About Us

What is ECI?

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.

The Early College Initiative (ECI), housed within The City University of New York (CUNY) Office of K-16 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.

ECI 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.

ECI provides guidance, project management, and financial resources to create and maintain early college schools in New York City. ECI 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 Early College Initiative is advocating for the local and state policies that are favorable to early college schools.

In recent years, ECI 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?

Michael Steele

Michael Steele
Director of School Supports

Michael Steele is a former high school English teacher and Administrator (Loyola High School Detroit), College Professor (University of Detroit Mercy), Principal (Nativity School of Worcester), Academic Dean (Cambridge School of Weston), and Network Administrator (Believe High Schools Network). He joined the CUNY staff in 2012 as a School Support Coordinator. In that role, he was responsible for developing positive working relationships with teachers and principals and working with them to identify school goals, priorities, and challenges. He also had to coordinate all aspects of the school support to assist principals in achieving their goals and addressing challenges. In 2016, Michael joined the ECI team as the primary support of the 6-12 schools. His focus is on making sure that the transition from middle school to high school is an easy one. Michael has spent over 20 years educating the whole child. He holds a BA from Alabama State University and a MA in Teaching from Central Michigan University. Michael did his principal training at Harvard University.

Arway Boker
External Relations Manager

Arway Boker is the External Relations Manager with the CUNY Early College Initiative, ensuring the ECI mission is well supported through information sharing and collaboration with partners. Prior to joining the ECI team, she gained significant professional development and youth leadership experience supporting the delivery of service-learning initiatives at various community-based organizations and school districts throughout the country. She is pleased to now help elevate stories within the early college experience to bring deeper meaning and understanding to the work for ongoing planning. Arway holds an undergraduate degree in Public Policy Studies from Duke University.
Rodrigo Ramirez

Rodrigo Ramirez
Program Officer

Rodrigo Ramirez joins the ECI Team as Program Officer, his work will include cultivating the relationships between our college and school partners, managing and developing policy, in collaboration with CUNY Central and ECI 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 ECI strategic planning aimed to address ECI 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.

Charles Amundsen
School Support

Charles has served as a member of the CUNY Affinity team 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.

David Lavallee
School Support

David came to the CUNY Affinity Team 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 CUNY Affinity team 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.