Staff

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.bloom@caranyc.org

    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.chajet@caranyc.org

    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.

  • Sonia Szymanski

    Co-Director of College Inquiry Programming | sonia.szymanski@caranyc.org

    Sonia co-leads the development of CARA’s College Inquiry model. She 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. Sonia has served low-income and first-generation college students for over a decade, in Philadelphia and New York as a Guidance Counselor, and more consistently as a Director of College Counseling. She earned her BA in Sociology at Hofstra University and an MS in Education for Professional Counseling at the University of Pennsylvania. Her experience in education includes working for the College Bound Initiative, a Young Women’s Leadership School in Philadelphia and KIPP Philadelphia.

  • Allyson Hurder Levy

    Co-Director of College Inquiry Programming | ally.levy@caranyc.org

    Ally co-leads the development of CARA’s College Inquiry model. She 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).

  • Shaquinah Taylor Wright

    Director of College Bridge & EnrollNYC | shaquinah.wright@caranyc.org

    As Director of College Bridge and EnrollNYC, Shaquinah is building new tools, trainings, and professional development to expand near-peer matriculation work across New York City. She has several years of experience in the fields of postsecondary counseling, program design, and curriculum development. Before joining CARA, Shaquinah served as the Mid-Atlantic Director for College Access at Let’s Get Ready, and was the founding college counselor at a high school in the Bronx. She is also an adjunct instructor in the Clinical and Counseling Department at Teachers College, Columbia University. She received her BA from Cornell University and her masters in Counseling Psychology from Teachers College.

  • Shalema Henderson

    Director of College Allies | 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.

  • Leigh McCallen, Ph.D.

    Director of Research and Evaluation | 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.

  • Rebecca Kruge

    Director of Right to College

    Rebecca’s work as Director of the Right to College program includes developing Youth Leader training, extensive coaching at new Student Success Center sites, and providing support to existing Right to College sites throughout New York City. A graduate of Fordham University with a degree in counseling and personnel services, she is an experienced college counselor. Before joining CARA, Rebecca transitioned into the non-profit sector with East Side House Settlement, where she worked to create and implement the Student Success Center at Lehman Educational Campus in the Bronx.

  • 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.

  • Crystal Diaz

    College Bridge Intern

    Crystal is a senior at CUNY Queens College. She is majoring in psychology with a concentration in educational counseling. Crystal was both a Youth Leader and College Bridge Coach at The High School of Fashion Industries, and is now a Bridge Coach at a school in Queens. Crystal has also been a research assistant at The City College of New York, bringing colon cancer awareness to Harlem, particularly in low-income areas. Crystal is very passionate about helping to bridge the gap between higher learning resources and public high school students.

  • Afridah Rahman

    Right to College & College Allies Intern

    Afridah is a junior at CUNY Hunter College. She is planning on majoring in Accounting. Afridah was a Youth Leader at Dewitt Clinton High School’s Student Success Center where she aided her peers with the college process. She is also a former council member at the CORO New York Leadership Center where she advised the mayor’s office on justice-related issues, including policy recommendations to reduce recidivism in youth.