From obtaining a GED to earning a Ph.D., Dr. Pope surely has traversed the gauntlets of academia. He recalls being ushered toward the school to prison pipeline as he was labeled a “bad kid” from a single-parent home. In eighth grade, he was held-up at gunpoint. In his junior year of high school, he was shot at. Yet, it was not random acts of violence that almost jeopardized his future; instead, it was flawed institutional practices combined with lowered expectations that robbed his ambition and ultimately led him to drop out of high school. Although he did not know it at the time, dropping out of high school was an act of resistance as the public school system failed to affirm his identity. It was when he took an ethnic studies course in community college and learned how enslaved Africans were not allowed to read and the fact their lives could be threatened if they were caught with books. From that point forward, he understood the value of education. A pivotal moment was when he joined San Diego Mesa College Psi Beta chapter, a national honor society for students at two-year colleges. He earned a grant to attend the annual American Psychological Association. Attending the conference provided him the opportunity to meet African American psychologists, which was foundational in believing that he too could one day become a psychologist.
His goal of becoming a psychologist became increasingly apparent when he was invited to participate in an encounter group at the Multicultural Community Counseling Center (MCCC) located in San Diego, CA. He experienced firsthand the power of authenticity and the space created that provided the freedom to be vulnerable with himself and others. He deepened his capacity to understand the human experience while attending the Community Based Block (CBB) program offered at San Diego State University. The program was unique as he was a part of a culturally diverse learning community where he learned to engage with students and faculty that had different life experiences than him. In CBB, he was challenged to be vulnerable and emotionally open while also learning about the counseling process. He had the chance to confront his pain while helping clients with their struggles. The closer he was able to function to who he was, he allowed the client to operate closer to who they were. Enrolling in college was one of the best decisions he made; college saved his life. Overcoming institutional barriers has led Dr. Pope to develop gratitude, passion, and appreciation for life. He strives to bring this perspective to his work with students, clients, and professionals, and he truly believes that all need a sense of somebodiness, a feeling of dignity, purpose, and meaning in this short life.