About us

Our Story

At the close of the fall semester, NGM’s 3 co-founders – Ian Cohen, Travis Salters, and Ben Sperling – were still high school teachers spread across Metro Atlanta and enjoying the first evening of their winter break. However, it was during a conversation out in the cold and late in the evening that the first concepts of Next Generation Men were truly born. After realizing that despite different communities, schools, grade levels, and subjects, all of their male students seemed to have been deprived of the opportunity to be exposed to more of the world around them, they asked themselves a simple question – what if there was a way to positively expose all students to colleges and careers in high school? And what if these experiences could be coupled with innovative simulations and support to both inspire and prepare students earlier?
The Beginning
December 2013

An Idea Is Born

The first conversations about a gender-specific program focused on exposure took place.

Founders at pilot banquet
April 2014

IndieGoGo Campaign

After several months, numerous group discussions, and dozens of interviews with students, the eventual co-founders decided to test their ideas through a summer program, using Indiegogo to raise $18,000 in support of the effort.

IndieGoGo Campaign
June 2014

Pathways Program

The 8-day, 12 student program dubbed “Pathways” successfully launched, including trips to Turner Studios, the Sun Dial, Tree Sound Studios, Team Building with Taste, and Emory University – here was the result.

Pathways Program
August 2014

NGM Is Born

After “Pathways,” the students and parents made it clear that this program needs to be bigger, better, and longer and that all students deserve these opportunities. It was at this moment that the 3 teachers decided to build an organization – and Next Generation Men was born.

Certificate of Incorporation
December 2014

Board of Directors

NGM’s co-founders were elated to sign on the first three members of their Board of Directors – Chris Thomas, Brian Sadler, and Rob Fortson – and prepare for their official launch event.

January 2015

RECEIVE 501(c)3

Next Generation Men launches and receives its 501(c)3 recognition.

February 2015

United Way Spark Prize

NGM begins its first pilot program at Banneker High School with 12 students and teacher Austin Williams as the cohorts first coach.

NGM competes in and wins a $10,000 award as part of the first-ever United Way SPARK Prize competition.

Spark Award
May 2015

Pilot Cohort

The pilot cohort completes its spring semester and celebrates in signature red ties at their own End-of-Year Banquet.

Pilot Cohort
June 2015

Intern Program

NGM brings on its first fellow/interns in Megan Sypher, Matthew Sorrels and Mack Schroeder while securing partnerships at Therrell High School and Banneker High School to expand their program.

Intern Program
September 2015

Sponsor A Student Campaign

To kick off the new school year with brand new cohorts totaling 45 students, NGM launches its inaugural “Sponsor-a-Student” campaign and raises $56,000 from individuals which is equivalent to covering the program for 61 students for an entire year.

Sponsor a student
October 2015

Featured on WSB-TV

NGM featured on WSB-TV Channel 2 News ahead of Georgia Gives Day.

Featured on WSB-TV
December 2015

Passing of a Champion

NGM bids farewell to one of its first and greatest champions, Ken Sperling, father to co-founder Ben and committed supporter to our students and organization.

Lunch with Ken Sperling
January 2016

Impressive “Mid-Year Report”

The first “Mid-Year Report” is released showing incredible survey results, impressive social and emotional gains, and even marked academic improvements for many students.

January 2016
March 2016

NGM March Madness

NGM puts on its first ever “March Madness” competition for students covering leadership, problem solving, and career exposure.

May 2016

2016 EOY Banquet

NGM celebrates the completion of another successful school year with 40 students, 4 teachers, and 3 college fellows. The banquet was student-run and had over 50 parents and family members in attendance.

June 2016

NGM Wins Philanthropitch Atlanta

NGM takes home $17,500 as the top winner at the first-ever Philanthropitch competition where local non-profits compete in front of an audience of over 200 and a panel of judges.

July 2016

Official Launch of Next Generation Women

After 8 months of planning and development, NGM and its working group of 25 women from around Atlanta officially launch the Next Generation Women program to begin in the 2016-17 school year with 30-40 young women.

August 2016

New Program Director

NGM adds former Teacher of the Year and NGM Coach, Austin Williams, to their full-time staff as Program Director.

September 2016

Creekside Joins NGM/W

NGM/W adds its second school from Fulton County – Creekside High School – with tremendous support from Communities in Schools coordinator Toriano Parker, Mr. Jonathan Hall, and Principal Maxwell.

October 2016

Career Symposium at BHS

Revamping the traditional “career day,” NGM/W hosts this event where professionals are arranged by high school subjects they utilize most in their day-to-day careers. Set as a recruitment event targeting 9th grade students, NGM/W attracts over 50 young men and women and 30+ professionals.

November 2016

NGM/W Welcomes New Advisory Board

With support growing from local professionals, NGM/W leadership creates a new 15-person Advisory Board to help guide and grow their efforts to support students across Atlanta.

February 2017

Networking Night

NGM/W students from every partner school come together to participate in a real and authentic Networking Night featuring 40+ professionals.

March 2017

Next Gen Games

Cohorts come together to compete in the first-ever Next Gen Games, an interscholastic competition featuring 5 individual events and 2 team events, challenging students to apply their talents with individual winners taking home $500 each and the winning team earning a free trip to Washington DC in July 2017. Congratulations to Creekside High School on taking home the crown!

The Next Gen Games were featured on WSB-TV – check out this recap video to see the students in action! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bgufp9qe15s

May 2017

Original NGM Students Graduate!

After 3 years of hard work and dedication, the first class of young men from NGM’s pilot program in 2015 walk at graduation. We could not be more proud!

June 2017

Khayree Womack Joins NGM/W as Program Coordinator

A graduate of the University of Idaho and former NGM/W intern and fellow, Khayree joins the NGM/W team heading into the 2017-18 school year as a Program Coordinator. His passion and energy (not to mention amazing sense of style) for serving our students ensures he will have tremendous success as the newest member of the team.


Ian Cohen

Phillip Olaleye

Executive Director

Phil grew up in Stone Mountain (GA) and previously was the Director of Performance Management at WorkSource Atlanta, served as a United States Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines and was a Sales and Trading Analyst with Citigroup in New York City. Phil earned his BA in Public Policy Studies from Duke University and Master in Public Policy from Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He's a LEAD Atlanta 2017 alum and passionate about closing the college and career readiness gap for underserved students.

Ben Sperling

Ben Sperling

Chief Operating Officer

Originally from New Haven, CT, Ben developed a passion for mentoring and education during his time at Emory University and jumped into teaching after receiving his Bachelor's degree in Psychology. As a high school math teacher, Ben spent two years at Carver School of the Arts in southeast Atlanta where he also served as a Boys Varsity Soccer coach. During his time at Carver, Ben helped to increase 10th Grade math scores by over 130% and helped the soccer team reach its best season in school history. It was at Carver where Ben realized the need that existed for programs aimed at exposing his students to the opportunities that existed after high school. He has since left the classroom in hopes of filling this need through Next Generation Men. Ben also sits on the Board of Directors for the new Hebrew Public school in Atlanta, an Advisory Board for the Atlanta BeltLine, and is on the Steering Committee for the Atlanta chapter of the American Jewish Committee. Growing up in CT, Ben roots for New York sports teams and has a passion for traveling and exploring new places.

Khayree Womack

Khayree Womack

Program Coordinator

Originally from California, Khayree is an alumnus of both the University of Idaho, where he played football, as well as North Carolina A&T University. With a BA in sociology and psychology he plans on using his knowledge, unwavering passion, drive and work ethic to affect great change for communities and youth throughout the country and the world.

Board of Directors

Chris Thomas

Chris Thomas

Consultant, Franchisee Selection – Chick-fil-A, Inc.

Chris Thomas serves as Franchisee Sourcing Consultant at the Chick-fil-A Inc. Corporate Headquarters. In this role, Chris is responsible for helping to select the best individuals to become operators of Chick-fil-A restaurants. Most recently Chris spent 8 years with General Electric in a number of strategic marketing, sales, and talent management roles. Chris received both his B.S in Management & International Business and MBA degrees from the Penn State University. Outside of work, Chris dedicates his time by serving as President of Penn State’s African American Alumni Organization – Atlanta Chapter, sits on the board of the Penn Smeal MBA Advisory Board, and works with youth via the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta and the Fast Start Program. In 2006, Chris was named Ebony magazine’s “30 Young Leaders Under 30.” He received both the Diversity and Alumni Achievement Awards from the Penn State Alumni Association, and was selected as one of The Network Journal’s “40 under Forty” in 2011. Chris lives in Atlanta with his wife Cherie and their son.

Rob Fortson

Robert Fortson

McGuireWoods LLP

A former Teach for America alumnus in the Baltimore City School System, Rob practices law with McGuireWoods LLP and serves as a vice president in McGuireWoods Consulting's state government relations group. With ample experience in education, his education practice focuses on advising schools on board governance, charter applications and renewals, FTE allotment and appropriations issues, employment disputes, IDEA compliance, and contract negotiations. He has also served in various roles in the federal, state, and local government, including stints at the US Department of Education and Georgia Municipal Association. He and his wife, Meaghan, reside in East Atlanta with their two sons.

Dina Bailey

Dina Bailey

CEO of Mountain Top Vision, LLC

Dina Bailey is the CEO of Mountain Top Vision, LLC, a consulting company that focuses on supporting change management within organizations in the areas of diversity, inclusion, and strategic planning in order to further audience engagement. Prior to becoming the CEO of this company, she was employed as the Director of Educational Strategies for the National Center for Civil and Human Rights and as the Director of Museum Experiences for the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. Ms. Bailey holds an undergraduate degree in Middle and Secondary Education, a graduate degree in Anthropology of Development and Social Transformation, and a graduate certification in Museum Studies. She has been published in both the formal education and museum fields. Dina is proud to be on the council of the American Association for State and Local History, the board of the Association of African American Museums, the board of the Next Generation Men, and the Issues Chair for the American Alliance of Museums EdCom. Dina can be reached at dina@mountaintopvisionllc.com and she tweets from @DinaABailey with a focus on human rights.

Brian Sadler

Brian Sadler

Co-founder & Managing Partner, Sagitarius Capital Partners, LLC

Brian is a private equity investor, business advisor and entrepreneur with 25+ years of private equity/venture capital, investment banking, M&A, corporate strategy, turnaround management, business start up and executive leadership experience with early-stage and middle market companies.  He has served as a director on both corporate and non-profit boards and has founded or co-founded several successful business ventures. He and his wife Karla’s civic interests focus mostly on “at-risk youth” programs including Georgia Center for Child Advocacy, KIPP Charter Schools, Teach for America and Boys & Girls Club. Brian currently serves on the Board and Executive Committee of the Society of International Business Fellows.

Samuel Wakefield

Samuel Wakefield

Strategy and Innovation Team, Governance and Flexibility Facilitator, Fulton County Schools

Samuel Wakefield III is a husband (to Samantha Wakefield) and proud father of three beautiful daughters (Riley, Olivia, and London). Professionally, Mr. Wakefield is currently an education policy maker responsible for facilitating charter system implementation for 30 schools in South Fulton. He is also a published author of a book on fatherhood, an avid blogger, and a social entrepreneur. Prior to his role as a charter system facilitator, he developed and implemented leadership programs for Teach For America and coached new teachers. Samuel began his career in education as an elementary teacher in Atlanta Public Schools where he led his students to significant academic and personal growth. As a result of his time in the classroom, he saw firsthand the systemic challenges facing educators and decided to pursue his Master’s in Public Policy. Over the years, Samuel has founded several movements including Families for Education, an initiative designed to build the capacity of families to achieve their educational goals and Dads for Ed, a support program for teen dads. His passion is helping others to discover and pursue theirs.

Leonte Benton

Leonte Benton

Principal, Vice President at T. Dallas Smith &Company

A graduate of Morehouse College, Leonte is a result and relationship oriented high energy commercial real estate broker, specializing in tenant representation leasing and acquisition services for local and national companies. Also a graduate of Creekside High School, Leonte maintains significant involvement in the community, having served on the boards for the Boys & Girls Club, Commerce Club, the leadership council for the Posse Foundation, and now the board of directors for Next Generation Men & Women.

Advisory Board

Andrew Siegel

Andrew Siegel

Director of Business Strategy and Operations at Hamilton Jewelers

Andrew Siegel is the Director of Business Strategy and Operations at Hamilton Jewelers, one of the world’s few family-owned, heritage fine jewelry brands. He is responsible for identifying growth opportunities and managing strategic initiatives across all areas of the organization. As the fourth generation of the Siegel family to join the company since its founding in 1912, Andrew looks to the experiences of his great-grandfather, grandfather, and father in how they maneuvered an organization through varying business climates, which has shaped his belief that success comes with the right amount of passion, determination, hard work, and support. Andrew currently lives in New York City, and when he's not in the office or in one of the Hamilton Jewelers stores, he enjoys eating his way through various cities and frustrating himself with the game of golf. Andrew holds Bachelor's Degrees in Economics and Political Science from Emory University.

Chris Walker

Chris Walker

Attorney at Greenberg Traurig

Christopher Walker is an attorney at Greenberg Traurig where he focuses his practice on general litigation, administrative and constitutional law, government affairs, media law and legal compliance and ethics. Christopher prioritizes service to his community and is an ardent supporter of education, the arts, public health and human rights. In addition to being a 2016 graduate of LEAD Atlanta, Christopher maintains active roles in several community organizations including LEAD Atlanta, the Black Jewish Coalition of the American Jewish Committee, VOX Teen Communications, United Way, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of America and the Georgia State Bar Association.

Daniel L. Stahl

Daniel L. Stahl, CPA

Assurance Manager

Daniel is an Assurance Manager at BDO USA, LLP the world’s 5th largest public accounting firm. He provides audit services to clients ranging from small and mid-size not-for- profit entities to large public SEC filers. He is a graduate from Emory University’s Goizueta Business School. Daniel is excited to use his skills and passion tohelp Next Generation Men & Women continue to fulfill its mission.

Elyse Klova

Elyse Klova

Elyse most recently served as Management and Strategy Director at the Center for Civic Innovation, and is currently learning to code through The Flatiron School's online program, Learn.co. Elyse brings experience in entrepreneurship, foundation fundraising, strategic planning, partnership development, and community organizing, all of which she uses to help organizations do their work better. Prior to her work at the Center for Civic Innovation, Elyse was Project Manager and Training Specialist at the Foundation Center. She also helped found Atlanta's Young Nonprofit Professionals Chapter, co-chaired Atlanta's +Acumen chapter, and served as a four-time evaluator for Fulton County Arts and Culture's Contracts for Services Panel. Elyse earned her B.A. in Economics and Religious Studies from the University of Virginia.

Hallie Udelson

Hallie Udelson


Advisory Focus: Program Research & Evaluation

Hallie Udelson is a recent graduate of Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health where she earned her MPH, majoring in Behavioral Sciences and Health Education and building upon her Bachelor's degree in Psychology. Hallie first became involved with the work of our organization through a partnership NGM has with Rollins that connected current MPH candidates with local organizations to perform community needs assessments. Hallie's background in program evaluation and research combined with her past experience working with NGM makes her an incredibly valuable addition to our advisory team.

Irina Khasin

Irina Khasin

Chief Senior District Attorney, Fulton County District Attorney’s Office

Irina Khasin is Director of the Human Trafficking Unit at the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office, where she has successfully tried more than 25 cases involving crimes against women and children as lead prosecutor. Prior to her work in public service, Irina was a litigation associate at Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP and served as a Law Clerk to The Honorable C. Lynwood Smith, Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Southern California and graduated from Vanderbilt Law School. Irina is active in Atlanta’s dance community and enjoys travel, music, and outdoor recreation.

Jasmine Cato

Jasmine Cato

Community Manager, WeWork Colony Square

Jasmine works at Points of Light in the Civic Incubator, which supports social entrepreneurs and early stage civic ventures around the world through programs such as the Civic Accelerator (CivicX). She is currently the Senior Program Coordinator for CivicX, the first national accelerator program and investment fund in the country focused on civic ventures. She manages all programmatic components, evaluation, and marketing initiatives. Previously Jasmine worked as a Trainer for The Posse Foundation, a college access and youth development program. A California native, she was raised in Oakland, CA and received her B.S. in Business Administration from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, CA.

Leia S

Leia Clement Shermohammed

Associate, King & Spaulding

Leia Clement Shermohammed is currently an associate in the finance and restructuring practice group at King & Spalding in Atlanta. She previously served as Law Clerk to the Honorable Mary Grace Diehl and the Honorable C. Ray Mullins, both of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Georgia. Leia grew up in Blue Ridge, Georgia and earned a B.A. in Economics from Emory University in 2011 and a J.D. from Emory University School of Law in 2015. She is an active member of numerous organizations in the Atlanta community, including United Way, Nicholas House, the International Women's Insolvency and Restructuring Confederation, and the Emory University Bankruptcy Developments Journal Advisory Committee.

Michael Kidd

Michael Kidd

Senior Director, Sales - Videa LLC

Michael Kidd grew up in Kentucky and studied communications at Eastern Kentucky University. He has worked in both advertising and programming sales with broadcast television stations since getting out of college. He is passionate about young people believing in themselves and developing the necessary skills to be successful, no matter where they come from. Currently, Michael works for Videa, a software company funded by Cox Media Group, and resides in Decatur with his wife, two children, and two dogs.

Monica Evans

Monica Evans

Coach & Facilitator - Hired, Paid and Fulfilled

Monica Evans is a coach and facilitator helping individuals and teams do meaningful and productive work through her program Hired, Paid and Fulfilled. Monica serves on a variety of education and women's services non-profits. You can learn more about her and her work at monicarolevans.com

Rob Schuler

Rob Schuler

Senior Director of Strategic Technologies at Cox Communications, Inc

Rob Schuler is currently Senior Director of Strategic Technologies at Cox Communications, Inc. He  has strong civic interests and has been involved with several non-profit organizations and currently serves on the Corporate Leadership Council at the Fernbank Museum of Natural History and was previously on the Atlanta Track Club Board of Directors. This service has given him extensive experience in helping non-profits seek the resources necessary to evolve and advance their mission.

Octavia Gilmore

Octavia Gilmore

Founder and Chief Creative Officer at Creative Juice

Octavia J Gilmore is the Founder and Chief Creative Officer at Creative Juice, an award-winning creative agency. Originally from New Jersey, Gilmore was first introduced to graphic design at the young age of 14, where she knew one day she would start her own agency. Gilmore is very passionate about giving back and understands the importance of investing in today's youth.

Exposure Trip Partners

These partner organizations host trips for our students to experience potential career paths firsthand.


Entering their second year as an NGM/W partner, Displayit makes it easy for companies and organizations to display their brands at events, trade shows, etc. Now a Gold Level sponsor for NGM/W, Displayit also generously donated NGM/W's banner, table cover, and standing signage in-kind - and it looks great!


One of Atlanta's top 15 "fastest growing companies," Karna provides healthcare consulting services to the government. Led by their Founder/CEO Ambica Yadav, they were eager and excited to become a new Bronze Level partner with NGM/W for the 2017-18 school year.

T. Dallas Smith & Company

Partnering with NGM/W this year as a Bronze Level sponsor, T. Dallas Smith & Company is a successful commercial real estate firm that also aims to bring in more people of color and women into the real estate industry. In addition to a generous contribution, T. Dallas Smith & Co. have also hosted exposure trips for our students to their downtown offices.


Icebox is one of the premiere apparel and promotional product companies here in Atlanta and we are proud to partner with them as a Bronze Level sponsor this year. Icebox provides NGM/W with all of the apparel for our students and their parents - they are tremendously easy to work with and deliver great results.

Krevolin Horst LLC

Partnering with NGM/W this year as a Bronze Level sponsor, Krevolin Horst LLC is a law firm with a wide-ranging expertise that includes corporate, litigation, real estate, and education law to name a few. We are excited to add them into the fold this year!


Videa is a software company funded by Cox Media Group to simplify the buying and selling of TV advertising. Their aim is to provide sales people with tools to enhance the process and alleviate a lot of the manual processes that have been done for a long time. The idea is to have sales people out selling, not tied to the desk churning out e-mails, doing paperwork, and putting posts together. By automating some parts of the process and starting to use data to help estimate ratings and give pricing suggestions, inventory will become more valuable allowing for higher rates and more revenue.


We are excited to add the MSL group as our newest exposure partner - a global public relations and communications company, MSL will provide our students with great exposure to PR, communications, and digital marketing.
Seyfarth Shaw Logo

Seyfarth Shaw LLP

One of Atlanta’s pre-eminent law firms, Seyfarth Shaw opens its doors for our students to give them a real picture of what the legal field is like in addition to showing off their beautiful office space.
Emory Logo

Emory University

The alma mater of two of our co-founders, Emory partners with NGM and the on-campus “Student Shadows” organization to provide NGM students with a 1-on-1 shadowing experience with a current Emory undergraduate. This day-long trip takes high school students inside college classes and around campus to give them an authentic taste of the college experience.
Streamline Health Logo

Streamline Health

A healthcare IT company, Streamline Health hosts trips for NGM students to give them a different look at the healthcare industry and introducing them to the ever-growing field of information technology. Additionally, professionals work with students through simulations around choosing health insurance coverage and understanding the complexities of running a healthcare system.
Turner Studios Logo

Turner Studios

One of NGM’s first exposure trip partners, Turner Studios and Inside the NBA continue to host tours for NGM students, giving them an inside look at television production and laying out the dozens of careers that go into even one television show on the network.
Kyle Pease Foundation

The Kyle Pease Foundation

NGM had the privilege to volunteer with the Kyle Pease Foundation at Camp Wheel-a-Way, providing individuals with cerebral palsy the opportunity to experience athletics like never before. Our students had an amazing time supporting the Pease Foundation athletes and look forward to doing it again next year.
Books For Africa Logo
Probono ATl
Atlanta Food Bank Logo

NGM Champions

Our funding partners and participating school disctricts

United Way Logo
Teach For American Logo
Philos Project Logo
The Kendeda Fund Logo
Janus Associates Logo
Castlight Health Logo
The Sartain Lanier Family Foundation, Inc.
Pacific Resources Logo
The Shadowboxers
ATO Letters
Atlanta Public Schools Logo
Fulton County Schools
DM Therrell HS
Feldwood School
Benjamin Banneker HS
Philanthropitch Logo
Sage Foundation Logo

Matching Partners

Our funding partners who have matched our donors

McDonalds Logo
Goldman Sachs Logo
GE Foundation logo
AON logo
Madison Capital Logo