News from CARA

The latest news and updates from CARA.

New CARA report: Supporting post-secondary access for adolescent immigrant students

This month CARA released our newest report, “Obstacles & Opportunities: Supporting College & Career Access for Adolescent Immigrant Students.

Students who immigrate to the United States as adolescents face a daunting set of challenges on their post-secondary paths. Moving at an age so close to the end of high school, they must race against time to learn English, adapt to a new culture, and prepare for the future. For this reason–and because most schools are not well-equipped to support them–adolescent immigrant students are much less likely to enroll in college than U.S.-born students or other students who immigrate at a younger age. This problem has only gotten worse during the pandemic, which has hit immigrant communities especially hard.

In this new report, CARA draws on two dozen interviews with counselors, school leaders, and students to understand the obstacles adolescent immigrant students encounter on their post-secondary paths and the opportunities schools have to better support them. These obstacles and opportunities include:

  1. Learning Language While Learning the Landscape
  2. Making the Process Family Focused
  3. Addressing Systemic Barriers for Undocumented Students
  4. Individualized Advising for Individual Pathways

For each of these themes, the report provides practical recommendations for counselors and teachers working with individual students, as well as school-wide structures leaders can establish to help adolescent immigrant students achieve the college and career success they deserve.

Read the report →

Recent News from CARA


  • Looking forward in light of disappointing court decisions

    CARA is deeply disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decisions at the end of June to end race-conscious admissions in higher education admissions and to block President Biden’s student debt relief plan. We know that these decisions will hurt many of the students we serve and will have a negative impact on racial and economic justice in higher education writ large.

    As we think about how to move forward, we find solace and strength in the continued commitment and sense of purpose among our fellow educators, and we are committed to continue to advocate for both policies and practices that will make higher education more accessible for Black and Latinx students and more affordable for all. This includes removing the many other obstacles facing the students we serve, many of whom are struggling simply to be able to continue their education beyond high school, as this article in the New York Times notes.

    As the practical consequences of these decisions for students and educators become more clear in the months ahead, CARA will mobilize our program and policy research resources to help concretely create the access to postsecondary education needed by all.

  • An Innovative Approach to Bridging the High School to Postsecondary Crossing

    CARA is excited to be partnering, for a second summer, with CUNY’s School for Professional Studies, Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP), and several community-based organizations on an innovative program that brings together career development and college preparation.

    With generous funding from The Pinkerton and Aronson Foundations, starting in July, over 85 rising CUNY freshmen working in youth-serving jobs will also be taking a course through SPS entitled Introduction to Positive Youth Development and College and Career Exploration. Through the course, students will explore career options in the field of youth development, while learning the fundamentals of socio-emotional and healing centered approaches to working with youth. As part of the course, current college students, trained by CARA and working in partnership with course instructors, will facilitate workshops on the CUNY landscape.

    These 85 students, the vast majority of whom identify as first-gen, will head off to college with credits that can be applied to their undergraduate degrees, a nuanced understanding of the connections between academic learning and career pathways, professional skills, and a toolkit to navigate their new college environment.

    “This powerful combination of employment experience in high-quality, youth-serving organizations with coursework and peer college success coaching promises to give young people a strong start to their college journey. We got incredible results in relation to avoiding summer melt in our pilot last year and we are excited to see what this summer brings.”

    -Sarah Zeller-Berkman, Director of Youth Studies Programs at CUNY SPS

  • CARA’s Director of Right to College: A Trailblazer in the Field of College Access

    We are so proud to announce that Maureen Watkins, CARA’s Director of Right to College, was honored by the Student Success Network (SSN) with a Trailblazer award. Maureen was recognized for the critical work she has done, both at CARA and within the field, to advance culturally responsive student pathways, support student and staff mental health, strengthen career development programming, and create authentic youth-adult partnerships.

    “Maureen has been an active contributor to our collaborative work over the past several years, but more importantly, she has exemplified what it looks like to put a transformative SEL approach into practice in the context of postsecondary pathways.”

    -Lucy Herz, CEO Student Success Network

  • CARA Youth Leader wins Meringoff Valedictory Prize

    For the last eight years, the Meringoff Family Foundation has sponsored the Meringoff Valedictory Prize (MVP), a scholarship competition for college-bound high school seniors. The competition is open to all of their grantee partners who work with high school seniors in any capacity; the foundation awards eight $2,500 scholarships to the winning entrants.

    CARA is proud to announce that for a second time, one of our Youth Leaders has received this scholarship. Lissaura Cabral, who attends the Academy for Excellence in Leadership on the Bushwick Campus and is a Youth Leader with Make the Road NY, wrote one of the winning essay entries. In it, she wrote:

    My experience with CARA can only be described with one word: beautiful. There is something so special about being able to help others find their potential and help them learn to never settle. The people in my community, in my family, in my school need to be pushed outside of the bubble that they trap themselves in and sometimes all it takes is for one person to hand them a needle to pop it. I am so grateful that I was able to be that person for so many of my peers, seeing the relief once the weight of applications left their shoulders, the way their eyes would brighten when they would speak about being accepted.

    In the fall, Lissaura will be attending Macaulay Honors College at City College. Thank you to the Meringoff Family Foundation for offering this wonderful opportunity for our Youth Leaders, and congratulations to Lissaura!


  • Strategic Planning for CARA’s Future

    Utilizing the funding we received from MacKenzie Scott, CARA spent the winter season undertaking a strategic planning process with support from Bellwether Education Partners. Bellwether partnered with a small steering committee that included CARA’s co-directors and two program directors – and also met multiple times with the full staff team – to design a plan that will guide CARA for the next three years. We honed in on a set of five priorities that will guide our work:

    As we expand both the geographies in which we work, and our research and policy writing, we are excited to increase our ability to impact not just young people and the institutions they attend, but the larger systems that they function within. Our small but mighty team is excited for the growth ahead.

  • CARA travels to Chicago to present at AERA

    CARA was originally slated to travel to San Francisco to present research at the annual conference of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) in April of 2020. Three very long years later, we finally made it!

    The conference took place this year in Chicago, and Leigh McCallen (director of research and evaluation) and Neshat Yazdani (research and evaluation associate), presented on “Near-Peers as Institutional Agents of Postsecondary Access”. It was great to be part of a panel of researchers similarly interested in educational access and community based-work.

    The conference was also a wonderful opportunity to connect with Chicago-area colleagues at the Partnership for College Completion and the To&Through Project at the University of Chicago, and learn more about both the differences and similarities in this work in other large US cities.

  • Supporting Students: Career Pathway Panel

    Leveraging an increased interest across the city, Right to College hosted a Career Pathway panel for Youth Leaders this past month. What made it unique was that Youth Leaders took the lead in shaping it. At their direction, we sought panelists who represented an array of pathways and convened a panel of 6 professionals from different walks of life. They included current and past students at Queens College, Brown, Howard, Harvard, and Lafayette College, and worked in a diverse group of career fields, including education, economics, fine arts, financial services, psychology, law and business.

    Youth Leaders asked questions from ‘What was college like for you?’ to ‘What is daily life like in your profession?’ to ‘How does your current pathway relate to what you wanted to do as a teen?’ The panelists responded with honesty and vulnerability. As they gear up to support their peers through decision making (and as many of them undergo that process for themselves), Youth Leaders now better understand that post-secondary pathways aren’t linear, that they can change anytime, and that they may even be surprising.

  • Connecting the dots to support college & career pathways

    Over the past year, the NYC Department of Education has made significant investments in career education, launching two new programs to provide high school students with paid work-based learning experiences. According to a recent Chalkbeat article, the city will be expanding this work even further next year, moving towards what Chalkbeat wrote may become “one of the largest undertakings ever in the history of career and technical education.” As the article noted, there are significant challenges associated with embedding this work in high schools across the city.

    Last month, CARA held our third Building Career Pathways in Schools summit, which gave us new insight into these issues. In addition to our nine participating high schools and our co-hosts (JobsFirstNYC and Shared Lane), we were joined by local workforce training providers–Cypress Hills Local Development CorporationThe Knowledge House, and Green City Force. Bringing these diverse stakeholders together provided a unique look into the promises and challenges involved in this effort to build career pathways into the structures of high school. In particular, two key areas in need of alignment stood out:

    Aligning curriculum: as schools work to add more career exploration to their curriculum, school staff spoke about the importance of making sure all students are able to benefit from it. They worried that, for scheduling reasons, students who need to repeat classes may be unable to participate in career-connected learning activities, despite strong interest in these experiences on their part. Schools also spoke about making sure the work throughout high school is about college AND career, not college OR career, as many students’ interests change over time and opportunities shouldn’t be foreclosed prematurely.

    Aligning ecosystems: we heard excitement about the rapid growth of work-based learning opportunities in NYC, but also heard that some of these opportunities end up being reserved for students with the highest GPAs – who are likely headed to college. This potentially means that students most interested in going directly to workforce programs are unable to access critical opportunities on the path to a family-sustaining career. Another critical point of misalignment–as pointed out in a recent op-ed by one of our summit participants, MESA Charter High School–is that many of the city’s workforce training programs for unemployed youth are under-enrolled, in part because those organizations are currently not well connected with high schools.

    As we begin to think towards our work next year, we look forward to continuing to work alongside our partners at New York City Public Schools and in the workforce development field to help create these alignments so that as this ecosystem expands, those with the greatest need are also getting the most support.

  • Building Social Capital: The Far Reach of Near Peers

    CARA’s peer leadership model is centrally featured in a new “Smart Brief” by the director of education research at the Clayton Christensen Institute. As part of their work on building social capital, the Christensen Institute has done a range of research on the power of near-peer networks. As noted in the article,

    In a recent Search Institute study of programs helping students from low-income households secure upwardly-mobile jobs, near peers emerged as the strongest developmental relationship (compared with direct peers and program staff). They provided program participants with the most resources, such as valuable information, connections to employers and professional skills.

    Along with building social capital, the article highlights the ways a peer leadership model is a financially effective way to expand schools’ counseling capacity.

    Read Blog Post →
  • Making Transfer Students Visible: Inside Higher Ed Blog Post

    This fall, CARA had the opportunity to introduce our peer-to-peer model for supporting transfer students to an audience of CUNY researchers and leaders as part of a virtual convening hosted by A2B (Associate’s to Bachelor’s Degree Transfer). Shalema Henderson, Director of College Allies, presented alongside campus partners from the Queens College Advising Department, Laura Silverman and Caitlin Wilson.

    We are excited that our blog post about how peer-to-peer advisors “render visible transfer students and the institutional supports that exist to help them” has been published in the Inside Higher Ed “Beyond Transfer” series.

    Read Blog Post →