Much like his role model, Mr. Tanner, Mr. D’s lasting work in our community over the last 16 years has more recently led to him receiving invitations to graduations, business openings, and baby showers for his former students. Students he knew when they were only 8 returning to campus to share such success inspires him every day.