Graduate Center's CARA and CUNY Awarded Gates Foundation Grant to Provide Peer Leaders to Incoming Undergraduates

August 28, 2020

The $175,000 grant will build on CARA's existing College Allies program, through which peer leaders provide matriculation and first-year support to incoming students.

The Graduate Center’s College Access: Research & Action (CARA) program, based at the Center for Human Environments, and CUNY received a grant of $175,000 from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to pilot a peer mentoring program designed to help students transition from high school to college. 

The grant will build on CARA’s existing College Allies program, through which peer leaders — undergraduate CUNY students — provide matriculation and first-year support to incoming students. This year’s pilot program includes summer support at BMCC, Brooklyn College, Bronx Community College, and City College and will provide continuing support through the fall and spring semesters at BMCC and Brooklyn College.

The primary goal is to increase matriculation at CUNY colleges among low-income graduates of New York City high schools. The Gates Foundation funding is an emergency grant aimed at supporting college access during COVID-19.

“At this moment when access to and success in higher education are threatened by the many effects of the COVID pandemic, peer leadership for college success will provide college success support to incoming low-income CUNY students as they navigate the transition to college, and bring desperately needed income into the households of low-income NYC families by employing first-generation college students to provide that support,” said Janice Bloom, who co-founded CARA in 2011 and is now a co-director.

The long-term goal is to establish a university-wide model of peer advising that would directly support New York students through the transition from high school to the first year of college, and to develop ways to share and collect data that can inform counseling and work toward further public support for peer advisers.

“We are excited to see attention being paid to the model and hope to see it spread systematically at CUNY,” said Lori Chajet, who is also a CARA co-founder and co-director. “At this time when CUNY populations are expanding, with more and more students choosing to stay at home and pursue a more affordable college option, the value of expanding advisement capacity has further increased.” 

Bloom and Chajet both received Ph.D.s in 2006 in Urban Education from The Graduate Center. Along with Bloom and Chajet, Distinguished Professor Michelle Fine (Psychology, Urban Education, Women’s and Gender Studies) is a project leader on the grant.