It doesn’t take long for Kezia Stegemoeller’s passion to show through. Just get her talking about the students at the Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy in Dallas—currently numbering 460—and the many successes they’ve had.
She calls them “big smile moments.”
Stegemoeller is the executive director for the Friends of the Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy, a nonprofit that raises money for the Dallas Independent School District magnet school.
Her wide-ranging efforts may entail securing a grant to send students on a college visit, giving them the chance to study abroad, or funding full-time college advisers to help students stay on track for graduation and college.
“There are so many parts of my job that I’m incredibly proud of,” she says. “Exposure is so important for any young person, but especially from communities where their parents and family members may not have access or relationships to make that happen.”
The school will graduate its fifth class of seniors this year, and so far it has an enviable record—a 100 percent graduation rate and college attendance rate.
“Without the natural curiosity and interest, my job wouldn’t be possible,” Stegemoeller says. “I bet so much on our young men because I believe in them so much. They work so hard and they try so hard.”
No matter what she’s doing, these youngsters are on her mind.
In 2018, she participated in the Dallas Regional Chamber’s Leadership Dallas program. This class, and the alumni group she participated in afterward, gave her a direct pipeline to Dallas’ business elite, the perfect role models for the students at the school.
“There are so many corporations here. Being part of the Dallas Regional Chamber (DRC) allows me to be a bridge,” Stegemoeller said. “I formed relationships with presidents of banks, vice presidents, and architecture firms. More than half of my [leadership] class visited the campus throughout the last year.” She adds that she’s had dinner or breakfast with nearly everyone in her DRC leadership class to talk about what she does.
She and the business leaders did some valuable community service during that class. Their project was remodeling a shed at the Promise House, a homeless shelter for youth in Dallas. They made it a functional space for the children and spent time playing games with them.
Stegemoeller also works with the Junior League of Dallas, an organization of women committed to promoting voluntarism, which gives her a welcome chance to join in the energy of other women. One of their recent projects was helping Our Friends Place, a Dallas-area organization that, among other things, helps young women who age out of foster care.
This falls right in line with her passion to help local underserved youth.
She believes the work she does at Friends of the Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy, the DRC, and the Junior League will bring benefits far beyond the people she’s directly helped.
“There’s a ripple effect to philanthropy. There’s a ripple effect to love, and there’s a ripple effect to care,” she says. “I’m doing my part as best I can to make Dallas better for everyone. I want people to understand that when we strengthen communities that are disenfranchised, we strengthen everyone.”
The academy’s first alumni are now graduating from college, and Stegemoeller has an active interest in tracking their progress.
“I am eager to find out where our alumni are going and what they’re going to do to change the world,” she says. “I’m happy to have played a very, very small part in changing their trajectory and that of their families.”
Leadership Dallas, the flagship program of the Dallas Regional Chamber for leadership development, is aimed at increasing the leadership pool for community activities in the Dallas area.
This story first appeared in the Dallas-Fort Worth Real Estate Review.