Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
iMentor was awarded a $500,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to scale and evaluate its innovative mentoring model to help youth from low-income communities graduate high school college-ready and succeed in college. iMentor will use the funding to reach more students through its New York City program, implement iMentor’s model nationally in partnership with leading nonprofits, and perform the most comprehensive independent evaluation ever conducted on mentoring.
“iMentor and the Gates Foundation share a commitment to improving educational opportunities for youth from low-income communities in the United States,” said Mike O’Brien, CEO of iMentor. “This funding will allow iMentor to expand its college-readiness mentoring model to reach more students nationwide as well as evaluate its impact on their long-term academic achievement.”
In the 2011-2012 school year, iMentor will use the funding to enroll three new schools and hundreds of students in its New York City program, bringing the total served this school year to more than 1,800. iMentor provides college-educated mentors to entire grade-levels of public high school students. More than 85 percent of students in partner schools will be the first person in their families to attend college. Mentors commit to three and four-year matches, many of which extend through the freshman year of college. Mentors work with students one-on-one to help them navigate the college application and financial aid processes. They also help students develop the non-academic competencies that research links to increased college success, including: critical thinking, scholastic self-assessment, communication, and social capital skills.
“Research shows that academic preparation alone cannot adequately prepare first-generation college students to succeed at the next level,” said O’Brien. “iMentor is striving to develop a new model for college-readiness in our public schools, one that provides a cost-effective way to ensure all students have the skills and support they need to succeed in college. This model is showing signs of success in New York City, and we are eager to build the evidence-base around our work and share our model with non-profits across the country.”
The funding also allows three leading national non-profits to implement the iMentor model—Admission Possible in the Twin Cities, City Year in Philadelphia, and Miami Dade Community College/Single Stop USA in Miami. All three organizations are launching formal mentoring programs for the first time. iMentor will provide each of these organizations with the tools they need to effectively implement the iMentor model, including: curricula; consulting services; and a proprietary online platform to manage and evaluate all aspects of the mentoring program.
Additionally, the grant will support iMentor’s partnership with Public/Private Ventures to execute a six-year evaluation of iMentor’s model. The study will include 2,000 students from 10 high schools. The results of the study will identify key drivers of impact in iMentor’s model, which can be used to strengthen mentoring programs across the country. The study will also evaluate the impact that individualized support and non-academic skill development have on the college-readiness of high school students.
New models for college-readiness for public schools in the United States are urgently needed. President Obama has called for the United States to have the highest rate of college graduates in the world by 2020. Yet the scope of that challenge is enormous. In New York State, only 37 percent of all students graduated high school college-ready last year (including only 13 percent of African American and 15 percent of Latino students). When they do enroll in college, almost half of low-income students do not re-enroll in the second year. With an average student-to-college councelor ratio of 1:500, schools stuggle to provide the extra support first-generation college students need. iMentor’s college-readiness mentoring model is designed to meet this need.
iMentor has been matching youth in New York City with mentors since 1999 and the results have been impressive. Previous independent evaluations of iMentor have shown that participation in the program has a statistically significant impact on student attendance levels, grades, and standardized test scores. In 2011, 83 percent of iMentor’s students graduated from high school. Additionally, 67 percent of mentees enrolled in college.
Funding from the Gates Foundation is part of iMentor’s grant from the federal Social Innovation Fund (SIF). Other funders supporting iMentor as a part of the SIF initiative include: New Profit Inc., Open Society Institute, Robin Hood Foundation, JP Morgan Chase, Corporation for National and Community Service, Tiger Foundation, Wal-Mart Foundation, Altman Foundation, and Blue Ridge Foundation.