Can mentors help students graduate high school and prepare for college?
That is the question the Research Alliance for New York City Schools, housed within NYU Steinhardt, hopes to answer through a six-year, $1 million study of iMentor’s college-readiness program, a school-based mentoring program that pairs high school students from low-income communities with college-educated mentors. iMentor has commissioned the Research Alliance to conduct the study using funding from the federal Social Innovation Fund.
“We plan to follow two thousand high school students, only half of whom will be paired with mentors, from the time they start ninth grade through high school graduation. We’ll then compare these two groups of students to better understand the effects of mentoring on students’ academic and non-academic outcomes,” said Lori Nathanson, research associate and lead researcher on the project. “There is a tremendous need in the city’s schools to ensure that students, especially those who may be the first in their families to attend college, receive individual guidance and develop the necessary skills to graduate high school and eventually college. Our evaluation could play a crucial role in determining if mentorship is an effective way to achieve these outcomes.”
According to the New York State Department of Education, only one-third of 2011 graduates in New York City were adequately prepared for college. The American School Counselor Association reports that, nationally, the average ratio of students to school counselors is 459:1, leaving a gap in resources available to schools to help students get on track for college. iMentor partners with schools to enable mentors to fill this knowledge and resource gap. Students work one-on-one with their mentors to develop strong personal relationships, nurture a college aspiration, navigate the college application process, and build critical skills that lead to college success.
“This evaluation will be one of the largest and most comprehensive studies ever conducted on mentoring,” said Mike O’Brien, iMentor’s chief executive officer. “We hope to increase the quality and quantity of evidence around how iMentor’s program improves college readiness for students.”
iMentor builds mentoring relationships that empower students in low-income communities to graduate high school, succeed in college, and achieve their ambitions. In New York City, iMentor partners with public schools to ensure every student in the school receives a mentor during his or her high school career. iMentor also provides its curriculum, technology, and best practices to nonprofits nationwide to help them run effective programs in the iMentor model.
Since 1999, iMentor has connected 11,000 students with mentors. This evaluation of iMentor’s program is funded through iMentor’s grant from the federal Social Innovation Fund, with additional funding from New Profit Inc., the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, Morrison & Foerster Foundation, Tiger Foundation, Altman Foundation, and the Leon Lowenstein Foundation.