Alumni Spotlight: Maurice Kie, Life Pieces to Masterpieces
Maurice Kie, Community Engagement Manager at Life Pieces to Masterpieces, has been with this DC nonprofit for its entire history. Brother Moe was one of the original cohorts of seven young men when the Program started in 1996. He grew up in Life Pieces and is an architect of the curriculum and one of its greatest success stories. Growing up within and working at Life Pieces showed Brother Moe how to build strength and confidence, and he is devoted to passing that along to the next generation.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Center for Public and Nonprofit Leadership (CPNL): What drew you to work in the nonprofit sector?
Maurice Kie: It started when I was young. Life Pieces serves African American males from the ages of 3 to 25, and I was eight years old when I started getting involved in this Program. Life Pieces has been my family and job since I was a child. My mother was always a community volunteer, and she showed me how to give people your best and lead with love. That poured into me and now into Life Pieces. Connecting the volunteerism that my mother did and the teachings I grew up with at Life Pieces to Masterpieces led me to continue to do the work in my community. I wanted to give back to brothers who look like me. I want them to feel comfortable being themselves. Our co-founder and executive director, Mary Brown, has also been like a mother to me. It was her passion, commitment, and dedication to the community that let me know my calling was to be in my community as well.
CPNL: What has your journey been like in creating and growing alongside Life Pieces to Masterpieces?
Maurice Kie: All organizations go through different phases. Twenty-five years of Life Pieces has meant a lot of ups and downs for the organization that I have witnessed. I knew I needed to build skills to help the organization through challenging times that many nonprofits go through. Starting as a youth and understanding the Program since 1996, myself and other staff would step up to the plate in these challenging times. In transitioning from an apprentice to a team, I couldn’t leave Life Pieces, and Life Pieces couldn’t leave me. We had formed a bond, just like the rapport we have with our young people. It wasn’t our organization going through something. It was our family.
The leadership component comes in the early stages of Life Pieces; at eight years old, you’re taught to be a leader to the younger ones. When you become an adult, you need to make sure the next generation has those same opportunities to build on your legacy and take your place. Leadership has always been core to the Life Pieces’ curriculum. Life Pieces allowed me to practice my leadership in a place where my opinion manners.
CPNL: In thinking about belonging, how has the program been able to foster those connections throughout a pandemic?
Maurice Kie: It goes back to the family. We took only a single day off to plan, and the very next day we were making vital deliveries to families. Not long after, we were outside in tents providing virtual learning support and programming when our youth needed it most. We did a whole year and a half of programming outside because we knew it would mean too much for our boys and their families if Life Pieces stopped. We have such a strong connection with our young men that when they saw there was no school, they asked to come to Life Pieces.
In the pandemic, people turned to us because they already knew we would continue in some capacity. We had the opportunity to increase our community partnerships, like food and pharmacy access. We identified the needs of our apprentices and aligned them with the resources and information they needed. We built partnerships with those that understood our mission and goals. People respected that we didn’t stop. It’s how you prove to individuals who have been through challenges, that even with these challenges, you still have to go after your goals.
CPNL: What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Maurice Kie: I’m proud that my peers look to me for advice. I’m proud when my younger apprentices call about homework or something they’re going through. At Life Pieces, we have Soul Names, and mine is Brother Pillar. I received that Soul Name years ago, and my job is to fulfill my name. I’m proud of being a pillar in my community and family, that people respectfully use me as a resource. I’m proud to be here and a part of the development of our young boys. I’m sad to see the news at night, but I’m happy to go home because I see greatness happening every day. Our young men may not see it, but I see their maturity, hope, and aspirations.
I hope that one day I become a role model like Coach John Thompson was to me growing up as an urban city youth with hoop dreams. My initial respect and trust for Georgetown University came from following the Georgetown Basketball team. Along with several of his players, Coach Thompson was a man I respected and looked up to for various reasons on and off the court, growing into manhood. Allen Iverson, Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo, Patrick Ewing were on my list of “celebrity role models.”
CPNL: How has the Certificate Program helped you in your career?
Maurice Kie: I received a scholarship from the World Bank Group to attend the Program, and I was so excited. I appreciate my employer for believing in me and covering the remaining cost of the Program under a professional development budget. Many other initiatives and smaller nonprofits, especially Executive Leaders in the 80s and 90s, never had the opportunity to access formal training. Not many people experience what I have seen, the go-getting passion and sacrifices of mom-and-pop volunteers in the nonprofit sector. I felt somewhat jealous that other people could participate in professional development and workshops. The Certificate Program balanced these two worlds. There was a collage of people from different walks of Life. I felt a part of this new wave of community leaders making sure that our peoples’ hearts and souls are thriving.
I learned so much. From risk management to negotiation strategies, the information prepared me for my role as Community Engagement Manager. I can now bring more to the table, especially during resource development and funding meetings. Moreover, it helped me be further involved in the nonprofit community. I am now a founding board member of Families 4 Families and a community council member of the DC History Center.
The Certificate Program has provided me with information, tools, and confidence to be a part of the leadership that will keep Life Pieces to Masterpieces around for the next 25+years. It has empowered me to better support my organization and other nonprofits.
CPNL: What advice would you give to other professionals who are considering participating in the Certificate Program?
Maurice Kie: Kathy and Luisa are great people. They have put together a great Program. The guest speakers were all bubbly and had personality. I was a little nervous, but the atmosphere they provided made it a welcoming experience. You wanted to go there to connect with others and learn.
The Program also made me aware of the hard work and sacrifices that folks made to keep their nonprofits going. When I learned the foundational pieces of a Nonprofit Executive Director, I saw how much went into that role. It made me appreciate my Executive Director, Mary Brown, more.