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Mark Adams
Founder and President , AHI Construction
Margaret Fortune
President and CEO , Fortune School
Mark Adams , founder and president of full-service contracting and construction management company AHI Construction , has not only grown his business through his membership with the Sacramento Black Chamber of Commerce — he ’ s also grown himself .
“ I needed to expose myself to other African Americans in business ,” says Adams , who started AHI in 2003 and joined the SBCC a few years later . “ I was nominated for the first class of the Nehemiah Emerging Leaders Program through the chamber and I ’ m forever indebted .”
Adams says NELP opened the door to connections with other “ like-minded ” professionals . He became the board chair of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Sacramento Area as well as a board member of Next-Ed ( formerly Linking Education and Economic Development ). NELP also helped Adams secure a grant to get his MBA at Sacramento State and inspired his newest endeavor , the Urban Empowerment Academy .
“ Doing something like the Academy had always been on my mind ,” Adams says of the nonprofit he founded to teach youth the tools and trades of construction . “ I started to consider how to take my 18 years of experience … and translate that to an industry struggling to find skilled labor . I realized my legacy is to educate children and young adults in the construction trades and combat this workforce development dilemma .”
With a Build . Black . business grant through The Center at Sierra Health Foundation , Adams hires young people as paid apprentices to work at his job sites . He also participated in the first cohort of the City of Sacramento Economic Gardening Program , which is designed to nourish local businesses . “ Urban Empowerment Academy is how I ’ m giving those businesses a labor force ,” Adams says .
Margaret Fortune first joined the Sacramento Black Chamber of Commerce because “ chambers of commerce are important voices in the community ,” she says . “ The ( SBCC ) plays a special and important role in the region in making sure Black businesses are a part of the conversation on the topics relevant to the city of Sacramento .”
One of those topics is education , which is of particular interest to Fortune . The third-generation educator is the president and CEO of Fortune School , a system of nine K-12 public charter schools that serves more than 2,300 students in Sacramento and San Bernardino counties . The Harvard alumnae also operates the Rex & Margaret Fortune School of Education , a graduate school that credentials teachers and school administrators for more than 60 public school systems .
The school was founded by Fortune ’ s father in 1989 to bring more diverse teachers into the public school system and expanded when Fortune joined the organization in 2008 to include tuition-free , college-preparatory public charter schools dedicated to closing the African American achievement gap .
“ The chamber has been a great advocate of these schools as an alternative for African American families to do better for their kids than to ( let them ) fall into severe and persistent achievement gaps ,” says Fortune , who served as an education policy advisor to two California governors and now helps fund the SBCC ’ s Young Leadership Collaborative and Parent Advocacy Program . “ They ’ re a champion for saying that parents deserve options within the public school systems and that … having Fortune School as an alternative within the community is something worth advocating for .”
Jessica Laskey is the Special Sections Editor . Online at jessicalaskey . com .
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