Janice Bloom, PhD – Co-Director

Janice has been involved in urban school reform in New York City for the past twenty years as a teacher, staff developer, researcher and professor of educational studies. After starting her career as a teacher at Central Park East Secondary School, one of New York City’s early small public high schools, she earned a Ph.D. in Urban Education from the CUNY Graduate Center. She was an assistant professor at Eugene Lang College/The New School and has been a teacher-mentor and school design coach with organizations such as New Visions for Public Schools and the Institute for Student Achievement (ISA), where she has helped to design classrooms and schools, and nurture educators, for inquiry-based teaching and learning. Her research and writing has focused on the transition of small school students to higher education; from 2008-2011, she co-created and co-directed ISA’s College Inquiry and College Knowledge programs, before helping to found CARA in 2011.

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Lori Chajet, PhD – Co-Director

Lori’s career in education began at Brown University, where Ted Sizer first challenged her to understand and remedy the problems of schooling in America. After Brown, Lori got a Masters in Teaching at Columbia’s Teachers College and spent 6 years teaching 11th and 12th graders at East Side Community High School, a small public middle/high school on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. She left the classroom to pursue a doctorate in Urban Education at the CUNY Graduate Center, focusing her research on the college experiences of small school graduates. Upon leaving teaching, Lori continued to work with new small schools as a staff developer and eventually began to combine her understanding of school change and college access to create programs to better meet the needs of first-generation college-bound students. Prior to becoming a co-founder and co-director of CARA, Lori did this as Acting Director of The Institute of Urban Education at Eugene Lang College/The New School and as Co-Director for the Institute for Student Achievement’s College Inquiry and College Knowledge projects.

Rebecca Kruge – Director of Right to College

Rebecca is a graduate of Fordham University with  a degree in counseling and personnel services. She is an experienced college counselor whose passion and focus of her work is college access. In her early career years she worked as a high school college counselor where she gained an in-depth knowledge of the college process and working with students through this exciting and stressful time in their lives. She also integrates her time spent as an admissions counselor to help inform students and give a unique perspective to guiding students.

Most recently Rebecca transitioned into the non-profit sector with East Side House Settlement where she worked to create and implement the Student Success Center at Lehman Educational Campus in the Bronx while working closely with CARA to develop a team of twelve Youth Leaders. Rebecca takes her knowledge of the college process and her experience in program development to help create strong Student Success Centers and lasting partnerships with the new sites.


Shaquinah Taylor Wright  Director of College Bridge & Enroll NYC 

Shaquinah has several years’ experience in the fields of postsecondary counseling, program design, and curriculum development. She most recently served as the Mid-Atlantic Director for College Access at Let’s Get Ready, an education nonprofit that trains college students to assist high school students with test prep and college admissions. Before this, she was the founding college counselor at a high school in the Bronx where she disseminated data surrounding college readiness, academic performance and best practices in college access counseling for staff and other stakeholders. She is also an adjunct instructor in the Clinical and Counseling Department at Teachers College, Columbia University. Shaquinah received her BA from Cornell University and her masters in Counseling Psychology from Teachers College.


 Sonia Szymanski – Director of College Inquiry Programming

Sonia has served low-income and 1st generation college students for the past 11 years in Philadelphia and New York as a Guidance Counselor and more consistently as a Director of College Counseling.  She earned her BA in Sociology at Hofstra University and an MS in Education for Professional Counseling at the University of Pennsylvania.  Her experience in education includes working for the College Bound Initiative, a Young Women’s Leadership School in Philadelphia and KIPP Philadelphia.  Sonia is most passionate about creating unique and competitive college placement options and supporting the counselors, educators and schools working on the front line to prepare underrepresented students for viable post-secondary options.


 Allyson Hurder Levy – Director of College Inquiry Programming 

Ally has guided many families through the college application process as a private college counselor in New Jersey and is thrilled to use that knowledge at CARA to help level the playing field for first-generation-to-college students. She previously served New York City students for ten years as an English teacher, Dean, and Literacy Coach at several small public schools in Brownsville and the Bronx. Prior to teaching, Ally was a Development Associate for the education nonprofit Facing History and Ourselves and a volunteer for Citizen Schools. She is a proud graduate of Trinity College (BA in English and Women’s Studies), City College New York (MA in Secondary English Education), and the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts Leadership Academy (SBL certification).


Shalema Henderson –  Director of College Allies 

Shalema Henderson has 10+ years youth development experience working in non-profit educational programs. She most recently worked at Henry Street Settlement as a Middle School Program Coordinator where she designed and piloted just one of two Middle School Success Center programs in the city utilizing CARA’s Youth Leadership model. Shalema also held several positions at Harlem Children’s Zone including Senior Student Advocate, and College Manager for the College Bound Program. Born and raised in NYC, Shalema is most passionate about providing awareness and access to educational opportunities for young people. She holds her BA in Sociology from The City College of New York.


Leigh McCallen, PhD –  Assistant Director of Research and Evaluation 

Leigh joins CARA with over 7 years’ experience working with City University of New York students as a researcher and educator. She led the design and evaluation of a transfer student development initiative as a research associate with the Center for Teaching and Learning at Queens College, and has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in psychology, education, and sociology at several CUNY campuses. Leigh holds a BA in Psychology from Vassar College and a PhD in Educational Psychology from the CUNY Graduate Center, where her research examined the educational experiences and outcomes of low-income and first in family to attend college students at CUNY. Most recently, Leigh was a research analyst at CUNY Institutional Research and Assessment.


Michelle Fine, PhDResearch Advisor

Michelle Fine is a Distinguished Professor of Psychology, Urban Education and Women’s Studies at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and Chair of Social/Personality Psychology program. Her recent awards include the 2011 Kurt Lewin Award from the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, the 2010 Higher Education and Criminal Justice Award from the College and Community Fellowship, the 2008 Social Justice Award from the Cross Cultural Roundtable at Teachers College, Columbia University, the 2005 First Morton Deutsch Social Justice Scholar Award from Columbia University, and the 2001 Carolyn Sherif Award from APA.

Crystal Diaz – College Bridge Intern

Crystal is currently a junior at CUNY Queens College. She is majoring in psychology with a concentration in educational counseling. Crystal was both a Youth Leader and College Bridge Coach at The High School of Fashion Industries, where she guided seniors in their post-secondary plans. Crystal has also assisted as a research assistant at The City College of New York, bringing Colon cancer awareness in Harlem, mainly in areas of low SES backgrounds. Crystal is very passionate about helping to bridge the gap between higher learning resources and public high school students.

Afridah Rahman  – Right to College Intern 

Afridah is a rising sophomore at CUNY Hunter College. She is planning on majoring in Accounting. Afridah was a Youth Leader at Dewitt Clinton High School’s Student Success Center where she aided her peers with the college process. She is also a former council member at the CORO New York Leadership Center where she advised the mayor’s office on justice-related issues, including policy recommendations to reduce recidivism in youth.





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