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Steve Fortier has been a part of Umoja’s family since 2009 as a Board member and has set an example for corporate partnerships by connecting KPMG to Umoja’s work through volunteer events and financial sponsorship. Hear a little from Steve about his involvement:

1.    How did you learn about Umoja?
I initially learned about Umoja at a dinner gathering hosted by friends (Kate and Marin Gjaja). Lila Leff, Umoja’s founder, spoke at the event and I was impressed by the work Umoja was doing, as well as Lila’s passion and energy for the organization.

2.     Why did you decide to support Umoja?
I strongly believe in investing in our children. Umoja is doing incredible work and creating a better learning environment for students, enabling them to focus more on school and their futures. As a family, we also generally support local organizations focused on education and social services and prefer to give to smaller organizations that are run efficiently such that contributions go to those who need them most, rather than to overhead.  

3.      What makes Umoja unique?
The passion and energy of the Umoja staff and the holistic perspective in terms of developing students are what makes Umoja unique. For example, there are other groups that focus on single aspects of Umoja’s work (e.g., college counseling), but Umoja provides a broader suite of services that also addresses curriculum and the learning environment (e.g., restorative justice program). Schools and students face complex, multidimensional challenges, and the solutions need to be multidimensional as well.

4.      How did KPMG get involved with Umoja?  
About 10 years ago I started a national day of service for the practice I was leading. This has become an annual event and has expanded to other groups within my firm. Teams in each city choose a local organization to support with a day of volunteer service. When I joined the Umoja board, it presented a great opportunity to bring my Chicago team to Umoja to spend a day working with the students. We have done this several times over the years. We also have a lot of employees that are not too far removed from the college experience, and they provide good insights to the Umoja students regarding the college application process and what to expect. My team really enjoyed working closely with the students this past fall at Manley, and I think everyone involved learned a lot through the event.