Alt Title

Resilient African American high school graduates

Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Shumow, Lee

Degree Name

Ed.D. (Doctor of Education)

Legacy Department

Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations


African American high school students--Psychology; High school graduates--United States; Academic achievement--United States


This study explored the characteristics of 10 resilient at-risk African-American high-school graduates. These students lived in environments plagued by poverty, family discord, crime, violence, drug abuse, teen pregnancy, high unemployment, and a host of other social ills that could potentially disrupt their physical, social, and emotional development. However, in spite of these incredible hardships, these students have managed to cope with their environments and succeed academically. In this study, special attention was focused on individual, familial, and community factors that may have contributed to the students' academic successes. In addition, variations among these individuals were explored to better understand why some students fail, some survive, and some even thrive in high-risk environments. In-depth personal interviews were conducted. The students responded to questions designed to investigate their perceptions of activities and experiences that the literature has found to be effective in fostering resiliency among at-risk students. In addition, individual student profiles were developed using demographic information gathered from student records, personal observations, and self-reports. A grounded theory methodology was utilized to gain insight into the coping mechanisms and strategies employed by the participants in this study. Data derived from the demographic survey, the semistructured interview, and personal observations and interactions were coded and categorized to yield shared beliefs, practices, and behaviors of this select group of at-risk students. The findings revealed commonality among the participants in their assessments of individual, familial, and community protective factors that have enhanced their development and contributed to their academic success. They perceived themselves as persistent, goal-oriented, hard-working, and strong-willed. They identified the mother or other mother figure as the most consistently supportive family member. They identified school personnel and not the community at large as a significant source of help or support. In light of these findings, teachers and policymakers need to advance the cause of resilient at-risk students who possess strong personal attributes by promoting and implementing programs and activities that can strengthen sociological factors in the school environment and in the community at large.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [106]-115).


vii, 131 pages




Northern Illinois University

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