Participant Profile: Amanda

Amanda Perry, a graduating senior from the Academy for Scholarship and Entrepreneurship (ASE), was faced with a tough choice: where to go to college. Presented with robust aid packages from Columbia, Barnard, Syracuse, Howard, Spellman and SUNY Oswego, Amanda was most impressed by Barnard College’s commitment to diversity and its small, supportive environment. While the renowned women’s college is all of 10 miles away from ASE, the campus might as well be in another country from Amanda’s Bronx neighborhood, which struggles with high crime, teen pregnancy, high school dropout and poverty rates.

ASE benefits from a unique partnership with The Children’s Aid Society Carrera Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program (CAS-Carrera). CAS-Carrera is an evidence-based, long-term intervention proven to ensure young people develop robust personal goals, succeed academically and begin to plan for a productive future. The program begins working with boys and girls at age 10 or 11 and follows them through high school graduation and college admission.
The program is built on seven integrated, scientifically accurate, and age-appropriate components: Education; Job Club; Mental Health; Family Life and Sexuality Education; Lifetime Individual Sports; Self-Expression; and comprehensive Medical and Dental Services. In 2006, CAS-Carrera launched its innovative in-school model that is incorporated into the school-day schedule, beginning in grade 6 and enrolling each succeeding grade annually until the entire school is receiving the model. Amanda’s graduating class of 2013 marks the first cohort to graduate from the in-school model.

Amanda always knew college was in her future, thanks to steady, long-term encouragement from her mother, who herself recently received a degree in public administration from Hostos Community College despite a chronic medical condition. Amanda’s mom came up through Antigua’s U.K.-style education system, which favors a more narrowly-focused line of study that discourages college for most. Inspired by her mother’s determination to go to college later in life while coping with illness, Amanda is considering a career in anesthesiology. An avid reader whose favorites include Jane Eyre, Midsummer Night’s Dream and Emma, Amanda is also contemplating African-American studies after reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X and Breaking the Chains of Psychological Slavery.

Through CAS-Carrera’s Job Club component, Amanda interned at the nonprofit Housing Works, where she gained valuable work experience and learned to “communicate directly and respectfully with superiors and peers.” When the stress of work, home and school would weigh heavily on her, Amanda relied on CAS-Carrera’s mental health staff to provide support and help keep her eyes on the prize. Felipe Ayala, CAS-Carrera’s college coordinator, helped Amanda get her college applications in top form. “If Mr. Ayala wasn’t there,” she says, “I would have had a tough time!”

When she enrolled as a sixth grader, Amanda thought CAS-Carrera was little more than a “sports and after-school experience.” By high school, her view had changed. “This is a family, not a program,” she says. Despite her full academic load, Amanda worked after school at McDonald’s, served as team manager of ASE’s girls’ basketball team and played drums at her church.

With support from Barnard’s HEOP Scholars Program, she is responsible for contributing only $3,500 a year for an Ivy League education. No matter where her academic journey takes her, Amanda is already way ahead of the pack.