CEO and president
Gary Community Ventures
Mike Johnston is the CEO and President of Gary Community Ventures and represented Northeast Denver in the Colorado State Senate for two terms. He first entered education as a high school English teacher in Greenville, Mississippi, an experience that led him to write his acclaimed book,"In the Deep Heart’s Core." After leaving the Mississippi Delta, Mike co-founded New Leaders for New Schools, a national non-profit that recruits and trains urban principals. Johnston started his own career as a principal leading two alternative high schools serving Colorado students held in state custody or living in group homes and detention centers. Most recently, he was the co-founder and principal of MESA (Mapleton Expeditionary School of the Arts), a redesigned urban high school in the Mapleton Public Schools that made Colorado history by becoming the first public high school in which 100 percent of seniors were admitted to four-year colleges.
He has been an adjunct professor of education law at the University of Denver and has served as an advisor to state and federal political campaigns around the country, most recently as a top education advisor to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign and transition. Recently named to Time Magazine’s "40 Under 40" and Forbes Magazine’s list of the "7 Most Powerful Educators," Mike holds degrees from Yale College, the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and Yale Law School. He sits on the board of many local and national organizations including the "I Have a Dream" Foundation and the Urban League. He lives in Northeast Denver with his wife Courtney, who is Deputy District Attorney in Denver, their two sons Emmet and Seamus, and their new baby girl Ava.