About College Access: Research & Action (CARA)

CARA’s mission is to ensure that first-generation college students, low-income students, and students of color have the knowledge and support necessary to enroll in and persist through college.

Who We Are

CARA’s work confronts the gap in post-secondary guidance faced by first-generation college students in New York City.

While New York City public high school students need opportunities to learn about college and career pathways, most of the city’s public high schools and institutions of higher education are not structured to provide this assistance. CARA’s programs, research, and policy work address these inequities. We work with high schools, community-based organizations, and higher education institutions to craft a tailored mix of programs to meet their students’ needs.

What We Do

  • College Inquiry, CARA’s whole school model, works intensively with schools for 3-4 years, helping them to build their college-going infrastructure and culture.

    College Inquiry embeds post-secondary exploration in students’ regularly scheduled day throughout their high school years. It provides:

    1. Targeted staff coaching and professional development on the post-secondary landscape and stumbling blocks for first-generation college students
    2. Support for college office best practices
    3. Sequenced 9th-12th grade field-tested curriculum for post-secondary exploration
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  • CARA’s peer-led college access and persistence programs - Right to College, College Bridge, and College Allies - help first-generation college students in New York City define and realize their post-secondary aspirations with support from their peers, from application through persistence.

    Peer Leaders are carefully selected and rigorously trained high school and college students who work within their own schools and communities. They work along various points in the post-secondary access and persistence process, providing one-on-one counseling and group support to help their peers matriculate into and persist through higher education. CARA’s Peer-to-Peer model offers: 70+ hours of peer training; professional development to Peer Leader supervisors; and model development support to leadership.

    CARA’s Peer-to-Peer programs include:
    • Right to College: Trains and positions high school students to support their peers through the post-secondary planning process.
    • College Bridge: Trains and positions college students to work in their alumni high schools assisting seniors’ application and matriculation process.
    • College Allies: Trains and positions college students to support their peers in college through the obstacles to persistence.
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  • CARA conducts research on issues of college access and success and disseminates its findings in a range of formats to inform practitioners, policy makers and the research community.

    Through collaborations with the NYC Department of Education, CUNY, policy groups, and community-based organizations across NYC, CARA leverages its best practices and scales its program models.

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  • CARA has partnered with FMYI to develop a student-focused tracking tool that organizes all of the steps students need to complete from application to enrollment.

    Enroll NYC allows college offices to keep track of the multiple tasks that each student must complete in order to successfully enroll in college. This type of individual tracking is an essential function of college counseling for first-generation college students. Taken in aggregate, tracking this extensive set of metrics across our schools and programs allows us to dig deeper into understanding key benchmarks that may lead to increased rates of postsecondary enrollment. CARA then shares these findings with our school and community partners, as well as with the wider community in NYC and beyond.

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Our Organizational Values

  1. Strive for Equity & Justice

    We approach both programming and research as tools to achieve greater equity and social justice.

  2. Research < — > Action

    We undertake research to inform our practice, and leverage practice to inform research and policy, in all of our work.

  3. Build Institutional Capacity

    We recognize the complex culture of schools and organizations, and tailor our work accordingly in order to create lasting institutional change.

  1. Empower Youth

    We train and position young people to be a powerful force in their schools and communities, and in the wider world.

  2. Serve All Students, Explore All Pathways

    We help schools to support all students in making informed post-secondary plans, and to understand the entire range of options for life after high school.