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Brice Okocha - an Inspiration, Part 2

Article by Claudia Kittock:

Today, April 28, Brice Okocha graduated from Metropolitan State University with a BS in Law Enforcement. According to Metropolitan State, the requirements for this degree are as follows:

Grounded in the liberal arts and sciences, the law enforcement degree programs help individuals develop the knowledge and perspectives for law enforcement careers. A baccalaureate degree is the minimum educational requirement for some state and most federal law enforcement positions, as well as many other interesting positions within the criminal justice system.

To earn a bachelor of science (BS) in law enforcement, students must complete the minimum bachelor's degree requirements (120 credits), including general education, liberal studies and law enforcement coursework.

I can’t describe the feelings I have today. As hundreds of students marched into the auditorium, I wanted to grab every person there and tell them Brice’s story. I want them to know the Brice I know, a wonderful man and an incredible friend. He has worked incredibly hard to earn this degree and has done so while living at the shelter, Higher Ground. Brice and I met there on my very first run with the organization A Mile In My Shoes.

If you read my previous story about Brice you know that we met 3 years ago at 5:45 a.m at Higher Ground.  As I walked in, a large man made his way to us, stuck out his hand and said, “Hi, I’m Brice. Welcome!” He immediately went into a short tutorial about what to expect. Before we left he said, “I’ll run with you today.  Don’t forget, whatever happens, I have your back.” The run was wonderful and I left thoroughly interested in Brice. What I wouldn’t know for several months of running with him was that he lived at Higher Ground.

Brice lives in one of the small units on the 2nd floor. The cost is $7/day and is referred to as pay-to-stay. We immediately bonded over our love of running and his pursuit of a college degree.  At the time, Brice was a full-time student at MCTC and we walked about papers, tests, courses, and his goals for a degree and his future. I quickly fell in love with my early morning runs there, and Brice fascinated me and became a good friend. I was mindful of having to ‘share’ Brice with other runners, but I always looked forward to our runs together and talking about college classes. As a lifelong college professor, I knew immediately that Brice was a terrific student.  He is motivated, works incredibly hard, and as with most people who return to school, he knew what he wanted to do and was determined to get there.

As with any college student, it hasn’t been easy, but Brice’s determination and gentle perseverance kept him on track. Brice developed friendships in every class he took and when he and I last spoke a few months ago, he talked passionately about being the type of police officer who will stress relationships, de-escalation, and problem solving.

How did he do it? How did he stick it out and earn his degree when life seemed to be conspiring to make sure he failed? Brice told me that he works to stay resilient and to stay positive. Anger can get in the way of reaching a goal, but as Maya Angelou so famously said, “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” Brice embodies that in everything he does.

I asked Brice to tell me what he would tell a young person experiencing homelessness. He stressed the idea that things will get better and that this situation will pass. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, just keep moving through the tunnel.

Brice Okocha is that light. He shows each of us that know him what it means to be kind, to be compassionate, and to be determined. There is hope. There is success. Look at this amazing man and know that good things do happen, not by accident, but with love and determination. We all do better when we all do better. Today, Brice graduated from college, and we are all better for it. 

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About Claudia Kittock

Claudia is a resident of the Mill District. In addition to writing for Mill City Times, she is a founding Board Member of Friends of the Mill District. Claudia is the author of Health Through Chaos, mentors young adults at YouthLink, and has served on the Downtown Minneapolis Neighborhood Association (DMNA).


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