CWU News

Brother 2 Brother marks one year with visit from national agency's founder

Armando Ortiz believes in order to get an audience to listen, you have to share a bit of yourself. And while he’s always nervous to speak publicly, Ortiz is not shy about his delinquent past. Or the grit that steered him out of gang life.

Witnessing the death of a friend was a wake-up call. The young teen had a choice. “I didn’t need to be another chalk outline, or in a body bag, or another person sitting in a cell,” Ortiz said.

So despite the odds—and stereotypes—against him, he changed course. “I’m a young Chicano man set to graduate in a year,” Ortiz says with pride. The CWU junior (pictured bottom left) is working on a sociology degree. Grad school is next. “I’d really like to teach in low income areas where the predominant population is people of color.”

His inspiring story received an extended standing ovation at the Student African American Brotherhood national conference in Michigan earlier this month. As president of CWU’s Brother 2 Brother—an all-inclusive chapter of the national SAAB—Ortiz was invited to speak during the conference. Only nine of the 320 chapters across the country received such an invitation.

As Brother 2 Brother marks its one-year anniversary at CWU this month, the group is excited to welcome Tyrone Bledsoe, CEO and founder of the SAAB, back to campus. Bledsoe helped the CWU chapter get off the ground and personally invited its members to the national conference.

Bledsoe is known as a social innovator and a gifted motivational speaker. He will give a free presentation called “Saving Lives, Salvaging Dreams,” at 7:00 p.m. April 28 in the SURC Theatre. His speech will focus on how to support the academic success of young men of color.

“We invest in those things we care about,” says Bledsoe, whose visit to CWU is an investment in the young men who make up Brother 2 Brother and the greater community. “Why is it important to help all of our young men and youth in general to be successful? … Because it’s our competitive edge. We as a country want to regain our spot of being number one in education.

“We’re talking about developing minds and future husbands and fathers and citizens that can contribute to our economy,” Bledsoe added.

His presentation comes on the heels of Tyrone Howard’s speech on “The Peril and Promise in the Education of Black Males,” at 7:00 p.m. April 25 in the SURC Theatre. Both events are part of this year’s campus dialogue called Mass Incarceration and Racial Justice: Black and Brown Live Do Matter.

Brother 2 Brother at CWU is the first collegiate chapter in the Northwest. It is part of the university’s Male Success Initiative, which aims to improve male students’ satisfaction, academic performance, campus engagement, retention, and graduation rates.

Brother 2 Brother is open to all male students. The group hosts weekly study sessions and works hard to connect its members to resources on campus. There’s a commitment to transferring trust, says Keith Champagne, associate dean for student development and advisor to Brother 2 Brother. “That means walking them over to an advisor to get help instead of just sending them blindly,” Champagne said.

One of its goals is to have all 45 members achieve a 3.0 GPA. They’re close.

“Some of our members had a 1.6 GPA when they first joined,” Champagne said. “Now they’re above 3.0. A couple have 4.0s.”

Brother 2 Brother president Armando Ortiz, who doesn’t have a male role model in his family, says the group gives him much needed camaraderie. And when he thinks about his future and those of his brothers, he’s excited.

Media contact: Barb Arnott, CWU Public Affairs, 509-963-2841,

April 25, 2016