11 Apr 2018

Pushing the Next Generation Forward


On any given day in his job as COO of the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ), Kwame Owusu-Kesse (AB 2006, MBA/MPP 2012) might find himself analyzing funding sources with the nonprofit organization’s CFO, lunching with a student mentee, strategizing with the director of a pre-K education program, or working on crisis management with city officials. “We are working to end intergenerational poverty within a 100-block radius in central Harlem,” says Owusu-Kesse, who joined HCZ in 2008 and became COO in 2014. “Part of our ethos is, ‘whatever it takes.’”

As the son of Ghanaian immigrants, Owusu-Kesse is committed to fighting poverty, which comes, in part, from having grown up in a single-parent household in Worcester, Massachusetts, and experiencing firsthand “the sacrifices parents make to push the next generation forward.” Community support and scholarships to excellent schools “helped make all the difference for me,” says Owusu-Kesse, who earned a degree in economics at Harvard College and spent three years at Morgan Stanley before starting his graduate work at Harvard. “HCZ’s core focus on education is near and dear to my heart.”

Education is a comprehensive term at HCZ. Since the early 1990s, under the leadership of recently retired CEO Geoffrey Canada, the organization has established a birth-to-college pipeline of best-practice school, community development, and health and wellness programs that today touch the lives of 13,000 children and nearly as many adults.

“For me, this work is not about charity,” Owusu-Kesse notes. “It’s about bringing to the world the great potential that I know exists in these kids and this community.”

(Published April 2018)

Find HBS alumni at Harlem Children’s Zone

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Featured Alumni

Class of MBA 2012, Section F

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