Our Work

What is CUNY Early College?

Early college schools are based on the belief that all students deserve a high-quality education that adequately prepares them to achieve a college degree.

CUNY Early College, housed within The City University of New York (CUNY) Office of K16 Initiatives, supports 20 public schools in New York City that blend a rigorous college-prep curriculum with the opportunity to earn up to two years of college credit while in high school – at no cost to students and their families. These innovative schools make a college education more accessible, affordable and attractive to New York City students by offering programs that blur the lines between middle school, high school and college.

CUNY Early College builds upon a long record of successful partnerships between New York City public schools and the colleges within the CUNY system. Each new early college school is launched by a collaborative team of educators that often includes middle school, high school and college instructors, who together imagine and build schools that support, encourage and challenge students who all too often have trouble navigating the complicated educational landscape in New York City.

CUNY Early College provides guidance, project management, and financial resources to create and maintain early college schools in New York City. CUNY Early College staff provide technical assistance to early college schools in the evolution and maintenance of strong relationships with partner college faculty and administrators, curriculum development, staff recruitment, professional development planning, and community outreach. Further, the CUNY Early College is advocating for the local and state policies that are favorable to early college schools.

In recent years, CUNY Early College has been creating schools which are partnered with a CUNY college and an employer, enable high school students to earn a high school diploma, an associate’s degree in a growing field, and gain relevant work experience all at the same time.

Who Are We?

Luis Duany-Blanco

As the new leader of the Early-College program, Luis brings to CUNY a varied experience in public and private education focused on creating higher-education pathways for low-income and English-Learner students and communities. Over the course of more than two decades, he has worked as a teacher and administrator in Maryland, in his native Puerto Rico, and in New York; as well as on education-policy issues at the national level in Washington, DC. His experience includes serving as a New York City High School Principal, Principal Coach and Achievement Manager, and as a Mentor to two Regional Superintendents of the Puerto Rico Department of Education.

During his tenure at the Internationals Network for Public Schools, he supervised programs providing structural and instructional support to a network of 15 high schools focused on English Learners, including teacher and school-leader coaching. Most recently, he served as Assistant Superintendent at the Yonkers Public Schools, where he led the development and implementation of all PK-12 performance-appraisal systems for teachers, school leaders, and central office leaders, as well as teacher- and leader-pipeline programs—including leading and facilitating the Yonkers Urban Leadership Academy.

Throughout these leadership positions, Luis’ focus has been to champion equitable teaching and learning with educational achievement opportunities and differentiated pathways to student success, while advocating for structural changes that advance equity.

Amina DeBurst-Banks
School Support

Amina DeBurst-Banks is a Math School Support Specialist with the CUNY Early College developing relationships with principals, assistant principals, and teacher leaders to identify school goals, priorities, and challenges that focus on numeracy. Through instructional coach and leadership support, her focus is to narrow the numeracy gaps that exist from middle school and high school curriculums upwards to college-level coursework. Amina is a seasoned educator and lover of mathematics who has spent the last decade empowering students to excel in STEM and pursue their dreams. Before joining our team in 2022, Amina was the Founding Math Department Chair and AP Calculus teacher at Beloved Community Charter School. She served as a mentor and coach to help educators continuously improve their instructional practices and implement best practices in the classroom. Her passion for Math has inspired countless students to discover the beauty of calculus and pursue careers in STEM fields.

Arway Boker
Senior Project Manager

Arway Boker is a Senior Project Manager committed to elevating evidence-based practices and creating collaborative learning spaces. In her current role with CUNY Early College, Arway helps ensure the organization’s mission is executed through a focus on partnership building, external communications, and oversight of special projects. She uses early college storytelling to highlight the network’s academic and career success and help bring deeper understanding to the work.

Before CUNY, Arway was Assistant Director for the New York City Youth Council. She also developed service-learning teacher and youth leadership training at school districts and community-based organizations throughout the US, Qatar, and Senegal.

Charles Amundsen
School Support

Charles has served as a member of the School Supports team (formerly Affinity) since 2017. A former employee of the New York City Department of Education, Charles has held numerous positions including teacher of mathematics, Assistant-Principal Supervision (Mathematics), Principal, Deputy Superintendent (Brooklyn and Staten Island High Schools), Regional Superintendent and Cluster Leader, where his supervisory responsibilities spanned the K-12 continuum. Charles has also served as an Adjunct Professor at Brooklyn College and the College of Staten Island. In his current role as an Instructional and Supervisory Support Specialist, Charles has served as a resource and coach to teachers of Mathematics, Assistant-Principals and Principals.

Chloe Blaise
Manager of College Access and Success

Chloe is a passionate educator from New York City. She received a BA/MS in Environmental Science & Policy from Clark University. After college, she returned home to New York City and began working at SEO Scholars. There, she has helped thousands of systematically excluded students navigate the college application process. As an Assistant Director of College Access, Chloe worked to remove barriers that prevent students from accessing and graduating from college. She managed college partnerships with top colleges, built college writing and readiness curriculum for 11th and 12th grade students, and developed national scholarship strategy and support for students. She participated in numerous college access groups and served on Muhlenberg’s College Advisory Board. As a strong proponent of values-based advising, Chloe loves helping students to uncover their values, shape their story, and find their college match. She joined the team and is already supporting schools as they prepare students to be successful in college and career.

David Lavallee
Associate Director of School Support

David came to the School Supports team (formerly Affinity) in 2016 after working across elementary, middle, and high school settings as a general education teacher, science teacher, department chair, curriculum coordinator, and most recently, as an instructional coach within a charter high school in District 6. As a CUNY School Support Specialist, David works within schools to support instruction and leadership.  He is passionate about incorporating literacy strategies across all content areas (especially science) as well as working with schools to organize data/development cycles in order to improve student outcomes.  David is also the author of two young adult novels.

Kavita Gupta
School Support

Kavita joined the School Supports team (formerly Affinity) as a School Support Specialist in September of 2016.  With over twenty years of experience in education, she has taught middle and high school mathematics in New York City public schools, has served as a school leader in Brooklyn, and has worked with formerly incarcerated youth in her role as Senior Director of Education at The Fortune Society.  In her current role, she works with teachers, Assistant Principals and Principals across a network of schools to provide both instructional and leadership support through direct coaching and professional development. In all of her roles, she has worked to accelerate student progress and achievement and to provide equitable opportunities for all students.

Monserrat Muniz
Project Manager

Monserrat Muniz is a dedicated and experienced professional who recently joined the CUNY Early College (EC) program in December 2023 as the Project Manager. In this role, she will be responsible for supporting the program with strategic planning and collaborating with internal and external partners to further the mission of EC.

Prior to joining the EC team, Monserrat served as the Director of Data Management and Information Systems at the John Jay College Institute for Justice and Opportunity. In that role, she oversaw the development and implementation of the Institute’s database that supported programs across the Institute. She also provided support in operations, policy, fiscal reporting, data collection, and evaluation at CUNY Fostering College Success Initiative (FCSI) and Foster Care Initiative (FCI). Her extensive experience in these roles has provided her with valuable insights into educational initiatives that aim to create positive change for underserved communities, and she is passionate about helping programs make data-driven decisions to improve outcomes.

In addition to her professional achievements, Monserrat also served in the United States Navy for over 6 years, showcasing her commitment to service and leadership. Her enthusiasm for supporting positive and progressive change, along with her expertise in data management, makes her a trusted leader in her role as the Project Manager at EC.

Nicole Colbert
School Support Specialist

Nicole Colbert is passionate about making the educational experience accessible to a wide range of learners. She has extensive experience teaching English and ESL and has taught in several CUNY colleges, private colleges, and community-based organizations. At Kingsborough-CUNY, where she was an Adjunct and Sub-Lecturer before joining the CUNY team, she taught in learning communities, developed cross-curriculum goals, designed reading assessments, served as a cohort leader, presented on best practices, and served on several committees focused on enhancing reading and writing pedagogy. She especially enjoys working with colleagues across curriculums to find new and dynamic ways to engage students. She also holds an MSEd in School Counseling in which she was a college advisor. In her role, she works with educators and stakeholders to foster the best possible outcome for students on their educational journey and pathways to college.

Rodrigo Ramirez

Rodrigo Ramirez
Associate Director of Data and Performance

Rodrigo Ramirez joins the team as Associate Director of Data and Performance, his work will include cultivating the relationships between our college and school partners, managing and developing policy, in collaboration with CUNY Central and Network partners, coordinating the research agenda and analyzing data to improve program implementation, and assess impact. Additionally, he will explore areas of advocacy, funding, and budget management, and lead aspects of strategic planning aimed to address program goals.

Rodrigo graduated from Dartmouth College in 2006 with a double-major in Psychological & Brain Sciences and Asian and Middle Eastern Languages & Literatures (Japanese). After graduating, he returned to Dartmouth to join the Student Activities team, and later Career Services. In his various roles, his work focused on assessment, data management, strategic planning, and educational programming. As Assistant Director of Career Services, he developed a new marketing and branding strategy for the office, coordinated outreach, and advised students on their career and educational development. For his last five years at Dartmouth he served as Assistant Dean & Advisor to Latinx Students in the Office of Pluralism and Leadership, there he helped create divisional policies on inclusion, student support, assessment, as well as oversee the Latinx Community at the College. In 2014, Rodrigo received a Masters in Liberal Arts & Sciences degree with a Globalization concentration from Dartmouth. His master’s thesis entitled, “Examining the Social and Economic Benefits of Education as an Instrument for Economic Growth,” analyzed the positive pro-social, and micro- and macro-economic benefits to investments in education, and discussed the pedagogical structures of national systems which achieve the best outcomes for their respective students.