The latest news and updates from CARA.
Recent News from CARA
In the world of high school seniors, spring means exactly one thing: College acceptance letters are starting to roll in! At CARA’s 30 College Bridge schools, our Coaches are overflowing with pride for the students they’ve been supporting all year through the application process. Here are some of their stories.
Moses, Bridge Coach @Port Richmond High School
“One of my students was accepted into NYU through HEOP (Higher Education Opportunity Program) with a full ride. Her parents are immigrants, and she will be the first in her family to attend college. We spent dozens of hours together in the college office working through applications – it wasn’t an easy process for her. Getting documents for FAFSA and TAP (financial aid) was challenging, and dealing with school at the same time as applications was overwhelming….
To read more from Moses and other Bridge Coaches click here.
Q: What do adults overlook when it comes to supporting students making college decisions?
As acceptance letters and financial awards begin rolling in, you may already be thinking of ways to best support students and their families to make informed college choices and to consider the variety of factors that could influence the decision.
Because we believe it is very important for participants to hear directly from students about the factors that influenced their decisions, and to hear reflections on their experience since making it, we organized a panel of students representing different college-going journeys to share their stories:
Guillermo Calvin Pena, Brooklyn College: “Mental health is definitely underrated. At my school, we’re bringing in alumni to talk about it. A lot people who [go away], want to give up after the first semester because they don’t have a mental health support system. My cousin came back from school on winter break and cried [because of] the racism he experienced.”
Ismail Hasaballa, Hunter College: “Growing up, my family stigmatized counseling for therapy. The school I serve is about 50% Latino, and I make sure to have that conversation in advertising those services on campus. Our students believe, ‘I don’t need therapy,’ so breaking down that stigma is very important.”
Fatima Herreros Cruz, City College: “Friends play a huge part. Students want to feel like they can walk down the hall and see a familiar face, and that often overlooked. Although many students say that ‘I’m not making this decision because of a friend,’ many times that [does] tend to be the reason.”
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.
CARA is honored to be one of two organizations chosen to be the recipient of the College Opportunity Fund at the Brooklyn Community Foundation. The College Opportunity Fund was founded as a response to the recent college admissions scandal, as one way to address the inequity of the college application process across income brackets. The fund is committed to supporting organizations working towards a systemic change in college access. To learn more about the fund and why CARA was chosen to be a part of it, check out this piece by one of the fund’s founders, Lisa Cowan.
Students are an “often overlooked resource that is essential,” notes Mandy Savitz-Romer, in her new book, Fulfilling the Promise: Reimagining School Counseling to Advance Student Success. Savitz-Romer, a member of CARA’s advisory board and author of Ready, Willing and Able: A Developmental Approach to College Counseling profiles CARA’s peer leadership programs in her new book as an example of promising strategies for building school counseling resources.
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.
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
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.
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.
“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
Annenberg Institute for School Reform, VUE, “We’re All in it Together”: the Role of Youth Leadership in College Access”
- What Kids Can Do, “Submit Application!” Youth Coach Their Peers Past the College-Access Potholes
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