Alumnus Spotlight: Albert Gibbs Builds a Community, One Young Person at a Time
By Keith Morelli
TAMPA (August 31, 2020) -- Albert Gibbs weaves a tapestry, a work of art in community that uses people as its medium. The 2006 USF graduate, who emerged in the business world with a degree in marketing and creative writing, is a true Renaissance man, mastering the science of technology in his job and humanity as the founder and CEO of the Albert Gibbs Leadership Academy in South Florida.
There, he feeds his passion for mentoring young Black males to provide opportunities that lead to college careers and professional lives. He works with 25 or more boys each year offering small scholarships and working with the school’s guidance counselors to help college-bound students with an eye toward majoring in business.
This year he gave three scholarships, two for $500 and a $1,000 scholarship, which his fraternity brothers from USF funded. Graduating high school students also received a college package, which included a laptop, a microwave and dorm room essentials before heading out to college.
He said his upbringing instilled in him a strong sense of community.
“It started with my father and my family,” he said. “My father was a neighborhood dad. He was there for many of my friends when their biological fathers were not. I saw first-hand the impact of having a positive male role model had on my friends.
“My passion also comes from the countless people who poured into me as a child and a young professional,” he said. “I have eight uncles and each of them has served as a mentor to me in his own way. I also entered into an internship at Citrix, my current employer, when I was 18 years old. There, I found several business mentors who help guide me through college and my career choices.”
He strongly believes in community, both literal and figuratively.
“In a community, our young people need us,” he said. “Social media has become such a dangerous place for young people. Teen suicide is at an all-time high and there is consistent pressure to be the ‘cool kid’ who receives ‘likes’ and ‘retweets.’ It is clear to me there is a void of mentoring programs for young men needing help with college preparation.
“They need help to determine which major in college or career path after graduation they should pursue. They need someone to tell them ‘You are special and I know you can do amazing things in this world.’ Then hold them to that.
“There is so much focus and programming in the Black community for at-risk youth, but very little for young men who were on the right track but needed a mentor and resources to help them achieve whatever goal they have. That prompted me to spring into action. I wanted to bridge that gap.”
His good work began at USF when he became involved in Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay. After graduation, he moved to Oakland, California, where he was a founding member of the Dress for Success program and finally back home to Fort Lauderdale where he founded the leadership academy. He also runs a STEM camp for junior high school students and rents out a barbershop to offer free back-to-school haircuts along with school supplies every year.
Jill Solomon, a retired marketing instructor with the Muma College of Business, remembers Gibbs – the student – well. The two have kept in touch over the years. Touched by the social injustice demonstrations over the summer, Solomon reached out to Gibbs.
“I was so inspired by his thoughtfulness that I donated to his foundation,” she said. “I knew I would be able to actually see good being done because he operates on a shoestring and any size donation makes an impact.
“He told me he wants to see young Black males see success in the world of business, much like he did,” Solomon said. “He knows business, so that’s the avenue he demonstrates as a successful career path.”
Aside from his expertise in business, his compassion for his community and his passion for giving back, Gibbs also is a published poet who once held a book signing at a Borders bookstore in Carrollwood, an event Solomon attended.
When it came to choosing a university, USF was his only choice, Gibbs said.
“USF really won me over during my visit to the campus my senior year in high school,” he said. “Coming from a big metropolitan area, I did not want to go to a ‘college town’ where there was a large university and nothing else. I wanted to go to school in a major city.
“With USF being a younger university, I enjoyed growing alongside it,” he said. “Each year, it felt like we both got better over time. USF and Tampa checked all of the boxes of what I was looking for in an undergraduate experience.”
While at USF, he learned how to become self-sufficient, be a leader and collaborate with others toward a common goal.
“I was a part of many different organizations while at USF, all of which have helped me during my tenure. The two most impactful were becoming a member of Kappa Alpha Psi and being part of a study abroad program that took me to London through the college of business,” he said. “Joining a fraternity put me in a social circle amongst a dynamic group of young men, all focused on achievement. All of us had big dreams. We had fun but we held each other accountable and on track.”
Gibbs studied international business at the Imperial College in London.
“My time in London impacted me greatly,” he said. “Mostly it made me aware of just how big the world is and it sparked my curiosity about other cultures and a desire to travel the world.”
Aside from his other accomplishments, he is a published author of poetry, a spoken-word artist, a 30-Under-30 award recipient of the Tampa Bay Business Journal and a 40-Under-40 Black Business Leader of South Florida award winner. He works as a senior customer success manager for Citrix, providing technical guidance for several government agencies such as the FBI, the Department of Justice, Veterans Affairs and the Department of Homeland Security.
But mentoring youths on paths to success is what drives him and he keeps in touch with many of his mentees after they leave the academy’s nest. They return to attend football games and to meet up at an annual mentoring luncheon.
“We use those events to reflect on the semester that has passed and game plan on the semester ahead,” he said. “Each of my mentees has my personal cell number so we frequently chat through group text messages and, more recently, Zoom video chats. Now that my program has students graduating from college soon, we focus on preparing them for interviews and job searches.
“It warms my heart to see young people excel,” he said. “However, the success of my mentees is expected. I work with some brilliant young men, most of whom have a desire for greatness before joining my program. We merely add the tools, training, and the network required to navigate life. Expectations are one of the best things to place upon a young man. Our youth need to know that we expect the best from them regardless of their upbringing, regardless of their hardships. “