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.


Ariela Friedman – Director of Right to College

Ariela has more than 10 years combined experience in youth development and education policy.   Prior to working with CARA Ariela was the Producer for and a Project Coordinator for Graduate NYC!.  Before that,  Ariela was a Career Advancement Coach at The Door, where she provided one-on-one support services and work readiness training to young people ages 17-24. While working at The Door, Ariela also served as team leader for a the restorative justice team and as a union delegate. Previously, Ariela worked in both high school and k-8 settings facilitating anti-violence and personal development groups.

Originally from Queens, Ariela attended New York City public schools. After moving to Atlanta, Georgia she began her higher education journey at a community college. She went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree from Georgia State University, and holds a Masters degree in Education from Harvard Graduate School of Education.


Shaquinah Taylor Wright  Director of College Bridge        

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 comes to CARA from Academic Journeys in Short Hills, New Jersey where she was a private college counselor. She previously served low-income students and their families as an English teacher 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.


Shalema Henderson –  Assistant Director of Youth Initiatives  

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 –  Research Associate 

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 FineResearch 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.


Alexandra Freidus – College Inquiry Coach

Alexandra Freidus is the former Director of Teacher Leadership Development at Achievement First, where she led professional development initiatives focused on teacher coaching and adult learning communities.   Prior to her move to New York, Alex taught Social Studies and English at Berkeley High School as part of a small learning community focused on first-generation college-bound students. During her time in the Bay Area, Alex also led professional development for teachers in K-12 schools and directed bilingual arts and literacy programs for Children’s Book Press.  When she’s not working directly with schools, Alex is studying urban education as a doctoral student at NYU.  Her research interests include racially and economically diverse schools and classrooms and the impact of policy initiatives on teacher practice.

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Nina Mauceri College Inquiry Coach

Nina  is a consultant,  CUNY instructor, and a doctoral candidate at New York University, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development, department of Teaching and Learning: Urban Education.  Her research interests include LGBTQ adolescents and schooling, teacher preparation, and the myriad ways intersections of race, class, gender identity and sexuality play out in the schooling of young people. Prior to joining the team at CARA, Nina spent thirteen years working with New York City Department of Education as an assistant principal, literacy specialist and teacher. Nina has a BA in English and American Literature from New York University, an MA in Early Childhood and Elementary Education and a certificate in Administration and Supervision from Bank Street College of education.


Darlene Laboy – College Bridge Intern

Darlene is a senior at CUNY Hunter College. She is majoring in Anthropology and is determined to become a high school math teacher. Hopefully she can teach at her alum high school Brooklyn Collaborative. For more than a year Darlene has been working with her High School’s College Counselor as a College Coach and this August has also taken on the position of intern at CARA. Her hobbies include playing fetch with her cat and reading hardcover fantasy books in the moonlight.


Humzah Butt – Strive for Success Intern 

Humzah is a junior at CUNY New York City College of Technology where he is majoring in Liberal Arts and Science. Humzah was a Student Success Leader in the Strive 4 Success Program last year at City Tech and he is planning on transferring to Baruch College in Fall 2017 to graduate with a Finance Degree. In the future, Humzah wants to go to third-world countries and build schools for children who can’t get an education due to financial problems.





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