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Executive Director, Bottom Line
It is also the mission of its Executive Director, Greg Johnson
From top university to Bottom Line
It was not a line of work Greg initially imagined he'd wind up in. Growing up in Enfield, Conn., a sleepy town located roughly halfway between Boston and New York, he attended public high school and went directly on to Brown University.
"I went in thinking I'd be a chemist," he says.
"But I realized that sitting in a lab is not where I wanted to be.
found himself attracted to the social sciences instead, and he
for an educational style that "allows people to find their own path."
That path first led to Springfield, Mass., just up Route I-91 from his
hometown, where Greg
landed a job as Program Director for an AM radio station and also gained on-air broadcasting experience.
enjoyed the work, but when he
wife relocated to Boston so that she
could attend graduate school, he
found it next to impossible to break into local radio.
It turned out to be a big break for him-and for the students he
has helped prepare for a more successful future.
first job on this career path was with The Princeton Review, where he
began teaching classes to help students "from all walks of life" prepare for the math SAT-or, as he
puts it, "beat the test.
Over the next seven years, he
rose through the ranks, eventually becoming the Director of Marketing for Massachusetts and northern New England.
It was through this position that Greg came to the attention of Dave Borgal, who had founded Bottom Line in 1997 to help inner-city high school seniors get college degrees.
"Our goal is to stay with these students until they finish their college experience," Greg
accomplishes this task through what Greg calls "high-touch" personalized one-on-one guidance and mentoring, from helping high school students apply to college right through until they receive their degree.
Counselors are full-time staff who maintain consistent support and also refer students to other resources if needed.
Greg had a staff of four when he joined Bottom Line, and he found that his organization-though it had grown exponentially from its first class of 25-could only handle about 200 students at a time.
Yet, "kids were walking in off the streets," he
"I figured, there's got to be a way to help more students."
set about overhauling the way things were done at Bottom Line
, from ramping up fundraising efforts to systematizing the services provided, so that more students could be supported in a consistent way-and across a wider geographic territory.
"What we had at the beginning was a talented staff," he
"But I know that's not enough-no matter how talented your staff is.
I wanted to take our model of support and standardize the curriculum across the office, so that we could rely less on talent and more on the system."
Today, Bottom Line
supports 650 high school students and 947 college students across the state of Massachusetts, with more to follow once the New York office opens.
It is of that expansion that Greg
is most proud.
believes that focusing on college retention for low-income and first-generation students is relevant-and important-across the country and that creating a replicable program gives it that portability.
Even today, "more students want our service than we can serve," he
And it's his
vision to offer that help to every kid who wants and needs it.
puts it, "Nothing is more rewarding than seeing a student make it through.
himself finds support among his
own peers through Grand Circle Foundation's Community Advisory Group
, a coalition of leaders from the Foundation and its long-term nonprofit partners in Boston.
Greg is a new member of the group, which meets regularly to explore ideas for resolving issues they have in common, including handling budgets and fundraising, developing boards, evaluating programs, coordinating volunteers, and more.
Greg notes that many of his
colleagues in the group work with youths in the same neighborhoods of Boston from which Bottom Line
draws much of its clientele.
"They're great organizations," he
"Our goals are perfectly aligned."
also appreciates the opportunity to make use of the facilities of Grand Circle Leadership Center
in Kensington, New Hampshire.
"You can get people thinking creatively much better than in their office," he
says of these off-sites.
"And the facilities are excellent."
Most of all, the creative solutions Greg
seeks are all focused on helping the students in the care of his
is passionate about his
work, and it shows.