College and Career


  • Next Generation Men & Women, Georgia

Focus Area

  • Education

“We believe that opportunity should not be limited based on your race, your class, or where a young person calls home. We build a community of support that provides them and encourages them to create a vision for themselves and map out their future, so they're prepared after high school to take on whatever college they choose or whatever career they aspire to.”

Symone Gerren, Director of Programs, Next Generation Men & Women

The Issue

The evidence is clear that earnings and employment prospects rise along with educational attainment levels. There are few better predictors of a life of disadvantage down the road than not graduating high school. This makes a high school diploma and college or other post-secondary education key factors in the journey to self-sufficiency. 

In the Atlanta Public Schools system, 83 percent of students graduate and 54 percent enroll in post-secondary education. However, a comparison of these data points among the district’s racial and ethnic groups reveals significant disparities. 

Graduation rates among the district’s Black students are 12 percentage points lower than for white students. For Hispanic students, that gap increases to a 21 percentage point difference. Also, students receiving free and reduced lunch are 40 percent less likely to enroll in post-secondary institutions than their peers.

Those who who drop out of high school are predicted to have lower wages throughout their life and a greater exposure to the criminal justice system. They're also more likely to experience homelessness.

A number of studies indicate that mentoring has promise as an intervention to stop that cycle for high-risk students. Mentoring programs that target low-income students have been shown to decrease absenteeism and improve student GPAs while increasing high school graduation and post-secondary enrollment. 

But what about middle-achieving students? They, too, might lack the resources and self-drive of their high-achieving peers to stay on track academically and head off to college or some other post-secondary education. Yet, they are often overlooked in student support service delivery. While they avoid causing issues at school, they also end up not interacting in classroom discussions or leaving their comfort zone to enrich themselves within their school community. A qualitative study showed that school administrators agreed that early interventions were pivotal for incoming ninth-graders, as this is when students set habits and are at the greatest risk for falling behind. Still, only about 53% were actively involved in implementing interventions for this group.

There is a lack of research on how mentoring programs benefit middle-achieving students who fall into this support service delivery gap and the impact of college-aged mentors and teacher-mentors on student success. Evidence of impact could help educators determine how to best create support services for this population of students.

The Intervention

Next Generation Men & Women (Next Gen) is working with high schools throughout Atlanta to address this opportunity gap. Their intervention offers support, mentorship, and career pathway exposure programming aimed at middle-achieving students. Starting in ninth grade, the program includes teacher mentor matching, twice-weekly small group meetings, field trips to colleges, and college student mentor matching. 

Exposure trips show students that if they can see it and experience it, they can become it. In addition to this increased access to professional development, college mentors offer young, relatable sources of support. This mix of resources forms an overall program that roots itself in each student forming their own personal identity and being able to picture themselves in the career that most suits them. 

The goal is to encourage students to consider their own futures and motivate them to finish high school and enroll in post-secondary education, gain meaningful employment, or join the military. Next Gen aims for their students to feel empowered to take on everything that life has to offer.

And Next Gen is invested in evidence. LEO will build off of existing evidence of the promise of the Next Gen model to demonstrate the impact it has on not only encouraging disadvantaged youth to graduate high school, but also on guiding students to continue on to college and career. Next Gen is dedicated to closing the opportunity gap for under-resourced high school students.

Research Question

How does mentoring and exposure to collegiate and professional environments affect under-resourced students’ outcomes such as high school completion and post-secondary enrollment?

Intended Outcomes

  • Students who participate in Next Gen programming will have higher rates of high school graduation and post-secondary enrollment.

  • They will also have higher employment rates and lower arrest rates.

Research Study Design

Next Gen and LEO have designed a randomized controlled trial (RCT) to compare outcomes between students who participate in the program and those who do not. Due to limited staff capacity and resources, Next Gen cannot provide services to every eligible student. To allocate slots fairly and run a rigorous impact evaluation, a lottery-based system assigns eligible students to the treatment or control group. Students in the treatment group receive Next Gen’s services. Students assigned to the control group do not. 

By comparing the outcomes of students in both randomly assigned groups, LEO will be able to isolate the effect of the intervention on outcomes of interest. Importantly, using random assignment ensures that the research team will generate causal evidence on the impact of Next Gen’s services. If the evidence shows this intervention to be effective in improving outcomes, it will increase Next Gen’s ability to expand the program and ultimately serve more students. It will also offer guidance to school administrators on how to provide services to middle-achieving students. 


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