Home » Volume III, Issue 2 / Spring 2015 » Introduction to Youth Leader Essays

Introduction to Youth Leader Essays

This section features six essays written by New York City high school students, who served as Youth Leaders at their schools during the 2013-2014 school year providing college planning support to other students at their schools. The following is background information about the Youth Leadership for College Access program that organized these Youth Leaders to take on the inequities of college counseling in urban schools.

College Access: Research & Action (CARA), an organization established to create post-secondary pathways for high school students, was co-founded by Janice Bloom and Lori Chajet, both alumni of the CUNY Graduate Center’s Urban Education doctoral program (2007). Its programs confront the gap in post-secondary guidance counseling faced by first-generation to college students by transforming the cultures of educational institutions. CARA trains a wide range of people within communities to support all students to go to and through college. It provides curricula to help young people build knowledge about college, strengthen navigational skills, and develop multi-cultural college-going identities.

CARA has developed a model of Youth Leadership for College Access and Success and has several different programs using peer-to-peer or near-to-peer approaches that train high school and college students to work within their communities to support their peers to and through college. Operating on the evidence-based belief that high school and college students should be seen as valuable resources to fill the “guidance gap” that exists for first-generation college students within both secondary and post-secondary institutions, CARA finds that young people have the power to reach their peers in ways that adults often cannot.

CARA’s Youth Leadership for College Access program (to be renamed Right to College) grew out of an organizing effort in 2005, spearheaded by the Urban Youth Collaborative, to provide students in New York City public schools with the supports they needed to define and realize their college aspirations. The first two sites were launched on the Bushwick and Franklin K. Lane campuses in 2007 with 8 Youth Leaders, working with Make the Road NY and Cypress Hills LDC, respectively. The movement has since grown to 20 schools and 7 community-based organizations, with over 70 Youth Leaders. It has also served as a catalyst for CARA’s College Bridge and Strive for Success programs, which train college students to support their peers through college access, matriculation, and persistence.

The Youth Leaders you’ll hear from in this issue of TRAUE are juniors and seniors in high school who are positioned to engage with and support their peers through the post-secondary planning process. They do this by: facilitating workshops, organizing college planning events, supporting students one-on-one through their college search, application, and financial aid process, and promoting a strong college-going culture in their institutions. Through comprehensive training and support, Youth Leaders develop a range of skills and content knowledge to make college access possible for a wider circle of students. Youth Leaders also simultaneously improve their own educational and social outcomes.


The essays in this issue were written by the following CARA Youth Leaders:

Angela Omongos is currently a senior at Flushing High School. She will a will attend the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education next year.

Michel Gomes is currently a senior at Flushing International High School. She will attend York College next year.

Keith Robertson graduated from Academy of Innovative Technology in the Franklin K. Lane Campus. He is currently a first-year college student attending SUNY Canton

Alexus Bright graduated from Central Park East High School. She is currently attending the City College of New York.

Maria Santana is a graduate of the High School for Fashion Industries. She is currently attending the City College of New York.

Kristina Erskine is a graduate of Academy for Environmental Leadership on the Bushwick Campus. She is currently attending Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn.

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