George T. Cox

Catalyst Award

The Alexander Hamilton Friends Association

The Cox Shook Harsch Group

Morgan Stanley

“What I’ve been seeing is a serious disconnect from high school to college and beyond that is impeding kids’ ability to succeed,” said George Cox, a certified financial planner and senior vice president of the Cox Shook Harsch Group at Morgan Stanley in Seattle.

In 2004 he did something about it, founding the Alexander Hamilton Friends Association to, in his words, “create leaders of character to improve our nation and our world.” The association is named after Alexander Hamilton, one of the founding fathers of the United States.

“Hamilton is a mentor to me. He had a big idea — the concept of the United States. We want young people to identify the great visions for their lives and bring it into their daily lives,” Mr. Cox said.

With a focus on low-income students, the organization’s core is the Hamilton Leaders Academy, a five-year program that accepts 35 high potential high school juniors a year. Over the past 10 years, there have been about 250 participants in 46 states—many of whom have gone to America’s top universities and colleges.

The program helps students manage their transitions from high school to higher education to the workplace by offering professional mentors, peer support, internships, educational programs, and assistance in finding scholarships. Training and mentoring take place both virtually and through week-long conferences in the U.S. and internationally.

“American leadership is faltering — and we need to put the emphasis on the right things to find our next leaders,” Mr. Cox said.