Get to know Leadership Council member, Marquita Stephens, CEO and President of Urban League Twin Cities.

I interviewed Marquita Stephens because I was interested initially transitional housing. But after doing more research on Urban League Twin Cities and the works that it has done for our cities, I wanted to connect with CEO and President, Marquita Stephens, to get a personal account of Urban League Twin Cities’ impact.

Urban League Twin Cities COVER

Marquita Stephens began working at Urban League Twin Cities in 2017 in the Education Department.  From there, she was promoted to Strategic Engagement VP and in July 2023, the CEO position. When asked why she believes the search committee chose her to be the CEO, she said that she believes her work history speaks for itself.  

A recent change she has witnessed from the panoramic view of a CEO is a rise in non-profit organizations offering nuanced distinctions in a broad array of services. The Urban League Twin Cities has partnered with several of these organizations concerned with children in out-of-home placement, children that are impacted by domestic violence and incarceration, youth development, workforce solutions, wealth development through housing, policing, or other issues that address the well-being of African Americans in the region.

Marquita started the College & Career Readiness Program “Black Gems” when she first came to the Urban League in 2017. Black Gems is intentionally not located in schools. Part of the social emotional learning in preparation for college/career is building agency among strangers hence, recruitment is geared toward high schoolers from across the region.

Stephens put this into perspective by stating “When you’re going off to college, you’re not going with your cohort. You’re going as a stranger amid strangers, and you need to know how to navigate that.”

In an evaluative sense, what the students really see as their greatest growth has been in the comfort that they learn to feel in a new situation. A situation where they entered nervous, not knowing anyone or anything, and left confident in their ability to master that environment satisfies one of our primary goals.

I asked Marquita Stephens about what changes she’d like to see happen in the Twin Cities, and she stated that in order to answer that question, we would have to have a comprehensive plan. And that is what she is focused on doing now, creating this comprehensive plan. It will hopefully as a result be able to answer some of the questions that I have.

“What needs to be done? How much of it needs to be done? Where does it need to be done and to whom and with whom does it need to be done?” All those questions need to be answered, but they cannot be answered in a vacuum. They must be answered as it relates to being connected with one another.

And so, Stephens states, “you have a deed that was done, but then you have the contributing factors to that deed that was done. Then you have those things that are an outgrowth of having done that deed. So, until you have a full view of all those things, it is hard to say which way you should go. So, the work for us, is to lead and convene for a comprehensive plan that will address the situational presence for African Americans in this region.”

Lastly, when asked about transitional housing, Marquita stated that transitional housing is something she has envisioned the Urban League Twin Cities doing, but it is not a priority for the organization currently. Transitional housing is an issue that must be addressed directly, and she believes that to begin getting involved in this change, we first must ensure that our underserved communities are met with the services they need. Bringing more of a presence in transitional housing in the Twin Cities area means providing support services in any number of ways. Stable housing, counseling, and employment training are just a few examples of the services Marquita Stephens believes the ULTC brings to this field of service in the Twin Cities.

About the author: this blog was written by Christina, a senior at Humboldt High School in Saint Paul. Christina spent the spring of 2024 as a RightTrack intern with Generation Next.