CARA staff bring a range of experiences to their work and share a common passion for working with young people, expanding educational opportunity, and addressing issues of equity and social justice.

  • Ashley Arias

    College Bridge Program Associate |

    As Program Associate for College Bridge, Ashley collaborates with the Director of College Bridge to organize and facilitate training for College Bridge Coaches. Ashley brings a passion for empowering first-generation, low-income students of color, and a diverse skill set. As a Peer Leader in Lehman College, John Jay, and Bronx Community College, she provided guidance and data management support to foster academic success at CUNY. As a college advisor at The Laboratory School Of Finance and Technology High School, she offered comprehensive college application support and administrative assistance. Ashley recently completed a B.A in Psychology at CUNY Lehman College.

  • Janice Bloom, Ph.D.

    Co-Director |

    Janice co-founded CARA in 2011, and continues to act as its co-director. She has been involved in urban school reform in New York City since graduating from Brown University more than 25 years ago, as a teacher, staff developer, researcher and professor of educational studies. After teaching at Central Park East Secondary School and East Side Community High School, two of New York City’s early small public high schools, she earned a Ph.D. in Urban Education from the CUNY Graduate Center. She was an assistant professor at Eugene Lang College/The New School and has worked as a teacher-mentor and school design coach in schools across New York City.

  • Lori Chajet, Ph.D.

    Co-Director |

    Lori co-founded CARA in 2011, and continues to act as its co-director. A former high school history teacher and staff developer, Lori has been involved with school change in New York City since 1993. She completed her doctorate in Urban Education at the CUNY Graduate Center, where she focused her research on college persistence for first-generation, low-income students. Prior to founding CARA, Lori was Acting Director of The Institute of Urban Education at Eugene Lang College/The New School. She earned a BA from Brown University in Educational Studies and Public Policy and an MA in Social Studies Education from Columbia Teachers College.

  • Byron Chamorro


    Byron brings a range of experiences to his work at CARA, including serving as a College Bridge Coach for six years at two different high schools, and the graphic design skills he has gathered while majoring in Communication Design at CUNY City Tech. He brings all of these perspectives when creating designs for CARA’s different projects, including a toolkit intended to guide undocumented students through the college matriculation process.

  • Krystal Diaz

    Right to College Program Associate |

    As the Program Associate for Right to College, Krystal collaborates with the Director of Right to College to organize, manage the logistics of, and facilitate training for Youth Leaders. Krystal brings 4+ years of experience serving first-generation, low-income, and high-need populations of high school students through her initial CARA role as a College Bridge Coach. She holds an A.A. in Communications from the Borough of Manhattan Community College, and a B.A. from Hunter College in English/Creative Writing.



    As Program Manager for College Allies, Qua-Asia supports College Allies sites and provides training to Peer Leaders. Qua-Asia brings a wide array of experience in college persistence, career development, and peer mentoring through her work supporting first-generation college students from low income backgrounds. She worked as an Academic Support Manager at Manhattan College, where she oversaw a number of academic support programs and provided training to peer educator and student support staff. Prior to that, she worked at Bottom Line-New York as a Career Team Manager, Senior Career Advisor, and College Success Advisor; she contributed to the design and implementation of the New York site’s first career program. Qua-Asia holds a B.S. from New York University in Applied Psychology and an M.A. in Higher and Postsecondary Education from Teachers College, Columbia University.

  • Celene Guzman

    Administration and Finance Manager |

    As the Administration and Finance Manager, Celene is responsible for overseeing CARA’s multiple grants and business accounts. Celene collaborates with CARA’s directors to ensure appropriate financial planning. She has two and a half years of experience working for CUNY as a Coordinator of Fiscal and Administrative Services and Interim Team Lead at the Senior University Dean’s Office of Academic Affairs where she assisted in managing budgets and expenditures for multiple CUNY programs. Celene has a B.A. in Asian Studies with a minor in International Business. She is currently at University College London (UCL) obtaining a Master’s in Management.


    Senior Director of College Allies & Persistence Partnerships | SHALEMA.HENDERSON@CARANYC.ORG

    As Director of College Allies, Shalema is developing CARA’s resources, coaching, and consulting model for college success work. She has 10+ years of youth development experience working in non-profit educational programs. She worked at Henry Street Settlement as a Middle School Program Coordinator, where she designed and piloted one of just two Middle School Success Center programs in the city that utilized CARA’s Youth Leadership model. Before that, she held several positions at Harlem Children’s Zone including Senior Student Advocate, and College Manager for the College Bound Program. Shalema holds her BA in Sociology from The City College of New York.

  • Reid Higginson

    Director of Policy Research |

    As Director of Policy Research, Reid coordinates CARA’s work to study and share effective practices for postsecondary access and success. Collaborating with CARA’s programs and partners, he uses mixed methods to amplify the voices of students and practitioners and advocate for more equitable policy. Reid has a B.A. in Sociology from Wesleyan University and a Ph.D. in Education from Harvard University. Prior to CARA, he worked as an academic advisor at Bridgewater State University, conducted research on first-generation student experiences, and wrote about the history of alternative higher education reforms.

  • Deneysis Labrada


    As Director of College Bridge, Deneysis supports our coaches and supervisors to implement CARA’s full-year near-peer matriculation model. With 7+ years of experience supporting first- generation students from low- income backgrounds, she brings a wide array of knowledge in college counseling, college access, and near- peer mentoring. During her time in the CollegeBound Initiative and Let’s Get Ready, she counseled high school students’ through their college and financial aid application process while training and supervising Site Coaches. She is a graduate of American University (BA in International Studies and Latin American Studies) and of New York University (Master’s in International Education).


    Senior Director of College Inquiry & Whole School Partnerships | ALLY.LEVY@CARANYC.ORG

    As director of CARA’s College Inquiry program, Ally coaches principals, counselors, teachers, and CBO staff on developing college access and exploration programs as essential components of their schools and organizations. She previously served New York City students for ten years as an English teacher, Dean, and Literacy Coach at several small public schools in Brownsville and the Bronx. Prior to teaching, Ally was a Development Associate for the education nonprofit Facing History and Ourselves. She is a graduate of Trinity College (BA in English and Women’s Studies), The City College of New York (MA in Secondary English Education), and the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts Leadership Academy (SBL certification) and is a Board member of the youth-founded organization Girls Helping Girls. Period.


    Director of Evaluation & Research Partnerships | LEIGH.MCCALLEN@CARANYC.ORG

    Leigh is responsible for conducting impact evaluation of CARA’s programs and leading research projects that translate CARA’s work to practitioner, policy, and academic audiences. She brings expertise in using quantitative, qualitative, and participatory approaches to examine key issues in equitable higher education access and success. She holds a B.A. in Psychology from Vassar College and a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from The Graduate Center at the City University of New York (CUNY). Prior to joining CARA, Leigh worked in various capacities across the CUNY system, including as an analyst at Institutional Research and as a research associate with the Center for Teaching and Learning at Queens College.

  • Beth Mowry

    Curriculum Developer |

    As Curriculum Designer, Beth develops, revises and updates materials for the College Inquiry program’s suite of print and online resources. She previously served New York City students for 17 years as a science teacher, Instructional Guide and Crew-to-College Coordinator at Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies. Prior to teaching, Beth was an executive with various Girl Scouts of the USA councils in Pennsylvania. She is a graduate of Penn State University (BA in Political Science), and Brooklyn College, (M.S. in Education). She is also the founder of The Awen Retreat Center, a non-profit focused on wellness, sustainability, creativity and nature-based spirituality.



    As College Inquiry Coach, Rich works with teachers, counselors and other school administrators to cultivate a healthy college going culture and progressive post-secondary environment. Rich has worked in the youth development space for well over 10 years. Previously, he served as the Manager of Fellow Support & Persistence for OneGoal New York, working to personalize and help alums navigate post-secondary pathways, including but not limited to college persistence. Prior to OneGoal, Rich worked as a College Access Counselor at Henry Street Settlement and at Summer Search in a number of capacities, including Program Associate and College Success Associate. Rich earned a B.A. in American Studies from Dickinson College.



    As the Director of Right to College, Maureen supports Youth Leaders and their supervisors to ensure that students are given the direct support they need throughout the college application process. Maureen has taught in the classroom for 13 years before transitioning to college counseling and college access. Maureen has a BA in English and Textual Studies and an MS in English Education from Syracuse University.


    Senior Policy Research and Evaluation Associate | NESHAT.YAZDANI@CARANYC.ORG

    As Senior Policy Research and Evaluation Associate, Neshat leads the data management and analysis used to evaluate the impact of CARA’s programming and contributes to quantitative and qualitative research on issues of postsecondary access and success, documenting effective practices and sharing them with a variety of audiences. Neshat holds Bachelor’s degrees in psychology and philosophy and a Ph.D. in Applied Developmental Psychology from Fordham University. Prior to joining CARA, she conducted research on academic and psychological well-being among youth and young adults.