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Polis, Jared (b. 1975)  
 
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Businessman and philanthropist Jared Polis served on the Colorado Board of Education before winning election to the United States House of Representatives in 2008. He became one of only three openly gay members in the current Congress, and the first openly gay man elected to Congress as a freshman.

Polis's parents, Stephen Schutz and Susan Polis Schutz, came of age in the 1960s and were active opponents of the war in Vietnam. Self-described "flower children," they made their living traveling around the country in a pick-up truck and selling original posters. Eventually they started a company, Blue Mountain Arts, to publish books of Susan Schutz's poetry with illustrations by her husband, who had originally trained as a physicist.

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While the works may not have had great literary merit, several became best-sellers. With their new-found wealth, the Schutzes moved to an affluent suburb of San Diego, California from Boulder, Colorado, where their eldest son, then named Jared Polis Schutz, had been born on May 12, 1975.

(He changed his name to Jared Schutz Polis in 2000 in order, he told reporter Michael Roberts, "to honor my mother's maiden name, and because I liked it better," but he insisted on the importance of retaining both parental surnames. He went on to state that he used the occasion of modifying his name "to stage a fundraiser for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society that netted $40,000 in contributions.")

Polis attended the private La Jolla Country Day School. He showed an early interest in politics, founding a Young Democrats Club while he was in high school and working as a campaign volunteer from the time that he was in his early teens.

Polis graduated at the age of sixteen and enrolled at Princeton University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in political science.

While Polis was pursuing his studies, he also embarked on a career in business. With two friends at Princeton, he founded an internet provider service called American Information Systems. A few years later, in 1998, they sold the company for more than twenty-two million dollars. Polis also entered into a business venture with his parents, establishing Bluemountain.com, an offshoot of the publishing company that offered on-line greeting cards. The family sold the internet company in 1999 for some seven hundred million dollars.

Meanwhile, Polis had started yet another cyber-business, ProFlowers.com, which sold flowers directly to customers from growers. The enterprise grew into Provide Commerce, an umbrella company that included a business selling chocolates on-line and the Sonora Entertainment Group, the operator of a chain of Spanish-language movie theaters. Polis sold Provide Commerce in 2006 for over four hundred million dollars.

Polis is strongly committed to improving education, and so in 2000 he initiated the Jared Polis Foundation, which works to support at-risk youth and their teachers, to provide "options beyond traditional, comprehensive high schools," and to expand the availability of computer technology to schools.

In 2004 Polis founded the New America School to serve immigrant youth in Colorado. The enterprise has since expanded to include four campuses in that state and has plans to open a campus in New Mexico to extend the benefits of English literacy and a high school liberal arts education to all students. In the fall of 2005 Polis co-founded the Academy of Urban Learning to address the challenges faced by teens who struggle with homelessness or unstable living conditions.

New America School Board President Richard Garcia stated that Polis "has a passion to give kids who normally don't get opportunities the chance to be successful in school. At the New America School, he's focusing on immigrants who are in the sixteen-to-twenty age group—kids who are on the verge of dropping out, have dropped out, or haven't even registered. Society often discards these youths, but he's reaching out to them. In that way, what he's doing is really visionary."

In 2000 Polis made his first run for elective office, standing for the Colorado Board of Education. He won by only some ninety votes out of approximately a million cast but went on to be named chairman of the board and to play a key role in the passage of Colorado Amendment 23 in 2004 to increase funding of public education. He also led the Board's Online Education Task Force to bring more applications of technology to the state's classrooms.

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