About CARA Programs
CARA works with schools, community based organizations, and universities that serve predominantly first-generation-to-college students, helping them to address the obstacles their students face in realizing their college aspirations. CARA does this through using principles of both school reform and youth leadership.
CARA uses several of the following strategies in each of its programs:
- Deepening staff members’ understanding of college access and success for first-generation-to-college students;
- Assessing existing college access programming in order to build upon its strengths and address its weaknesses;
- Understanding the structures and practices specific to an organization or school in order to facilitate change;
- Positioning students – both high school and college – to guide their peers through the post-secondary planning process;
- Integrating inquiry-driven post-secondary planning curriculum.
School Reform for College Access
There is a growing consensus in the educational community that high schools need to build their college-going culture and better support their students in the post-secondary planning process. Specifically, this means that in order to provide authentic college opportunities for all of their students, they need to build opportunities for students to learn about and complete the college search, application and transition process into their structures and practices.
CARA’s work is rooted in current research on issues of access to higher education for first generation college-going students, as well as in years of work with these students inside high schools across New York City. We work with schools and support organizations to develop 9-12 or 6-12 school-based, inquiry-driven college access programming. We believe that in order to meet students’ post-secondary planning needs, teachers, counselors and administrators have to develop shared understandings about college access work and use school structures strategically to embed post-secondary exploration throughout students’ high school years.
Youth Leadership for College Access
CARA’s vision of youth leadership lies at the intersection of youth development and youth organizing. Youth Leaders develop the skills that are the target of good youth development programs: listening, critical thinking, planning, public speaking, meeting facilitation, working as a team, self-advocacy and perseverance. CARA’s youth leadership programming takes this work one step farther by coupling this training with the content knowledge needed to guide students through the post-secondary planning process. Youth Leaders are able not only to improve their own educational and social outcomes, but to make college access possible for a wider circle of students and to increase youth voice and authority within their schools.
CARA works with schools and community-based organizations to integrate youth leadership into their college access programming. It does this by training high school students to support their peers through the college exploration, college application, and financial aid processes and by helping schools and community based organizations (CBOs) to develop the structures needed to support Youth Leaders. It also trains college students to support graduating seniors to matriculate into college. CARA’s Youth Leader trainings are done in partnership with Goddard Riverside’s Options Institute.
- Bridge to College: A collaboration with CUNY At Home in College and The Urban Assembly that trains alumni of participating high schools to support graduates between high school graduation and college enrollment.
- College Inquiry: Direct coaching to schools and community-based organizations to further develop college access programming.
- Youth Leadership for College Access: Training of Youth Leaders around issues of college access; coaching to schools/community-based organizations to integrate Youth Leaders into college access programming; and development of community across sites using youth leadership for college access.