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.

  • 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.

  • Allyson Hurder Levy

    Director of College Inquiry Programming |

    As director of CARA’s College Inquiry program, Ally coaches principals, counselors, and teachers on developing college access and exploration programs as essential components of their schools; she also works in collaboration with the other co-director to update all of CARA’s College Inquiry materials. 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), City College New York (MA in Secondary English Education), and the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts Leadership Academy (SBL certification).

  • Shalema Henderson

    Director of College Allies |

    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.

  • Leigh McCallen, Ph.D.

    Director of Research and Evaluation |

    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.

  • Rebecca Kruge

    College Inquiry Coach |

    Rebecca’s work as College Inquiry Coach is focused on supporting school-based teams to develop their college-going culture. Before becoming a College Inquiry Coach at CARA, Rebecca was CARA’s Director of Right to College. A graduate of Fordham University with a degree in counseling and personnel services, she is an experienced college counselor has worked in both the high school and non-profit sector for the last 8 years.

  • Paula Kashtan

    Director of College Bridge |

    As Director of College Bridge, Paula supports our coaches and supervisors to implement CARA’s full-year near-peer matriculation model. She has substantial experience supporting low-income and first-generation students, both as a teacher and through non-profit organizations. At Step Up, a non-profit in Los Angeles, she helped under-resourced teen girls prepare for college using the program’s unique mentorship model. Before that, Paula taught English at a high school in South Los Angeles, where she also advised the school newspaper and developed college preparation curriculum for advisory. While completing her M.Ed. in Urban Education at UCLA, she conducted research on the role newspapers can have in developing student voice. She also holds a BS in Journalism from Northwestern University.

  • Yabielis Guerrero

    Director of Right to College |

    As Director of Right to College, Yabielis develops Youth Leader training, coaches CARA’s newest program partners, and provides general support to all Right to College sites. She has an extensive background in the field which includes college access and success counseling in multiple CBOs, supervising peer leaders, and supporting CUNY campus partnerships. Yabielis’ passion for this work began when she was a College Bridge Coach at her alma mater high school during her undergraduate career. As a social worker, Yabielis believes that equal access to education is both a right and a social justice issue which she would say is her personal call to action. Yabielis is an HEOP alumna from Skidmore College, where she studied Social Work and Latin American Studies. She also holds a Masters degree in Social Work from Fordham University.

  • Michelle Fine, Ph.D.

    Research Advisor

    Michelle Fine is a Distinguished Professor of Psychology, Urban Education and Women’s Studies at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and Chair of the Social/Personality Psychology program. She has received numerous awards and published innumerable books and articles across the many fields in which she works. Her most recent book is Just Research in Contentious Times: Widening the Methodological Imagination, published by Teachers College Press in 2018.

  • Samantha Valente

    Administrative Assistant |

    Samantha joins CARA with over seven years of experience working in higher education administration. She holds a B.A. in Liberal Arts from Hampshire College, an M.A. in Labor Studies from the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies and is currently attending CUNY School of Law.

  • Neshat Yazdani

    Research Assistant

    Neshat is a third-year PhD student in the Applied Developmental Psychology program at Fordham University, completing her Practicum at CARA during the 2019-2020 academic year.  Her research focuses on the relationships between stress/adversity, cognitive functioning, and well-being in early adulthood, particularly during the transition to college.  She is also interested in how this research can be used to inform education policy and intervention programs. Neshat graduated with Bachelor’s degrees in psychology and philosophy from Fordham University in 2015.

  • Karen Zaino

    Research Assistant

    Karen Zaino is a PhD student in Urban Education at the CUNY Graduate Center and a Teaching Fellow in the English Education program at Queens College. She holds a B.A. in English Literature from Swarthmore College and an M.A. in Education from Villanova University. Before pursuing a PhD, Karen taught high school English for 12 years. Her research interests include college access and equity, teacher education, and educational history.

  • Ismail Hasaballa

    College Bridge Intern

    Ismail, also known as Izzy, is an English student at Hunter College. He previously attended Eugene Lang College, and is a third-year Bridge Coach at the Academy for Careers in Television & Film. Before joining CARA Izzy worked for organizations such as Bloomberg Philanthropies, Free Arts NYC, and Studio in a School. Izzy expects to graduate in spring 2020 and pursue teaching in the New York City public school system to continue supporting its students.

  • Byron Chamorro

    Graphic Design Intern

    Byron brings a range of experiences to his work at CARA, including serving as a College Bridge Coach for four 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, most recently a toolkit intended to guide undocumented students through the college matriculation process.