College Access

March 30, 2012

Above: Students participate in a Youth Leadership for College Access program

Walking the Same Hallways

Across Brooklyn, High Schools Students Are Helping Each Other Navigate the Long and Winding Road to College

Like tax preparation, childbirth, and cooking Thanksgiving dinner, the college application process is a pain quickly forgotten once it’s over: the payoff is worth the pursuit. Still, years later, words like “FAFSA” and “personal statement” continue to invoke shudders among most of us who’ve gone through the process of applying to college, even if we had the help of parents and guidance counselors.

Never before has there been so much focus on getting our students to college, and never before has it been so costly and so challenging to get there.

In Brooklyn, where less than half of high school seniors enroll in college, a staggering 18% of them are deemed truly “college ready”—meaning an overwhelming majority of our students are unprepared academically, don’t have the awareness of what it takes to get into college, and lack the behaviors and skills required to succeed once they get there.

As New York City vows to increase college preparation in public schools through its Common Core curriculum, complementary strategies for guiding students through the college search, application, and enrollment process become ever more important.

For many students who lack consistent guidance and mentorship, and schools which are increasingly overburdened, there is a new practice which we believe holds great promise: Youth Leadership for College Access.

This week, in partnership with our Education & Youth Achievement grantee partner College Access: Research & Action (CARA), we published “Walking the Same Hallways,” a white paper which gives a thorough overview of the emerging strategy of placing young people in leadership roles to help their peers prepare for college and move through the application process.

Trained “Youth Leaders” take center stage in college guidance, talking to their peers about the FAFSA, college essays, recommendations, and campus visits. Often they are more attuned and responsive to each other’s needs because they speak one another’s language in ways most teachers and counselors cannot.

The Youth Leaders not only develop skills critical to their own success in college like public speaking, organization, advocacy, and perseverance, they also make college more accessible to a wider circle of students—improving the college-going culture of their schools, and the youth voice within their schools.

In the end, with instruction, support, and supervision, both the leaders and their peers come away with skills essential to post-secondary success.
Training for schools and community-based organizations is vital to the growth of Youth Leadership in College Access programs. The Brooklyn Community Foundation is funding CARA to lead a 2012 Youth Leadership Training Institute for Brooklyn CBOs.

“There is a huge motivation for us to get more of our young people into college. Education is the ultimate springboard for positive change in our poorest communities. While Brooklyn is now known as a creative and tech capital, and borough-wide we’re improving academically and economically, a significant percentage of our students are being left out and unsupported. We want to invest in homegrown talent and equip our next generation of leaders to take on our borough’s biggest ongoing challenges. We not only want to help them realize their dreams, but also realize the dream of a more equitable Brooklyn.”

- Brooklyn Community Foundation President Marilyn Gelber

Adds CARA Co-Director Lisa Cowan: “The Brooklyn Community Foundation has been, and continues to be, instrumental in promoting the development of the field of youth leadership for college access. With their support, this promising practice has been documented and shared with a range of schools and organizations in Brooklyn and throughout New York City. We at CARA are thrilled to have an ally like the Community Foundation in our work to create productive post-secondary pathways for all of NYC youth.”

Learn more about our Education & Youth Achievement Fund and how you can support Brooklyn's next generation of leaders here.


What's Happening Across Brooklyn

Here are a few highlights of news and events we’ve shared with our followers this week. Don’t miss a thing! Like us at and follow us at

Brave New World Residency at Brooklyn Lyceum
Our Arts for All grantee partner takes over at the performance venue April 1 - May 13. Highlights include two plays set in Brooklyn (The Merry Wives of Windsor (Terrace) and Fabulation, or, the Re-education of Undine), a conservatory of theatre classes for kids and a Spring Break mini-camp, and a Sunday Reading Series spotlighting a rare presentation of Noël Coward’s The Marquise. More info at

Talking Fiction, Talking Fact: Colm Tóibín and Mick Moloney on Brooklyn
This Sunday at the Brooklyn Historical Society, don't miss your chance to hear from Colm Tóibín, author of Brooklyn, whose protaganist Eilis Lacey travels from Ireland to Brooklyn in the early 1950's, and Mick Moloney, Irish folklorist and musician, as they engage in thoughtful dialogue about the intersection of Brooklyn, Ireland, and immigration. Free with museum admission.