A Leader in the Community

Kevin Felisme

Kevin Felisme (Photo by Kathy Hillegonds)

That’s what inspires me and drives me—not just to be a leader, but to work with people and support them. That’s what we’re called to do as humans— support each other, love each other and be better people.”

MBA student Kevin Felisme has been living in Chicago for just four years, but his passion for improving the community in his adopted hometown runs deep.

A native of Manchester, N.H., Felisme delivered the TEDxDePaul talk “Reimagine Chicago: Power to the People,” in which he proposed using economic development to revitalize the city’s low-income communities. He hopes to develop programs, supported by either public or private dollars, that will allow neighborhood residents to own and operate businesses within the community.

“When I look at low-income, African-American communities in Chicago, I see a lack of economic development and businesses that are owned by the people within those neighborhoods,” Felisme says. “I believe that if we have the ability to control the economics in our communities, they should have businesses that are run by us, who cater to us and who will inspire people to start somewhere and say, ‘Hey, this is our foundation.’”

Growing up in a single-parent household where money was tight, Felisme first visited Chicago in 2014 during an alternative spring break trip as an undergraduate student at American University. The trip took students to tour various organizations, including Mercy Home for Boys and Girls, a therapeutic residential facility for youth. Despite having a full-time job waiting for him in Washington, D.C., Felisme was moved by the organization’s mission and decided to relocate to Chicago and work for the organization as a youth care worker.

Kevin Felisme, an MBA student, presents his talk, “Reimagine Chicago: Power to the People,” at TEDxDePaulUniversity in the Lincoln Park Student Center.

Kevin Felisme presents his talk, “Reimagine Chicago: Power to the People,” at TEDxDePaulUniversity in the Lincoln Park Student Center. Through the theme, Reimagine, 11 diverse presenters provoked stimulating conversation on powerful topics that invited the audience to consider questions and subjects in a new light. (DePaul University/Jamie Moncrief)

“I’ve always thought that it was important that if you want to work with people in the community, you actually have to live there,” says Felisme, who lives in one of the city’s South Side neighborhoods. “It’s important to know who your neighbors are, not just to come in and help and then leave. You should get to know people because you’re in kinship.”

Now, Felisme is a coordinator for Mercy Home, where he manages the nonprofit’s volunteer program. In 2016, he launched an open basketball gym program through the Port Ministries, a nonprofit on the South Side that serves those in need. He’s also one of the basketball coaches for Mercy Home’s Hoops to Homework League, which partners with the Chicago Bulls to boost young men’s sportsmanship.

DePaul’s Vincentian values and connection to the city inspired Felisme to enroll at the Kellstadt Graduate School of Business in the fall of 2017. Earning an MBA degree in entrepreneurship and management moves him closer to his goal of creating businesses in low-income Chicago neighborhoods, he says.

“That’s what inspires me and drives me—not just to be a leader, but to work with people and support them. That’s what we’re called to do as human —support each other, love each other and be better people.”

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