The latest news and updates from CARA.
Recent News from CARA
Along with the rest of the country, over the past weeks we have been watching the unfolding college admissions scandal and the national re-examination it has pushed in relation to assumptions about equity in college access.
As we pondered how to chime in – while confronting daily the ways the inequities play out for the young people and schools CARA serves – the perfect response arrived from a CARA-trained Peer Leader from our Right to College program on the opinion pages of the New York Times. As we believe is so often the case, young people are positioned to do this better than we could have ourselves.
If you haven’t already, please take a moment to read Enoch Jemmott’s NY Times Op-Ed “The Implicit Punishment of Daring to Go to College When Poor.” It illustrates the structural inequalities built into our system of secondary and higher education, and highlights the importance of further spreading the work of Enoch and the 200+ Peer Leaders that CARA trains annually. Young people are a crucial ingredient in changing the odds for first-generation college students, low income students and students of color. We feel so privileged to work alongside powerful young people like Enoch.
Afridah Rahman began working with CARA as a teenage Youth Leader at her high school, Dewitt Clinton. Now a junior at Hunter College, she works as an intern for Right to College – the same CARA program she participated in over three years ago. Here’s what she has to say about her experience and the importance of youth leadership.
“My first day of summer institute [CARA’s Youth Leader training program] was the day I learned it wasn’t a regular job, but about creating change… It’s not just helping your own school, but also creating change in the expectations and assumptions of students from low-income backgrounds.
“I once noticed a student come into the office. He was a bit shy. Our policy [was] if they’re sitting there, ask them ‘Have you started the CUNY application?’
He was silent at first, but he [started to] feel like he could open up to me. He shared that his mother [was] a waitress, and he didn’t think college… was a possibility for him.
My response to him was, ‘I might be a Youth Leader, but I’m in the same exact place as you. I didn’t think I could afford college… but then I started at CARA and learned about [my options]. The next day he came in and with the little information I had, I helped him apply. He did eventually attend a CUNY.
“We really need CARA! [Youth Leaders] get frustrated when they realize how difficult it is for first-generation students. I tell them, ‘That’s why you’re here to do this. You are social justice warriors. Taking your summer to learn; getting emotional and excited… this is what’s going to make a difference.’”
Last spring, a group of second- and third-year College Bridge coaches teamed up with CARA to start a participatory action research (PAR) project. In this process, coaches look at issues impacting their work, select a focus area and gather relevant data, and figure out how to use these learnings in their communities and beyond.
Based on the challenges coaches witness firsthand in their work with students and in their college communities, the group chose to focus on the issues facing undocumented students in NYC public schools and colleges. They have been working on this for the past year; their next step is creating a “toolkit” of resources to help undocumented students and their families make informed post-secondary choices.
“As coaches we may struggle to find the right answers when supporting our students with undocumented or DACAmented status. As a team we believed that now was the perfect time to create a project that’s aimed at improving accessibility for undocumented youth, especially given the political climate”
-Ismail Hasaballa, Hunter College and Coach at Academy for Careers in Television & Film
The toolkit work is taking place thanks to a grant from the Solon E. Summerfield Foundation, and will be shared with their schools and on CARA’s website. Given the January passage of the NY State Dream Act, which gives undocumented students access to state aid for higher education and begins to addresses other financial barriers, the need for this work is timely and urgent.
An important aspect of CARA’s approach is to share best practices in the fields of college access and success: we’re excited to see our work represented across a range of contexts, from the release of the new Degrees NYC Blueprint (which various CARA staff contributed to) to Outward Bound’s blog on CARA-trained Peer Leaders (2nd installment here) to a recent screening of “Personal Statement” hosted at Harvard by CARA Advisory Board member Mandy Savitz-Romer.
A big thank you to Reviv’n for donating a set of Chromebooks to support CARA’s Peer Leader trainings!
Notes from the Field
“Thank you for another purposeful day! I have worked with many partners over the years and often the check-ins and coaching days end up feeling like a compliance piece and not impactful and supportive. Every visit you have made to PRHS has been valuable and time well spent.”
Assistant Principal at Port Richmond High School
In late November, CARA’s Right to College program partnered with the Office of Postsecondary Readiness, engaging Youth Leaders to participate in Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher campaign. The Youth Leaders had one week to register as many seniors as possible for the Better Make Room “UPNEXT” text campaign, which texts seniors about important deadlines in the college process.
Together, Youth Leaders from Flushing International High School, Mott Haven Campus, ELLIS High School, High School for Fashion Industries, Queens Language High School, and the Thomas Jefferson Campus registered 492 seniors for the campaign.
As a thank you, Michelle Obama’s press team gifted tickets to see her speaking about her new book, “Becoming” at the Barclays Center. Mayowa Awosika, a junior at the HS for Civil Rights, was one of the 176 students that attended the event.
“Watching Michelle Obama was like a dream come true… As a female of color, I was inspired to continue my journey to college and pursue my dream of becoming a lawyer like Michelle… I was reminded to tell my story in order to create change and fight for equality.”Mayowa Awosika
HS for Civil Rights
Chancellor Richard A. Carranza just announced that New York City’s postsecondary enrollment rate is at its highest ever – 59 percent of New York City’s Class of 2017 enrolled in a two- or four-year college, vocational program, or public service program after graduation.
CARA is proud to have been a partner in the College Access for All Initiative that has provided supports to schools across the city to achieve Mayor de Blasio’s vision of “opening the doors of opportunity to young New Yorkers regardless of zip code.” Our work with both the Office of Postsecondary Readiness and directly with schools has helped thousands of students to navigate the college search, application and matriculation process
As 2019 gets underway, director Julie Dressner’s documentary about three CARA Youth Leaders continues to be shown to audiences around the country. The film will be featured in festivals in Chicago, Philadelphia and Milwaukee, and will be shown at Harvard and Castelton Universities. It will also be featured at the prestigious SXSW EDU conference and festival in Austin, Texas in March.
The videos are part of PBS WORLD Channel’s #MyEconomicAnxiety campaign.
We are sorry to say goodbye to Shaquinah Taylor Wright, who served as the Director of our College Bridge program from October 2016 to October 2018. Shaquinah brought comprehensive college counseling expertise to the program and to CARA, allowing us to deepen our training work, improve our EnrollNYC tracking tool, and expand our matriculation work in partnership with the NYC Department of Education. She will be greatly missed!At the same time, CARA is excited to welcome two new staff members to our team:Paula Kashtan is our new Director of College Bridge. She joins us from LA, where she has worked with first generation students in a range of roles, as a public high school English teacher, advisor to the school newspaper, and college access program manager at a non-profit. She holds degrees in both Urban Education and Journalism.Melody Benitez joined us this fall in the newly created position of Program Associate. In this new role, Melody is bringing her extensive background in youth advocacy and leadership development to CARA’s peer leadership programming. She’s also helping expand our EnrollNYC platform across college access programs, and put systems in place across the organization.
“I have had so many students who have come from CARA in the ASAP program (where I work). It is incredible seeing the students who have come from your program creating mentorship programs here at Hostos and really impacting the other ASAP students. They’ve all done exceptionally well and received great scholarships into the senior colleges after leaving here. Your work has truly created such an impact and I see it every day. Thank you.”Ancy SkariaAcademic Program Specialist – ASAPHostos Community College
CARA Featured in the News and Policy Reports
- Center for an Urban Future, Degrees of Difficulty: Boosting College Success in NYC
- NPR, In the Weeks Before Freshmen Year, Money Worries Aplenty
- NPR, What You Should Know about the New Summer SAT
- Chalkbeat, Students Helping Students
- ABC 7, New York Viewpoint
- NY Times – Schoolbook, These Students Have Been Accepted to College, But Will They Show Up This Fall?
- Aljazeera America, Will Cristal’s College Dream Survive the Summer?
- City Limits, Getting Kids Ready for College, Beyond the Classroom
- Center for New York City Affairs, Creating College Ready Communities: Preparing NYC’s Precarious New Generation of College Students
- What Kids Can Do, Across Summer’s Shaky Bridge to College, Help from Other Students
- Chalkbeat, Gotham Schools: Usable Knowledge
Relevant Articles and Reports
CARA’s work is informed by, and continually informs, practitioners, researchers, and policymakers in the fields of college access and success. Check out some of the pieces we find particularly interesting and/or that feature the great work of CARA’s partners.
- News 12 features CARA partner school Kurt Hahn and the work they are doing to build their college-going culture: Ready for the next chapter: BK students send off college applications
- Boston Globe op-ed by CARA colleague Joshua Steckel: Let’s make it easier for low-income students to apply for financial aid
- The Riverdale Press features Right to College partner Kingsbridge Heights Community Center: Students Strive for Family First
- Inside Schools features Middle School Success Centers and CARA’s partners Cypress Hills LDC and East Side House Settlement: 8th-Graders Train Peers to get into High School
- NBC Latino features Cypress Hills LDC’s Student Success Center counselor at the Franklin K. Lane SSC: Young Counselor Helping Teens Go to College, One Student at a Time