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Friday, July 1, 2022

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Ikemba Dyke Ikemba Dyke

Changing Course to Get Right on Track

After putting Jamaica behind him, criminal justice major Ikemba Dyke is confident SDSU is his path to success.
By Aaron Burgin

“He went out on a limb and just relied on faith. He’s an incredible young man.”

Ikemba Dyke was leaving on a jet plane — and knew he would never be back again.

With a commercial flight from Jamaica to San Diego, he was leaving home forever at age 16.

Dyke was leaving behind a life of chaos, multiple foster families and an estranged family torn apart by mental illness and abuse. Now on the San Diego State University campus with his future ahead of him, Dyke said it was his single greatest decision. 

“I sometimes have to pinch myself because it doesn’t seem real,” said Dyke, a freshman in criminal justice. 

Dyke grew up in Portland Parish on Jamaica’s northeast coast. He said his life was normal until about 2009 — he remembers because that was the year Michael Jackson died — when things began to spiral downward and authorities removed him from his home at age 9. Dyke then bounced around seven foster homes and four group homes.

He started working with a homebuilder, paid under the table and saving enough for a one-way plane ticket and his life’s defining moment at Norman Manley International Airport. 

“I had lost hope for the future,” Dyke said. “I wasn’t in the right train of thought; I wasn’t focused. I knew that I wanted better for myself.

“It was like a kid from America hopping on a plane, going to China and starting over,” Dyke said. “It was crazy, but I had to. I chose San Diego because of the location.”

Dyke arrived without a home, so for two weeks he slept on park benches. Finally, police picked him up and took him to Polinksy Children’s Center in Kearny Mesa, a 24-hour facility for kids who must be separated from their families or placed when parents can’t provide care. 

He waited for months before being placed with Robert and Sandy Devereaux, who provided him the family he was looking for. 

“They opened their home to me and treated me like their own son,” Dyke said. “After living through seven foster homes and four group homes, I could finally call these foster parents my family and my home.”

The feeling was mutual.

“I knew he was special when we first met him,” Robert Devereaux said. “He went out on a limb and just relied on faith. He’s an incredible young man.”

Dyke enrolled at Mount Miguel High School in Spring Valley and began taking his academics seriously. He joined JROTC with the idea of a post-high school career in the U.S. Air Force. 

As he found his stride, he was hit with another setback, one that would force him to once again change course. 

Dyke long had bouts with double vision, but assumed it was caused by stress. An optometrist diagnosed Dyke with keratoconus, a progressive eye disease in which the normally round cornea thins and begins to bulge into a cone-like shape.  

The optometrist told Dyke the disorder, although treatable, would disqualify him from military service. 

“It was tough because…I found somewhere that could be a place for me for my future,” Dyke said. “For that to be shattered, I was depressed because I didn’t know the next move.”

But Dyke quickly decided it would be to attend a university, and after visiting SDSU during his senior year in high school, he fell in love. 

“I chose SDSU because of its history and its overall educational system,” said Dyke, who also noted “the energy that the school has.”

Dyke applied and was accepted into the SDSU Guardian Scholars Program — a program under the Office of Educational Opportunity Programs and Ethnic Affairs that provides support to students who are current or former foster youth or wards of the court, have been under legal guardianship or are unaccompanied homeless youth. 

Guardian Scholars provides tutoring, mentoring, summer transitional programs, and personal and academic counseling, as well as scholarships, year-round housing awards for on- and off-campus living, priority registration, wellness coaching, a dedicated resource area and staff support.

The Guardian Scholars Program “truly has helped me in numerous ways, from providing scholarships to counseling and a community I can call family,” Dyke said. “I think the program is so special because it gives former foster youth like myself the opportunity to feel welcomed and appreciated here at SDSU, and for that I only have positive things to say about this family. It’s not a program to me; it’s like a family.”

Dyke spent this past summer becoming acclimated to university life in the EOP BEST Summer Bridge Program

“I was able to gain so many friendships and connections with awesome people,” Dyke said. “I also had the opportunity to experience SDSU in a different aspect. Being able to take two college courses opened my eyes to see how college actually is.”

Dyke aspires to become an FBI agent but for now is grateful for how far he has come.

“I feel like with all that I’ve been through, I’ve come too far to not succeed,” Dyke said.