Student African American Brotherhood: Building Men of Color

photo of Dr. Tyrone Bledsoe

Dr. Tyrone Bledsoe, CEO, founder and current president, SAAB

Black History Month is a special time of year to celebrate and recognize the hard work of Black Americans, African Americans, and other advocates who have contributed to our nation’s founding, maturation, and pursuit of democracy. It is a time to build bridges of harmony and unity both locally and globally. It is also a time to share stories of past and present Black heroes and she-roes who stand for truth, art, humanity, and justice. During the month of February, I seek to remember and honor the sacrifices of those on whose shoulders I stand and to celebrate and support the tenacity of those still striving to realize the hope and vision of our nation, that all are created equal.

As ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning celebrates Black History Month, I want to take this moment to recognize the unique dedication of one such hero, Dr. Tyrone Bledsoe. Dr. Bledsoe is a man of conviction, passion, and service and it is an honor to recognize him for the impact he has made in the lives of young Black men and other men of color for more than 30 years. In particular, Doc (as he is affectionately known by students, colleagues, and leaders all across the U.S.) has served as an education champion for men of color in middle school, high school, college, and beyond. His commitment to student success started early in his career and was crystalized in his founding of the Students African American Brotherhood (SAAB) in 1990 – a nationally- recognized organization that affects the lives of men of color at more than 350 two- and four-year colleges, universities, high schools, and middle schools across the U.S. SAAB is also known as Brother 2 Brother (B2B) in some locations to allow for diversity in who the program serves.

Doc has received many awards and honors over the years, such as his 2016 Presidential Service Volunteer Award for his innovation and community service. But, even more noteworthy, are the many testimonials of young men whose lives have been touched by his work. For example, current SAAB Alumni Association president Samuel Gutierrez (Seattle, WA) states,

“SAAB literally changed my life in an instant. Doc has a funny way of seeing far deeper than the reality most of us live in! We all know Doc is a visionary; a legend. There truly aren’t words to describe how grateful I am. Therefore, I must materialize it into actions. I’ll never be able to get even – but I’ll always be able to give back.” #SavingLivesSalvagingDreams

This is but one example of comments made by the thousands of young men who have heard Doc speak and been moved to stand tall and strive for excellence, accountability, leadership, self-discipline, service, impact, and inclusion. Anyone following Doc’s social media feed will find that students, college administrators, principals, K-12 teachers, and community stakeholders all recognize him as a man of inspiration, personal commitment, deep engagement, and endless motivation. He personally embodies the mantra of SAAB that “I am my brother’s keeper and together we will rise.”

photo of SAAB students with Dr. Tyrone Bledsoe

Students pose with Doc

This program counters the negative headlines we have repeatedly seen in the media and reminds us all that there are men making a difference across our nation. For thirty years, SAAB has built a community of predominantly Black and Latino men – at all levels of education – who are dedicated to leadership, excellence, care, and compassion. The organization serves more than 14,500 young men annually from across the U.S. and is a culturally-sensitive, school-based intervention that provides systems of support that helps young men start and complete post-secondary education.

In particular, SAAB is structured to:

  • ensure that young men of color throughout the nation have the education-to-career support they need to achieve lives of purpose and success;
  • build and sustain strong bonds among young men of all backgrounds; and enable young men of color to be recognized for their talent, drive, and contributions to society.

Overall, SAAB creates and assists school-based chapters of young men who are committed to supporting each other’s academic success and who dedicate themselves to strengthen their schools and communities. It is a program that helps men of color set high aspirations, reach as far as their talents can take them, and provides opportunities that help students thrive no matter the obstacles and/or challenges they face.

I invite you to learn more about SAAB, join me in acknowledging the work of Dr. Bledsoe, and take a moment to salute his achievements. With a demonstrated commitment as an educator and servant leader, Doc has set the bar high. He embodies the example of so many great Black leaders who came before and is making a difference every day. As I lead ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning, I am proud to showcase Dr. Bledsoe’s vision and commitment. His work is truly aligned with ACT’s vision to help people achieve education and workplace success.

Dr. Tyrone Bledsoe is an educator with more than 34 years of high-quality postsecondary education experience. Before transitioning to his role with SAAB, Dr. Bledsoe served as vice president for student life and special assistant to the president at the University of Toledo.

He received his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Education degrees from Mississippi State University and went on to complete a Ph.D. in Counseling and Student Affairs Administration 25 years ago, with an emphasis in counseling psychology at the University of Georgia.