The latest news and updates from CARA.

CARA Releases New Report on Student Success Centers

CARA is proud to announce the release of a new report, Peer Led College Access Programming: A Profile of Student Success Centers in NYC. Released at a moment when Student Success Centers (SSCs) are fighting for sustainable public funding, the report:

  • Documents the history of the student-led initiative to establish Student Success Centers in NYC to address the college guidance gap; 
  • Profiles the model’s central and distinct role for trained high school students – Youth Leaders – to support their peers through the college process;
  • Tracks the exponential growth of the SSC movement from 2 SSCs in 2007 serving 3,000 students to 17 SSCs in 2019 serving 14,000+ students; and the resulting 26% increase in graduation rates and 17% in post-secondary enrollment over time;
  • Defines the SSC model, outlining best practices for effective implementation;
  • Profiles one SSC to show how it shifted the college going culture of the large high school it served.

CARA was founded largely because of the work of youth organizers from The Urban Youth Collaborative who launched our peer-to-peer model for college access and persistence back in 2007. It was these young people who saw how their communities were systematically denied opportunities to access higher education, and who wanted to play a role in addressing the issues themselves.  They shaped CARA’s core values to Strive for Equity and Justice, Empower Young People, and to Serve All Students.

We know we have a long way to go – but we are not veering from the path UYC organizers set us on many years ago.

Grant for CARA’s Expansion Outside NYC

CARA is thrilled to receive a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, through its dual focus on Pathways to Postsecondary Success and Integration and Learning and Innovation. The grant will allow CARA to continue to disseminate its unique policy/practice work, as well as innovate and expand our program models outside of New York City. We are deeply grateful for this support, and the following stories illustrate some places that this work is already underway.

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Recent News from CARA

Winter 2020

  • Peer Leaders for College Persistence In Eastern PA

    Growing out of CARA’s work to integrate Peer Leaders into advising and college persistence programming at Northampton Community College, Peer Mentors Evan Simmons & Elijah Vazquez (both NCC ’21) initiated, planned, and moderated a March 18th “conscious conversation” event, What Diversity Means to You. The event offered a forum for students to speak openly with each other about crucial and timely matters of diversity and inclusion. They invited students and key NCC staff members, including the DEI leadership and members of the counseling, advising, and career services staff, to share their perspectives. Over 25 students and staff attended and took part in a rich dialogue that was masterfully facilitated by Elijah and Evan.

    “I wanted to become a peer leader to help students avoid the pitfalls caused by transitioning to college. It is a massive change that honestly is not adequately explained before the transition starts. As a second-year student, I have learned how to avoid most of these pitfalls and what to do when they occur.” –Evan Simmons

  • Peer Leaders for College Access in Rural Georgia

    “My biggest challenge was realizing that not everything has to be perfect…. Going into being a Youth Leader, I thought that I had to know everything. Everything that I was being trained to do and learn, I thought that I had to know it the first day that I was starting with a student. But later on you find that it’s also a learning experience because you’re not familiar with everyone’s situation, and you need to adapt.” –Rebecca Beloy, Curtis High School

    Inspired by the film Personal Statement, English teacher Christan Bush reached out to CARA to bring our Right to College program structure and Youth Leader training to Ware County High School in Georgia. With generous funding from The Debley Foundation and the support of the county, this fall Ms. Bush and her students began work to close the guidance gap created by the school’s lack of a full time college counselor.

    On their first day of training, peer leaders in Georgia were joined by NYC peer leaders who shared their experiences working with their peers.

  • 30 New Youth Leaders Gear up to Help their Peers through the College Process

    CARA is excited to be partnering this spring with 14 high schools to integrate high-school aged Peer Leaders into their college offices. With no in-person support, it has been particularly challenging for counselors to connect with all of their students and to help them through the many steps of the college process. As emerging research notes, trained high school students, who have both pre-existing relationships with their peers and regular access to them through classes and social media, are well positioned to make sure the pandemic does not derail anyone’s college dreams.

    Thank you to the Heckscher Foundation for its recognition of the additional challenges facing the class of 2021 and for believing in the power of peer leaders.

  • Principals think ahead to the class of 2022

    On January 21st, CARA met with a group of 24 principals from across NYC and Connecticut. Having seen the issues this year’s seniors faced when they did not begin in the spring of their junior year (as the world adjusted to virtual teaching), they tackled the question: How can we make sure the class of 2022 doesn’t face the same problems?

    Principals shared the range of ways they are planning on reaching their juniors in the months ahead, from presentations and work done in subject matter class or advisory Zooms, to outreach by peer and near-peer leaders on social media, to connecting with campuses through virtual tours and rep visits. As Bennett Lieberman, one of the presenting principals noted: there’s no magic bullet but persistence.

  • Investing in Public Colleges:

    Petrie Foundation Grant to Expand Transfer Advisement at CUNY through Peer Leadership

    Heading into 2021, CARA is excited to announce that the transfer window is the next part of the CUNY pipeline to add peer leadership to increase advising capacity. With generous funding from the Carroll and Milton Petrie Foundation, CARA will work with Brooklyn, Lehman and Queens College to deploy Peer Leaders to support transfer students from select 2-year CUNYs through the 4 key “leak points” when relational advisement is critical to persistence. Peer Leaders will work with students when they are still at their 2-year campuses and have committed to their 4-year colleges, using transfer tools developed by the Articulation of Credit Transfer program. They will extend their support to students through their first semester at their new campus, ensuring that they utilize campus-based resources and integrate into their new college community.

  • A Consortium Approach to Access Work at New York City CBOs

    With funding from the Hechscker Foundation for Children, CARA has been working this fall with a cohort of 10 community based organizations who provide college access support to the students they serve. While the organizations’ core missions range from teaching rowing or chess to being an anchor in their communities for a range of critical services, all have come to see getting their students across the finish line to higher education as central to realizing their vision. Collectively, they are serving more than 1,000 young people throughout New York City in the 20-21 school year.

    The CBO Consortium Includes:

    Throughout the year, the consortium will be a space for CBOs to learn from peers and share challenges and solutions for out-of-school time programming, while utilizing CARA’s College Inquiry curriculum and counseling resources. Some are just starting college access work, while others are enriching their current post-secondary programming; together this fall, they’ve discussed early awareness work in grades 9 & 10, counseling best practices, utilizing peer leadership, and engaging families. We are excited to continue to learn together as the year continues.

Fall 2020

  • CARA's Policy Brief: Organizing for Access

    Building High School Capacity to Support Students’ Postsecondary Pathways.

    Policy Brief CoverThe policy brief is the result of three years of research at New York City schools who were working to restructure their college access work. Supported by generous funding from the New York Community Trust and The Heckscher Foundation for Children, and made possible by CARA’s partnership with 7 NYC public high schools, it explores the challenges schools face, and then surfaces successful practices.


    • The role of school leadership in shepherding curriculum implementation and building shared ownership and accountability among teachers;
    • The pros and cons of utilizing various classroom “spaces” for 9-12th access work;
    • The resources needed to move postsecondary counseling from an ‘enrichment’ to an ‘entitlement’ model.

    While this research was conducted before March of 2020 – and thus before the economic and educational crises that COVID has created – we believe that the best practices that it recommends can help schools and the city at large steer towards more equitable postsecondary access in the years ahead.

    Read the Report
  • CARA's Work Featured by Paul Tough in the New York Times Magazine

     Susan Lara, a CARA bridge coachPaul Tough’s article in this week’s New York Times magazine – Her School Offered a Path to the Middle Class: Will Covid-19 Block It? – chronicles the tremendous obstacles that low-income students of color faced in accessing college this spring and summer; and it highlights CARA’s work addressing those obstacles at one NYC public high school, as well as our evolving thinking about the landscape of college opportunities

    As Tough notes, the CARA College Inquiry curriculum utilized by Richmond Hill High School over the past four years has brought many more students to the doorstep of higher education; the college counselors we collaborate with and the College Bridge coaches that we train help carry them across the threshold. His article depicts the work of two College Bridge Coaches as they support graduating seniors through a college transition further complicated by COVID-19.

    Read the article
  • CARA & CUNY Receive Gates Foundation Grant

    CUNY College Connect

    CARA is thrilled to have received, in collaboration with CUNY Central Office and four CUNY campuses, a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to pilot a unique program that seeks to smooth the path from high school to college.

    Rooted in the advising offices at Brooklyn College, Bronx Community College, BMCC, and City College, the program builds on CARA’s existing College Allies model, utilizing Peer Leaders to provide matriculation and year-one support to incoming students. Summer programming began in July at all four campuses, and the school-year component will be piloted at BMCC and Brooklyn College.

    The long term goal of this grant is to establish the groundwork for a university-wide model of peer-to-peer advising that would directly support NYC students through the transition from high school into the first year of college. Through this partnership, we also aim to develop systemic solutions to data sharing and tracking that can inform counseling, and explore the potential for broadening the use of public funding streams to support peer advisors.

    We are excited to learn from this pilot year and to grow the program in the years ahead.

CARA Featured in the News and Policy Reports