OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

CARA - College Access: Research and Action

Confronting the gap in post secondary guidance faced by 1st generation students by transforming the cultures of educational institutions.

Photo of Bettina Fliegel
2 1

Written by

CARA’s programs confront the gap in post-secondary guidance faced by first-generation to college students in New York City. They help transform the cultures of educational institutions by training a wide range of people within those communities to support all of their students to and through college, and by providing curricula to help young people build knowledge about college, strengthen navigational skills, and develop multicultural college-going identities.    

CARA is serving over 60 school and community based organizations in NYC with their programs.  In addition to providing resources and coaching to educators, CARA programs utilize the talent of the youth themselves, training them as peer to peer mentors for several of their programs.

CARA - Best Practices for Developing an Effective College Access Program


CARA on ABC NY Viewpoint, Oct. 2015 - Video Segment 

"These Students Have Been Accepted to College.  Will They Show Up For Class in The Fall?"   (Up to 1/3 of graduating seniors who are already accepted into college and plan to enroll fail to do so in the fall.  WOW!  WHY?What are the obstacles, and what is in place to make sure that they get there?   Read true student stories in the article linked above.  The College Bridge Program, outlined below and mentioned in the article, addresses this issue.) 


  • College Inquiry
  • Right to College
  • College Bridge
  • Strive For Success.

College Inquiry

CARA works with schools and organizations to develop comprehensive, inquiry-driven college access programs. Working with teachers, counselors and administrators, we use organizational structures strategically to embed post-secondary exploration throughout students’ high school years.                                                                                                   Through College Inquiry, CARA offers:

  • Coaches for teachers
  • A comprehensive curriculum for grades 6 - 12 with lesson plans
  • Resources for school leaders including professional development for staff
  • College office resources to support counseling of students in grades 11 and 12

Right to College

 A program that positions Youth Leaders in high school to engage with their peers in the college planning process.  The 4 key ingredients to this approach are:

  • Youth leaders are given a clearly define role with achievable goals.  
  • Youth to youth connection - time and space are devoted for this.  
  • Youth training and support via adult supervision.  
  • Compensation  - Demonstration that this work is valuable.  Student leaders are compensated via academic credit or payment.

College Bridge

Current college students are employed as "coaches" to current students in their Alumni High School.  Coaches support high school students during their senior year and the summer before college as they navigate through applications, financial aid paperwork and multiple tasks during this critical time period. 

Strive For Success

This is a peer to peer model that helps students transition into college and persist through their first year.  Second year college students are trained to work with first year students.  The program works to ensure that first year students develop skills to:

  • Integrate onto campus
  • Access available support resources on campus
  • Develop relationships on campus



Specifically, please check all that apply:

  • An Individual

Tell us about your work experience:

I am a physician/pediatrician with a background in clinical medicine, administration and teaching. My practice is currently focused on serving adolescent youth within the juvenile justice system in NYC.

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

How might we expand programs that are effective to other communities? What might we learn from college access programs that work for students in high school and apply this approach, or build on it, to assist learners that are returning to school, coming back to higher ed at later ages? What role might peer support play for learners returning to higher ed? What might we learn from successful college access programs that might inform programming for job access during and after college?


Join the conversation:

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Bettina!

Thank you for a great post. I love the peer-to-peer element and the fact that student leaders receive credit/monetary compensation.

It would be interesting to know how to shape a program for people mid-career who want to go to college for the first time and how to reach them.

Do you know if there are specific programs like CARA for Native Americans, undocumented migrants etc.?

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Hi Kate.
I love the idea of expanding this type of programming to mature students who want to return to college. It might take some research to find out what their needs are and how they access information. CARA staff members conduct research in the field of college access and success. The organization also participates in policy groups - local and national. I think that level of investigation and outreach might help to inform how programs might benefit folk returning to higher ed.
How might folk be reached? What if an internet search for higher ed information triggers an ad for a service like CARA for mature students? Is that something that is possible? Social media would also be important in getting the word out.

In NY undocumented students go to public schools like everyone else. CARA would service this group as it would all students where the programs are embedded.
I don't have knowledge on what is available in rural areas where Native American communities are located. The peer to peer model could be adapted anywhere. The College Bridge Program could be adapted and peer mentors might coach via text messaging if they are in schools far from their alumni high school, as I imagine might be the case for many rural communities.