Lila Leff, Umoja Founder Lila Leff

Lila Leff founded Umoja Student Development Corporation in 1997 and served as the organization’s CEO until November 2010.

Prior to starting Umoja, Lila worked in the field of youth development and job training in New York and Chicago and also served as a consultant assisting organizations and schools with program and staff development as well as the development of school/community/business partnerships. 

Since leaving Umoja, Lila has served as an executive coach and program development/strategic planning consultant. She has focused the vast majority of her efforts on young people who are out of school and work, assisting to build bridges back to connection. Lila acted as the interim COO of the Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives at Tulane and currently serves as the Chief Program Officer at Chicago Cred where she works with Arne Duncan to decrease violence through job training/placement/ and wrap around supports for young men with a high likelihood of shooting or being shot. 

Lila was a fellow in Leadership Greater Chicago and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs Emerging Leaders Program. She has served as the Co-Chair of the Consortium on Chicago School Research where she remains a member and has also served on the Editorial Board of Catalyst. 

From her time at Umoja, Lila continues to cherish her learning and the strong community of participants and professionals she considers her forever family. Lila remains an advocate and champion of all Umoja stands for and the work it does.