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GenXYZ: Alexandra “Andra” Pool, 32

Chief operating officer, Greenhouse Scholars

Pool develops innovative ways to grow the nonprofit organization, which supports high-performing, under-resourced scholars.

What’s the mission of Greenhouse Scholars?

We started in 2004 with the big vision to change education in this country. Only 11 percent of kids from low-income families go to college and we’re passionate about changing that.

Is it a scholarship program?

Yes, but it’s more than that. We have about 450 volunteers, speakers and mentors, and thousands of donors. Our approach to improving our individual scholar is long-term. I can see now how their lives are changing because of our work, and how they’re changing the communities they live in.

Do you plan to expand?

We started with Colorado students, though they attend schools all over the country. Now we’ve expanded to Illinois high schools, and we hope to keep going.

What is the team like at Greenhouse?

We employ around 10 and we have many volunteers. So from the people who work here to the volunteers, to the kids – I can honestly say there isn’t anyone I wouldn’t want to spend a Friday night with.

One of your four values is a bit unusual. Can you tell me why “relentlessness” is on the list with “leadership, accountability and community?”

That’s my favorite. A lot of people see that as a negative. But for these students, with the odds they face, they have to be true fighters. They have to succeed for themselves and they have to succeed for the hundreds of people they will help in the future. We focus on that goal as well. We have relentlessly pursued our dream.

You help 120 students a year. Do any stand out?

They all stand out. We have refugees from war-torn countries, and some whose parents are in jail. They are all successful in school. We don’t see ourselves as a charity; they deserve everything they get. And we believe those are the students who will change communities, because they have the experience and the breadth to truly change the system.

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Maria Martin

Maria Martin is a freelance writer.

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