Houston native and first-generation Nigerian Dozie Oheri worked for prominent youth-focused non-profits but felt their efforts could be greatly improved. Seeing no movement toward improving their programs, Oheri decided to found a non-profit of her own, incorporating all the improvements she believed would benefit youth the most. The result: Choose to Do, Inc., an organization that’s all about empowering youth.
The Defender spoke with Oheri about her personal story and how it led to the work she does to empower youth.
DEFENDER: So, who is Dozie Oheri and why is she so focused on empowering youth?
DOZIE OHERI: I’m the only girl of four boys. So, that was fun growing up. I kind of struggled with not having emotional support. That’s not something that was promoted in my home. As I got older, I suffered with some mental things that were going on with me, went off to college and those things were exacerbated and kind of out of control. So, while I was in college, I decided to see a therapist. Therapy is what gave me the tools to be able to identify what I was experiencing as a young adult. It also gave me tools to build up skill sets to deal with those feelings in a healthy way.
DEFENDER: How did that experience feed into you founding Choose to Do?
OHERI: There were things I saw at the non-profit I worked for that I knew could have been done differently or could have been done better. Something told me to start my own nonprofit… I just wanted to help people, but didn’t really know how to help people or what I wanted to help people to do or overcome. After quitting my job I decided, “I was a Black child. I knew what my struggles were growing up, and I see it in my community. I went to therapy and was able to get help. Why not figure out how to transform what I learned in therapy and turn around and give that to my community?” On top of that, working for other nonprofits and seeing what I didn’t like, was a catalyst for deciding on what I did want in my nonprofit.
DEFENDER: What does an empowered youth look like, and how does Choose to Do make that happen?
OHERI: An empowered youth is a youth that is emotionally intelligent and emotionally in tuned, and understands that they have the capabilities to achieve the goals they set out for themselves. Choose to Do plays a role in making that happen by providing curriculum and programs that foster youth growth. We work with a community, we call them community partners, which are locations, schools, church youth groups and homeless shelters that have our demographic, which is Black teens, 12 to 17 years old. We empower and mentor teens by providing curriculum that empowers and uplifts them, builds their confidence. We’re under the social emotional and mental health learning umbrella to teach our youth those things so they can then become change agents in their communities as well as building up their professional and personal development.
DEFENDER: What programs does Choose to Do offer?
OHERI: We have about six or seven programs that all have pillars that focus on building up their self-esteem and their confidence. They do it in various ways. One of our programs is called the Mindfulness Project, It was birthed out of COVID. We weren’t allowed to work with our kids in person, so we created hybrid classes or virtual programs. We had women teaching mindfulness, each with different disciplines. Some were certified yoga instructors, some of them taught breath work and sound bowls, and all of these really cool things to teach our kids how to de-stress from what they’re going through in their everyday life.
And on top of that, we give them a yoga mat and a water bottle so they can continue on the lessons once the program is done. And with that program, we’re able to see the transformation, especially in the school system, especially in homeless shelters and group homes and the like, where kids who are currently experiencing traumatic instances or situations that are going on in their lives, We see them transform from the first day to the last day of the program. And coming to us and talking about now what mindfulness means to them, and learning different techniques that they’re actually using in their lives to help them relax and just calm down. And then teachers and their parents come to us saying, “Thank you for teaching our child how to do this yoga pose or that breathing technique.” And it’s beautiful to see the child being able to replicate that and actually using that as a means to calm down or relax and make a different decision than the one they would’ve made previously. Our program’s curriculum is interactive, it’s fun, but the kids learn something about themselves and they walk away with something they can continue to learn how to build themselves up.
MORE ABOUT DOZIE OHERI
Education: Elkins High School. Texas A&M University Corpus Christi (BA). University of Phoenix (masters)
Past Jobs: I worked at the Houston Bar Association. I was a nanny for some time. I worked with Aramark, in the catering department. I worked at the purchasing office for Texas A&M Corpus Christi. I was a hair braider, hairstylist. I’ve done a lot. But, those skills, those jobs gave me skills that I’m still using to this day.
What’s on playlist right now: So me being Nigerian, I love Afrobeats and African music. There’s a song that I love at the moment called “Ojapiano” by an artist by the name of Kcee.
Last movie watched: Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume III
Movies you recommend all Black children see: One of my favorites, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Secret of the Ooze.
What movie or TV show had the biggest impact on your life: Insecure, because of Issa Rae. People compare me to her all the time. They say that even if they don’t know me. They hear my voice before they see me. They’re like, “You know who you sound like? Issa Rae.” And I’m like, “I hear that all the time.” “Insecure” was real life, but it was the story, it was Issa’s story in the show. It kind of mirrors mine a lot; like working at the nonprofit. She worked with a nonprofit and she saw issues. She left and opened her own business, at the end, that was very successful, by the way. But her struggle from where she was to where she ended up, going through all that and having her friends around her and them and and their trials and tribulations, but still working together at the end of the day, just like the everyday Black girl life. That was a mirror of what I’ve been through, what I’m going through.
Mantra: It’s a Maya Angelou quote about people will never forget how you made them feel. Basically, when you’re interacting with people, and you leave the room, people are gonna remember you. And do you want them to remember you for what you said to them, how you treated them or how you made them feel.
Social Media: People can follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter (X) and our YouTube channel at @ChooseToDoInc.