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College Access: Research & Action

College Access: Research & Action

CARA's Approach

Established in 2011, College Access: Research & Action (CARA) evolved out of its founders’ deeply-rooted experiences in New York City schools and youth development organizations. Its model grew out of a need, increasingly identified in both spaces, to equip and empower first-generation-to-college students as they sought to pursue higher education in a changing economic landscape. CARA works within these schools and CBOs, equipping them with tools that help young people build “knowledge about college”, strengthen navigational skills, and develop multicultural college-going identities.
CARA’s Programs
College Inquiry works strategically with schools and organizations to develop comprehensive college-access programs and strong college-going cultures. Through College Inquiry, CARA offers coaching, a comprehensive curriculum for grades 6-12, resources for professional development, and tools for developing a college office.
Youth Leadership for College Access works with schools and community-based organizations to integrate youth leadership into their college access programming, positioning high school students to engage their peers in the post-secondary planning process. CARA trains youth leaders to provide workshops and one-on-one support to their peers, coaches adult staff to integrate youth leader work into their program, and connects sites to one another to share best practices.
College Bridge supports first-generation college-bound students in the summer between high school graduation and college matriculation, when up to one-third of low income students abandon their college plans. CARA trains and supports current college students to work as “college coaches” in their alumni high schools, assisting graduating seniors as they navigate the many obstacles that arise during this critical time.
Strive for Success is a program developed in partnership with Graduate NYC! And CUNY Collaborative programs, takes what is known about best practices for college retention and applies them to a peer-to-peer model to help students transition into and persist through the first year of college. Students who have successfully completed one year of college, called “Student Success Leaders”, are trained to work in partnership with campus-based and community-based organization staff to address the critical obstacles to student persistence through college: lack of connection to students and staff, particularly on commuter campuses; lack of college know-how on the part of first-generation to college students; lack on integration into campus activities and engagement with campus resources.
Research and Policy

We take what we learn from working alongside young people and adults in the field to improve practice, inform research, and advocate in the policy arena. CARA’s programs also work strategically to allow young people themselves to influence the programs and policies that are aimed at them. CARA participates in a range of local and national level policy groups focused on college access and success, including the Educational Funders Research Initiative and the College Access Affinity Network. CARA staff have also published articles, white papers, and reports based on our research in the field of college access and persistence.

For more information on CARA, visit our website at:


PERSONAL STATEMENT, a documentary about three Youth Leaders in the College Access: Research & Action (CARA) program, will have its world premiere at the American Film Institute's AFI DOCS, where it will be the opening night film on June 13, 2018 at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.