In summer 2018, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee 2019 graduate Steven Duclair returned to his birth country of Haiti for the first time since moving away in November 2007 at 12 years old.

The trip lit a spark inside Duclair.

“It was like me going back to Haiti and being in my community was … finding my true place in the universe,” he said.

Duclair and three other students, including senior in the College of Arts & Sciences Nikia Johnson, partnered with the local Milwaukee community to fundraise and collect donations of shoes and school supplies. Their partners included Macy’s, St. Robert Catholic Church and School, Plymouth Church and the Medical College of Wisconsin.

During the weeklong trip, the group was able to deliver more than 1,000 pairs of shoes and build three water filtration systems.

But they needed to do more, Duclair said.

“When you get there, you realize that they don’t go to school, they live in the slums, and they’re missing meals. You realize ‘Wow, a pair of shoes is not their most important need,’” Duclair said. “(As a) matter of fact, not their 50th-most-important need.”

When asking locals what it was they truly needed, Duclair said there was one common answer: education.

The group returned from the trip determined to build a school in Haiti. In October 2018, known as Sustain the Future, the group officially became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, which allows their donors to give on a larger scale, Johnson said.

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