Greenwood Project co-founder Elois Sprolls inspires disadvantaged youth
From 2016 to 2021, The Greenwood Project has helped more than 400 South and West Chicago students navigate the finance industry through exposure, education, and national internships. With a focus on community and family, Greenwood guides college students ages 18-23 to confidently excel in professional settings.
The Greenwood Project was founded in 2015 by Elois Sprolls and Bevon Joseph. Two programs, one for high school students and one for college students, are offered by Greenwood.
Each program connects underserved students to vertical mobility opportunities by giving them chances to expand their horizons of success beyond their immediate surroundings.
“This is an amazing organization that provides much-needed exposure to Black and Latino students from underserved communities, like myself, a chance to learn about an industry they probably never would have studied,” Greenwood Project co-founder Elois Sprolls said. “The training and resources we provide, even down to uniforms and transportation, are 100% free for students.”
One hundred percent of Greenwood Project students who graduate from college are employed and 73% work in the financial industry. Students graduating from Greenwood programs have secured jobs at companies such as JPMorgan Chase, Rosenthal Collins Group, Calais Insurance, and CoBank, among others. Greenwood has seen a 28% increase in corporate partnerships from 2020 to 2021, maintains a 90% partner retention rate, and has projected revenue of $2 million in 2022.
Beyond jobs, Greenwood empowers students to make thoughtful choices about their future. Journee Lockridge, 22, started Project Greenwood during her junior year of high school and credits her decision to attend Howard University to Sprolls. Lockridge acknowledges that Sprolls had one of the biggest impacts on her life because they met during what Lockridge calls “a difficult time” in her life.
“He was a person who inspired me to continue in finance. To support me, my family and my career, and to ensure that I had many opportunities to fulfill my dream of going to Howard University” , said Lockridge. “[If] I needed advice for just about anything, she (Sprolls) will be the person I call.
For more than 20 years, Sprolls has developed her career as a finance professional. Through Greenwood, she shares her expertise and inspires young people in Chicago to “be what they can’t see.”
Sprolls began his finance career in 1997 as a price reporter at the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE). As a price reporter, she performed data entry of stock option transactions. She took on more responsibility as a broker’s clerk before earning a journalism degree from Columbia College Chicago in 2001.
Between 2003 and 2017, Sprolls worked at a trading company in Chicago where she served as a compliance manager for 10 years. It was during this time that it obtained its Series 4, 6, 7 and 63 licenses to sell financial products.
She decided to pursue a graduate degree at Northern Illinois University (NIU) after spending years applying her skills directly to fund jobs. In 2015, she earned a Masters in Business Administration from NIU. At NIU, she learned to value what she learned in leadership and personal development as opposed to courses that taught technical finance and accounting.
In 2021, she became an Adjunct Professor at NIU and taught the “Business in Action Class”. There she taught 40 incoming College of Business students everything from accounting, leadership and financial strategy. From a first-generation student, she entered with empathy and understanding to make herself accessible to students.
One student, Mya Martinez, 21, recently completed Greenwood’s intensive four-week program. Greenwood flew her to her internship in Colorado with CoBank and offered her lodging, meals, transportation, and an $800 weekly stipend. Martinez attributes his position in his career to the influence of Sprolls.
“I started having conversations with her. She interviewed me and from there our relationship started. She’s an incredible role model,” says Martinez. “She was in the world of finance on the courts where it was a white-dominated space and she made her mark. She definitely inspires me and gives me the courage to keep pushing, to make my mark and to go all the way when I feel discouraged.
As a mentor at Greenwood, Sprolls learned to serve students by channeling younger versions of his ownelf and project empathy and vulnerability to support students who were academically insecure.
“Thanks to Greenwood, I definitely and I feel more confident, I felt like I belonged,” Greenwood Project college cohort member Marcus Hill said. “And that’s why I feel like there’s a need for more programs like this because what they’re doing is something no one else is really doing.”
Hill mentioned how Sprolls inspired him because, as someone from a similar background, she shows her mentees in Project Greenwood how to reach far beyond the heights she has achieved.