BHS graduate earns Gates Cambridge scholarship honor

Greg Nance recently won a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. He was one of 60 in the nation to be selected. - Courtesy of the University of Chicago
Greg Nance recently won a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. He was one of 60 in the nation to be selected.
— image credit: Courtesy of the University of Chicago

Greg Nance will study at the University of Cambridge in England in the fall.

When Greg Nance was a junior at Bainbridge High School, he was elected co-captain of the debate team.

While it was a big moment in his life, the opportunity to mentor younger debaters was the most rewarding part of the experience because it planted a seed on “how I could equip others with the tools for success,” he said.

That led to Nance helping to create three different programs – MoneyThink, Chicago Got Game and Rising Phoenix Debate – as a student at the University of Chicago.

With the creation of those organizations, he has received much attention and several honors.

Nance was one of three recipients in the nation to be named a James D. McQuaid Scholar and one of 60 college juniors to be named a Harry S. Truman scholar.

But his biggest honor arrived recently in the form of a Gates Cambridge Scholarship.

Nance, a 2007 graduate of Bainbridge High School, was one of two University of Chicago students and 30 in the nation to be awarded a scholarship. The program is run by the Gates Cambridge Trust, which was set up by a $210 million donation in 2000 to the University of Cambridge in England by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The scholarship provides full-time graduate study and research at the University of Cambridge in England in any subject available. It is awarded to students around the world who show excellent intellectual and leadership abilities, combined with a desire to use their knowledge to improve the world around them.

Nance is currently in Dubai, UAE, as the featured speaker for the Education Without Borders conference where he will give a presentation on MoneyThink, a nonprofit program designed to help urban youth become more knowledgeable on issues of finance and entrepreneurship.

In an email interview, the two-time state debate champion said he “knew winning the scholarship was a real long shot but I decided to go for it,” he wrote. “After I got into Cambridge I knew anything was possible and took that attitude into the Gates Scholarship interview.”

The morning after the interview, he got the announcement that he was chosen to receive the scholarship.

"I had to read the email three times before I could believe it," he said. "I was very excited and surprised... the news still hasn't fully sunk in yet."

He said he will pursue a Masters of Philosophy in management  at Cambridge’s Judge School of Business.

Nance, who is on track to graduate with a major in political science with a focus on international relations from the University of Chicago in June, has shown his leadership abilities with the foundation of three programs he hopes can become nationally renowned.

The first is MoneyThink, which helps train mentors to teach high school students the basics of saving money, building a budget, and even how to start a business.

Nance started the organization in the fall of 2008. He said he was looking for a community service project as co-director of The Blue Chips, a student organization that works on expanding financial knowledge and promoting financial literacy.

“My biggest priority was to connect club members with a meaningful community service opportunity relating to financial education,” he said. “After dozens of cold calls to Chicago principals, I designed a basic curriculum we could teach to local high schoolers. Quickly the program outgrew its britches and we independently incorporated as a non-profit to build our impact.”

The program is now taught at six high schools on Chicago’s South Side. More than 1,100 students have graduated from the program and 20 sister chapters have been established at college campuses around the country. Nance said several delegates at the conference are interested in starting a MoneyThink chapter at a university in their country. He hopes the program can become the premier college mentoring organization by the year 2020.

Another program he helped get off the ground is Chicago Got Game, a project created by standout high school basketball players Patrick Miller and Jamie Adams, both of whom are MoneyThink graduates. They wanted other South Side basketball players to participate for a week of drills to build their skills on the court, but also to bring in college coaches and athletes and various business leaders and NBA personnel to share information on how to prepare for a career off the court.

“They had tons of passion for the camp and I helped focus it into a business plan that we developed,” Nance said. “We formed a leadership team, reached out for lots of advice and made the camp happen.”

Nance is also staying involved in the activity of debate with Rising Phoenix Debate, an organization that helps high school students on the debate team become more well rounded after they leave high school.

The organization has also helped coach debaters as school district budget cuts have forced several to eliminate their programs.

While Nance said his main focus is his future studies at Cambridge in order to help him expand MoneyThink, he is still trying to figure out what his career goal will be.

He said he has narrowed it down to being a leader in either education, business, nonprofit or government.

“The chance to mentor and empower youth has changed my life and I aim to give other BHS grads the same opportunity,” he said.

Courtesy of the University of Chicago

Greg Nance advises 10th grader Kenyon Edwards as he researches stocks during an economics class at a South Shore neighborhood school as part of MoneyThink, a program he created to help teach high school students about the basics of finance.


For more information:


Chicago Got Game:

Rising Phoenix Debate:

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