The purpose of this dissertation study is to understand the perspectives and experiences of African American students in the Apex Program, an academic program for students between the ages of 17 and 20 who have been identified as “overage and under-credited” (OAUC). Informed by a critical sociocultural framework, this study combines phenomenology’s focus on the essence of participants’ experiences with the participatory and advocacy orientation of action research. Using a grounded theory analytic framework, this dissertation analyzes participant observations, phenomenological interviews, focus groups, identity maps, and textual artifacts to explore both what OAUC African American students have experienced in educational settings and how they have experienced it (Moustakas, 1994). More specifically, this study is guided by the following research questions: How do African American students at Apex—students who have been identified as OAUC—make sense of their academic trajectories? And, what are the implications for their identity negotiation processes? Through its participatory approach, this study views student participants as co-researchers in the process of data collection and analysis.
Data analysis reveals the contextual stressors that students identified as having contributed, in some form, to their OAUC status and the ensuing toll that these stressors have taken on their lives. The analysis also reveals themes related to students’ overlooked needs and the coping strategies that they relied upon to address those needs—strategies which became so embedded in their daily lives that they became avenues for their identity formation. Lastly, the analysis reveals themes related to the best practices at the Apex Program, such as: (1) the importance of making room for students so that they have access to adequate physical, cognitive, and emotional space; (2) the role of a community-based model that prepares students for full community participation; and (3) the power of love to bring about internal and interpersonal change. These findings inform research on the opportunity gap, theoretical perspectives on hybridity and “third space,” and policy and practice surrounding school funding, school safety, curriculum, teacher training, student voice, and the power of love as a guiding measure for academic success.
|Commitee:||Fine, Michelle, Sörensen, Silvia|
|School:||University of Rochester|
|Department:||Margaret Warner Graduate School of Education and Human Development|
|School Location:||United States -- New York|
|Source:||DAI-A 79/09(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||African American Studies, Secondary education|
|Keywords:||Chronic stress, Cultural hegemony, Identity development, Inequitable funding, Urban education, Youth participatory action research|
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