Teacher instructing students

NextGen Success

Financial empowerment for young people through coordinated educational and workforce pathways.

About NextGen Success


Ensure youth from low-income communities have supportive and coordinated pathways toward economic well-being through continuing education or connection to employment after high school. 


While there is an abundance of youth-focused services with diverse expertise and deep understanding of the needs of youth across our region, there is no clear path for youth from lower-income families that enables longer-term economic well-being. Youth often fall through the cracks as they transition from child and youth programs into adult-focused supports. The pathways that do exist may be offered only in certain schools or communities and may not fully consider the other challenges youth face, such as being involved in the child welfare system. This is holding back young people from reaching their full potential.  

Portfolio Composition:

Investment of $1,350,000 in 12 partners

Systems Change Partners

  • Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Cincinnati 
  • Breakthrough Cincinnati Inc. 
  • Children’s Law Center 
  • Cincinnati Youth Collaborative 
  • Covington Partners 
  • YMCA of Greater Cincinnati - Cradle to Career Cincinnati 
  • Found Village 
  • GRAD Cincinnati Inc. 
  • High Achievers Aim High 
  • Lighthouse Youth & Family Services 
  • National Network of Youth Ministries  
  • The DAD Initiative Inc.

Community Feedback

“Collaboration between schools/school districts. We all have the same problems, so why not come together to fix them?”    




– Community volunteer & parent

“I was not prepared to be an adult. If my own parents are not going to be there for us… No one will be there for us. A lot of youth don’t have anyone there to guide them, they are just winging it. (It’s important for) adults to be role models to help youth become good adults.”  


– Community member & youth leader

What we know

Education is an important step towards economic mobility and well-being.

Many interconnected factors drive intergenerational economic mobility, including educational attainment of a child’s parents, the safety of the community, access to good nutrition, health care and healthy relationships. The opportunity to learn is a key driver in the longer-term success of young people living in households with low incomes. Meeting educational milestones, such as reading by fourth grade, graduating on time and pursuing education after high school, can improve the likelihood of mobility from poverty.[i]

Understanding the challenge

The academic disparities and achievement gaps among young people living with low incomes are often indicative of the longer-term financial challenges they will face as adults. Striking educational inequities exist across the United States for students of color, and those inequities can be exacerbated by special sets of challenges outside of the classroom, such as youth experiencing homelessness or engaged in foster care. While the pandemic has presented new obstacles for all young people pursuing higher education – more than 1 million fewer students enrolled in college in 2021 than before the pandemic – this is especially true for students from lower-income schools.

    • Only 50% of children in foster care will finish high school and less than 10% will earn a post-secondary degree. Homeless and unaccompanied youth face barriers to education and face higher rates of drug use, mental health problems and involvement with the criminal justice system. Homelessness and the foster-care-to-prison pipeline also disrupt or end dreams of completing college. 
    • Nearly two-thirds of all jobs require some sort of post-secondary education, yet students of color are 2.5 times less likely to graduate from college than their counterparts. This demonstrates that college degree attainment and economic well-being are directly related. [ii]
    • Among 2020 high school graduates, students from lower-income schools had lower college-going numbers, as did students at high minority schools. The gap in college access between higher-income and lower-income students grew wider. “Community colleges are the schools that traditionally enroll lower-income students, so we can assume that that’s primarily who is affected and still staying away from the most.”
    • More than 5,000 students across our region experienced homelessness during the 2020-2021 school year.[iv] [v] [vi]
    • There has been a 45% increase in the number of children entering the custody of Hamilton County Job and Family Services over the past six years.[vii]
    • Across Greater Cincinnati, Black people are nearly three times more likely to have incomes under the poverty line than white people and are less likely to have a bachelor’s degree or higher.[viii]

Opportunities for Systems Change

Resource Flow and Coordination

Systemic challenges with resources to schools and communities directly impact the academic success of young people. With an increasingly digital world, many young people don’t have adequate access to technology and internet access at home. Research by Chetty, Friedman and Rockoff shows that money invested in schools and small student-to-teacher ratios are strongly correlated with economic mobility.[ix] And schools in lower-income areas are often under-resourced due to lower real estate tax incomes, resulting in higher student-to-teacher ratios and limiting additional academic or extracurricular activities. While changing public school funding is a very long-term challenge, we can explore shorter-term solutions to help address gaps by coordinating services and mobilizing advocates and volunteers.

How might we better align, coordinate and sequence community resources to fill gaps within schools and build pathways toward economic mobility for students with lower incomes?

Relationships and Values

Social capital – a person’s network of trusted and valued relationships – plays an important role in supporting economic mobility. Relationships, especially those with people very different from us, can help provide exposure to new ideas, experiences, people and communities. These can be critical in supporting youth in school and as they explore post-secondary options and begin careers. And relationships with people similar to us, referred to as “bonding ties,” are also important as they help build a sense of security and self-worth.[x]

Surveyed community members and partners often shared a need to build stronger relationships among youth, schools, parents and communities. While they may have similar goals of supporting young people, it can feel as though they are working against each other. Community members shared that young people could feel powerlessness as decisions are typically made for them, not with them. And parents can feel the same – systems making decisions for and about their children without their input. There is a clear opportunity to build stronger relationships and focus on shared values to help improve outcomes for young people.

How might we engage the voices of young people to align around shared values and strengthen relationships that support the educational outcomes and economic mobility of young people with lower incomes?

Data from Insights

  • 67% of solutions prioritized by community members through United Way’s community insights process addressed the need to improve relationships and connections:
    • Improved partnership between social services, communities and public officials to coordinate solutions (31%)
    • More use of family feedback to determine how to change or improve programs (23%)
  • The majority surveyed do not agree that there are adequate/easy-to-find opportunities, training or education to obtain skills to get quality jobs, and most believe that post-high school education is important to get a good-paying job.
  • Only a third of those surveyed agree that social/emotional skills are sufficiently supported in the community via any of the identified means:
    • Parents/caregivers can support their child’s development at home
    • Children/youth generally have healthy social soft skills to be successful adults
    • Children and youth have the support they need at home to develop healthy social and soft skills like building healthy relationships or managing stress.



i Chetty, R., et al. (2017, December 5). Mobility Report Cards: The Role of Colleges in Intergenerational Mobility. Opportunity Insights. https://opportunityinsights.org/paper/mobilityreportcards/

ii Jones, T. (2019, January 9). Aiming for Equity. The Education Trust. https://edtrust.org/resource/aiming-for-equity/

iii Sedmak, T. (2022, January 13). Fall 2021 Undergraduate Enrollment Declines 465,300 Students Compared to Fall 2020. National Student Clearinghouse. https://www.studentclearinghouse.org/blog/fall-2021-undergraduate-enrol…

iv Kentucky Department of Education. (2022, April 8). 2020-2021 Homeless Student Count. Kentucky Department of Education. https://education.ky.gov/federal/progs/txc/Documents/2020-2021%20Homeless%20Student%20Count%20by%20District%20and%20Grade.pdf

v Ohio Department of Education. (n.d) Reports Portal – 2020-2021 School Year. Ohio Department of Education. Retrieved May 26, 2022, from https://reports.education.ohio.gov/report/report-card-data-state-enrollment-by-student-demographic

vi The Annie E. Casey Foundation. (n.d.). Homeless or housing unstable students. KIDS COUNT Data Center. Retrieved May 26, 2022, from https://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/tables/9353-homeless-or-housing-unstable-students#detailed/2/any/false/574,1729,37,871,870,573,869,36,868,867/any/18472

vii Hamilton County Job & Family Services. (2016, May 9). Cincinnati Foster Care. Hamilton County Adoption - Cincinnati Adoption. https://www.hckids.org/foster-parenting/cfcc/

viii American Community Survey. S1701: POVERTY STATUS IN THE PAST 12 MONTHS; 5-Year Estimates for Cincinnati MSA, OH-KY-IN. Census Bureau Table. Retrieved May 17, 2022, from https://data.census.gov/cedsci/table?q=poverty&g=310XX00US17140&tid=ACSST5Y2020.S1701

American Community Survey. S1501: EDUCATIONAL ATTAINMENT; 5-Year Estimates for Cincinnati MSA, OH-KY-IN. Census Bureau Table. Retrieved May 26, 2022, from https://data.census.gov/cedsci/table?q=education&tid=ACSST5Y2020.S1501

ix Chetty, Raj, John N. Friedman, and Jonah E. Rockoff. 2014. "Measuring the Impacts of Teachers II: Teacher Value-Added and Student Outcomes in Adulthood." American Economic Review, 104 (9): 2633-79.

x Abbott, M., & Reilly, A. (2019, May). The Role of Social Capital in Supporting Economic Mobility. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Office of Human Services Policy. https://aspe.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/private/aspefiles/261791/socia…

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