Student Spotlight

Brandman University graduate’s education moves his dream career forward

November 08, 2016 by Margo Myers
Fily Dembele

Fily Dembele

When 27-year-old Fily Dembele moved to the United States from Mali, West Africa, following high school graduation, he came looking for opportunities to get a university degree. Dembele and his two brothers landed in southwestern Washington, where a friend lives. Dembele earned his associate degree from Centralia College. His next stop? Brandman University’s campus in Lacey, to complete his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, with an emphasis in forensics.

That knowledge is critical for Dembele, who works at Green Hill School in Chehalis. It’s a medium-security correctional facility for youth who have run into trouble with the law. They’re provided with access to programs and training so that they’re ready to get their lives back on track when released.

“I was working for the state as a juvenile detention officer, monitoring youth,” said Dembele. “I love helping kids. And now I’ve been promoted to being a juvenile rehabilitation counselor, working with teens, and helping them return to the community.”

Having his bachelor’s degree makes a difference, and Dembele highly recommends Brandman’s blend of online and in-class programs, especially for working adults. “Brandman was great,” he said. “The professors helped me to the end.”

In fact, he just recommended Brandman’s degree program to a friend, as well as to his two younger brothers, who are currently taking classes at Centralia College. He also credits his wife, Niki, and his two stepchildren, for his success. “They have all supported me and encouraged me so much through this journey,” said Dembele.

Education is important to Dembele’s family. His parents still live in Mali, where his father, Adrahamane Dembele, is a teacher. His mother, Mariam Sidibe Dembele, founded a life skills center, Muso Dambe, for orphaned and disabled girls. For her efforts, Mariam Dembele was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2005, and she speaks internationally about the value of education and job training. It’s a message her son has taken to heart. Fily Dembele just started classes to earn his master’s degree in criminal justice, so he can pursue his future dreams.

“Eventually, I want to move to a big city, such as Portland or Seattle,” said Dembele. “My long-term goal is to work for the federal government as a deportation officer or postal inspector.” In the meantime, he’s focused on the teens he counsels. And he’s learned some lessons from them, too.

“One thing that I have learned is to never give up,” said Dembele. “Once I started working as a counselor, I realized that even though you can’t help or change everyone, it’s so worth it when you hear about the successes that you’ve been a part of again and again and the kids that you have helped.”

As Dembele moves towards his goals, he’s learned that hard work, dedication, and “never giving up on your dreams” are more than just words. “I am so thankful for all the sacrifices, patience and understanding that my family has endured for me to pursue my dreams,” he said. “I can feel my dreams getting closer.”

This story first appeared in FTE, a magazine for Washington state employees.

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