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1 UNDERSTANDING THE LIVED EXPERIENCES OF AT RISK BLACK M AL ES AS IT RELATES TO THEIR ACADEMIC SUCCESS By JASON SOUTH AL L ORROCK A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTI AL FULFILLMEN T OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2012
2 2012 Jason South al l Orrock
3 Dedicated to everyone who believed in me, thank you!
4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I honor the following people who have assisted me during my doctor al studies and dissertation process. I could not have done it without them. I am grateful for having such a wonderful doctor al committee. First and foremost, I would like to thank Dr. Mary A nn Clark, my chair. She is a dedicated counselo r educator and has been patient and willing to work with me as I have developed my writing skills. Her encouragement, high expectations and support are greatly appreciated. Throughout this experience she has continued to push me to work harder, dig deeper and has been a n amazing mentor in developing my skills as a researcher and scholarly writer. I would al so like to t hank Dr. Puig who al so served on my committee She has been another great influence in my development as an aspiring scholar in counselor e ducation. I have appreciated every meeting and conversation held with Dr. Puig. Each session she would ch al lenge my thinking and collectively we would brainstorm ideas using systems thinking to guide our discussions. I truly have appreciated her time and m any gems passed to me in our meetings, al ways encouraging expansion of my ideas, as with Dr. Clark, has encouraged me to be concise in my writing. Each meeting I would leave thinking o f al l the new possibilities, bringing th e missing pieces of the puzzle together. I am grateful to ha ve been provided the opportunity to work with both professors I would al so like to thank Dr. Torres. Early in my career at the University of Florida, journey of exploring tradition al expressions of masculinity and its influence on men in their relations with self and others. His passion for soci al justice and understanding oppression has been influenti al in my development as a counselor educator and my
5 own awareness of being a White m al e in American society and the privilege it brings I appreciate the moments that he carved out for me popping in his office unannounced to discuss various ideas, thoughts and experiences inv olving diversity, masculinity and becoming a scholar. My wife, Emily, deserves more appreciation than can be described in a simple paragraph. She has supported me through this whole endeavor, providing me with emotion al support, financi al support, and frie ndship. So many times she provided an empathetic ear when I would come home stressed out or frustrated, and would never complain when I would disappear into my office for days at a time working on various projects and my dissertation. I truly am grateful f or our relationship, her support, love and friendship. I could not have done this al one. I have made many friends while going through this process, who have helped me practice he al thy stress management in the outdoors. Namely, I would like to thank the Eas tside Garden Club and al l members for their kindness and willingness to invite a Virginia boy into their fish club. Each Thursday evening provided a venue for me to unwind while enjoying the company of many retired business men and war veterans from Gaines ville, Florida. Eating early dinner with these gentlemen provided a place in Gainesville for me to feel at home, not to mention fellowship and mentoring that were provided al ong the way. Lee Crews a retired game warden and native of Florida has become a li felong friend and mentor. I am extremely grateful for his time support, encouragement and wisdom during the last four years. Kate Boulos and my dog Hank al ong with the rest of her kennel namely Bizzy, Win and Bobbi, al so played an integr al part of this j ourney. Many Saturdays or late
6 afternoons working on her tractor, planting long leaf pines or working bird dogs provided me with much needed breaks from academics to manage the work load and stress. Again, as the Eastside Garden Club she has been a mentor, and a friend that I consider a family member. She has helped me through many stressful times in Florida, providing me encouragement and support to complete my doctorate. Fin al ly, al l of my family at home in Charlottesville, Virginia. Weekly sometimes dail y phone c al ls to my mom and dad have kept me on track, focused and grounded. Both parents have fostered determination, motivation and drive that often have served as the backbone to al l of my academic and profession al endeavors. I would like to thank them for believing in me and instilling strong v al ues that have helped me succeed.
7 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 4 LIST OF TABLES ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 10 LIST OF TERMS ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... 11 ABSTRACT ................................ ................................ ................................ ................... 13 CHAPTER 1 BACKGROUND INFORMATION ................................ ................................ ............ 14 Introduction to the Problem ................................ ................................ ..................... 14 Theoretical Framework ................................ ................................ ........................... 16 Black Racial Identity Theory ................................ ................................ ............. 16 Ecological Systems Theory ................................ ................................ .............. 18 Statement of the Problem ................................ ................................ ....................... 19 Single P arent Family System ................................ ................................ ........... 20 Socioeconomic Class ................................ ................................ ....................... 21 Perceptions of Masculinity ................................ ................................ ................ 23 Multicultural Components ................................ ................................ ................. 24 Results from the interactions of Macro Systems ................................ .............. 25 Need for the Study ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 27 Research Questions ................................ ................................ ............................... 28 Purpose of the Study ................................ ................................ .............................. 28 Goal 1 ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 29 Goal 2 ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 29 Goal 3 ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 29 Rationale for Methodology ................................ ................................ ...................... 30 Organization of the Rest of the Study ................................ ................................ ..... 31 2 REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE ................................ ................................ ............ 32 Introduction ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. 32 Theoretical Framework ................................ ................................ ........................... 35 Black Racial Identity Theory ................................ ................................ ............. 35 Ecological Systems Theory ................................ ................................ .............. 40 Factors that Contribute to Underachievement ................................ ........................ 43 Oppression ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 43 Perceptions of Masculinity ................................ ................................ ................ 45 Single Parent System ................................ ................................ ....................... 50 Socio Economic Status ................................ ................................ .................... 54 Interaction of Race, Class and Gender ................................ ............................ 56 Promoting Success ................................ ................................ ................................ 58
8 Parental Involvement ................................ ................................ ........................ 58 Afterschool/Mentoring Programs ................................ ................................ ...... 60 Teacher Student Relationships ................................ ................................ ........ 63 Family/Community Suppor t ................................ ................................ .............. 65 3 RESEARCH METHOD ................................ ................................ ........................... 68 Introduction ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. 68 Subjectivity Statement ................................ ................................ ............................ 71 Research Design ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 72 Participants and Setting ................................ ................................ .......................... 73 Participants ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 73 Settings ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 73 Data Collection Procedures ................................ ................................ .................... 78 Interviews ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... 80 Literature Review ................................ ................................ ............................. 81 Member Checking ................................ ................................ ............................ 81 Data Analysis ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 83 4 FINDINGS ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 85 Introduction ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. 85 Results ................................ ................................ ................................ .................... 87 Family Values ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 87 Single parent mother encouragement ................................ ........................ 88 Extended family encouragement ................................ ................................ 92 Experiences of modeling from extended family ................................ .......... 96 Self Concept ................................ ................................ ................................ ..... 98 Development of self respect and a healthy identity ................................ .... 99 Development of belief of self and confidence ................................ ........... 104 Belonging ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 107 African American male identity ................................ ................................ 107 Extracurricular involvement ................................ ................................ ...... 114 Involved educational pe rsonnel ................................ ................................ 121 Community ................................ ................................ ................................ ..... 130 Community support ................................ ................................ .................. 131 Community outrea ch ................................ ................................ ................ 134 Summary ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 138 5 DISCUSSION ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 142 Introduction ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... 142 Discussion of Results ................................ ................................ ............................ 142 Family Values ................................ ................................ ................................ 145 Single parent mother encouragemen t ................................ ...................... 145 Extended family encouragement ................................ .............................. 146 Experiences of modeling from extended family members ........................ 147
9 Developing a Positive Self Concept ................................ ............................... 147 Development of positive self concept versus false positive image ........... 148 Positive self concept and belief in self ................................ ..................... 150 Belonging ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 150 African American male identity ................................ ................................ 151 Extracurricular involvement ................................ ................................ ...... 153 Involved Educational Personnel ................................ ............................... 154 Community Involvem ent: Support and Outreach ................................ ............ 156 Theoretical Implications ................................ ................................ ........................ 157 Black Racial Identity ................................ ................................ ....................... 157 Ecological Systems Theory ................................ ................................ ............ 158 Implications for Counselors ................................ ................................ ................... 161 Implications of a Positive Self Concept for A frican American Males ..................... 164 Ability to ask for help ................................ ................................ ...................... 164 Developing an internal locus of control ................................ ........................... 164 Limitations ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. 165 Future Recommendations for Research ................................ ............................... 167 Conclusion ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 168 APPENDIX A INFORMED CONSENT ................................ ................................ ........................ 170 B INFORMED ASSENT ................................ ................................ ........................... 172 C INTERVIEW QUESTIONS ................................ ................................ .................... 174 D INSTRUCTIONS FOR PARTICIPANTS IN MEMBER CHECKING ...................... 175 LIST OF REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ............................. 176 BIOGRAPHIC AL SKETCH ................................ ................................ .......................... 191
10 LIST OF TABLES Table page 4 1 County Demographics ................................ ................................ ........................ 75 4 2 Urban High Sc hool Demographics for the 2010 2011 school year .................... 76 4 3 Urban High School Demographics for the 2010 2011 school year ..................... 77 4 4 Studen ts selected for study from two southeastern high schools ....................... 77
11 LIST OF TERMS A FROCENTRIC A paradigm based on the idea that African Americans should understand and identify with their own culture to achieve sanity and overcome oppression. It encourages African Americans to shift their focus of identifying and interpreting information from academy ( http://theafrocentricexperience.com/index.php? option=com_content&view=article&id=1 29&Itemid=138). B OY C ODE A set of cultur al norms, messages that are transmit ted through society, across the board, that explains what it means to be a al ly include the are taught to hide their natur al feelings to avoid being c al led a C ULTUR AL LY R ESPONSIVE I NSTRUCTION Using cultur al knowledge, lived experiences (community, family, environment) and performance ability of diverse learners to make learning more available and effective for them; it operates from a strengths based approach tapping into unique skills of each student (Gay, 2000). C YBERNETICS use information, models, a nd control actions to steer towards and maintain their go al s, while conteracting various disturbances (Heylighen & Joslyn, p.2, 2001). F ICTIVE K INSHIP Adoption of v al ues and mor al s that are contrary to the majority or White society (Fordham & Ogbu, 1986) F UNDS OF K NOWLEDGE Using community and household resources experienced by the student to organize classroom instruction to increase the capacity of learning opportunities for al l students, especi al ly minority students (Moll & Greenberg, 1990). I NDUCTIVE A N AL YSIS Identifying patterns of meaning in data to develop gener al statements about phenomena under investigation (Hatch, 2002). P HENOMENOLOGY A lived experience and meaning is created in the moment, in the experience between researcher and subject (H usserl, 1931).
12 S ECOND O RDER C YBERGENETICS Studies the role of the subject (human) and the construction of meaning the subject makes based on the experiences lived within their various systems. It examines the construction of stories and messages that a re received from al l contexts and examines how these messages are interpreted into meaning and understanding which constructs how the subject views the world and engages in communication (Amatea & Sherrard, 1995; Heylighen & Joslyn, 2001). S TRENGTH B ASED C OUNSELING Focuses on helping students identify and build on their strengths and competencies as well as develop addition al strengthc that are associated with positive development (G al assi & Akos, 2007).
13 Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduat e School of the University of Florida in Parti al Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy UNDERSTANDING THE LIVED EXPERIENCES OF AT RISK BLACK M AL ES AS IT RELATES TO THEIR ACADEMIC SUCCESS By Jason South al l Or rock August 2012 Chair: Mary Ann Clark Major: Marriage and Family Counseling Through an ecologic al systems perspective, this study explores factors that influence suc cessful academic achievement for at risk African American m al es. The purpose of this qu al itative study was to examine factors that contribute to the successful achievement and advancement to higher education for African American m al es from at what they bel ieve has contributed to their success in school. By understanding the interconnectedness of lived systems, educators and counselors are able to encourage engagement in academics, as well as develop person al and raci al identity. Findings will explore the in dependence interdependency of systems in the development of self concept for these youth and suggest the link between the developme nt of a positive self concept, esteem, confidence, and education al success. The se findings have implications for promoting a cademic success through community involvement and program support for this population
14 C HAPTER 1 BACKGROUND INFORMATION Introduction to the Problem al e adolescents are faced with obstacles that limit their academic future and suc cess. The growing gap in achievement and dropout rates between African American and Latino students and their majority Caucasian counterparts in America is al arming. Information presented in the 2000 U.S. Census stated that 48% of the Latino population, tw enty five years and older, did not possess a high school diploma (Kiyama, 2010). Addition al ly, it was reported nation al ly that 47% of African American adolescent m al es dropped out in the year 2008 (Ellis, 2010). These current statistics c al l for action fro m educators and counselors to understand minority culture and trends, and to begin developing and implementing interventions to improve retainment and academic success for minority students in public education. Reviewing the history of African American edu cation in the United States it is clear that African Americans have been victim to exploitation (slavery), subordination, and discrimination by Caucasians, the majority group. (Howard Hamilton & Behar Horenstein, 1995; Jordan, 2005). Jordan (1995) argues that the role of education for African Americans in the South historic al ly was to accept and adjust to their subordinate role in society, assuming a f al se belief of ment al inferiority. Young Black men that cannot develop their own raci al identity separate from their White counterparts will suffer greater psychologic al distress and lowered self esteem (Mah al ik, Pierre & Wan, 2006) There have been many struggles for African Americans for basic civil rights and the opportunity for equ al education (Wyatt, 2009) This oppression has influenced many
15 African Americans to perceive society as the oppressor and a barrier toward advancement in education and work (Howard Hamilton & Behar Horenstein, 1995; Jordan, 2005; Mah al ik, Pierre & Wan 2006). Due to oppression and the beliefs generated by the oppressor many African American students believe that dedicating time and energy to schoolwork will not produce equ al opportunities when comparing themselves to the majority population (Harper, 2007, Howard Hamilton & Behar Hor enstein, 1995 ; Taylor, Casten, Flickinger, Roberts & Fulmore, 1994). In efforts to cope with oppression it is suggested by Fordham and Ogbu (1986) that African American communities have formed fictive kinship, defined as the adoption of v al ues and mor al s t hat are contrary to the White Society. By defying the majority group a certain sense of empowerment may be attained (Fordham & Ogbu, 1986; Harper, 2007). By not speaking standard English, not being on time, and not working hard in school (opposite deemed w hite behaviors ), al l characteristics of fictive kinship African Americans are at greater risk of failure and/or dropout in school (Howard Hamilton & Behar Horenstein, 1995; McMillian, 2003). African Americans have persevered through slavery, War Between th e States, segregation, civil rights, identity and establishing their voice in America. Despite the many soci al and economic gains experienced by many African Americans over the last one hundred years a growing epidemic in our education al system raises al a rm for positive postsecondary outcomes for African American m al es (Joe & Davis, 2009; Lewin, 2006; Neblett Jr., Chavous, Nguyen & Sellers, 2009; Rashad, 2009; Rowley & Bowman, 2009; Whiting, 2009). Forty seven percent of al l African American m al es drop out of school nation al ly each year (Nation al Center for Education al Statistics, 2011;
16 Whiting, 2009). The state of Florida reported 35.1% of African American m al es in 2008 2009 dropped out of high school (Florida Department of Educati o n, 2010 ). African Americ an m al es are at risk of academic failure and without interventions imposed by educators are faced with limited opportunities post adolescence based on the data provided by the Nation al Center for Education al Statistics (2011). Theoretic al Framework Black Raci al Identity Theory Black raci al identity theory was created by William Cross in 1971. Black raci al identity theory explores the development al dividu al perceptions of oneself and how they identify to their reference group, whether it is white or black (Cross, 1971; Ford, 1997; g that within each stage people situate themselves based on information about self, other people, institutions and their environment (Helms, 1993). Black raci al identity theory, developed by Cross (1971) helps to explain how raci al oppression is an additi on al development al hurdle experienced by African Americans and how this oppression can influence their psychologic al development (Chavous, et al 2003; Coard, Breland, & Raskin, 2001; Cross, 1971; Helms, 1993 ). Cross believed this raci al oppression was s eparate from the aspects of self actu al ization as defined by Maslow (1970) which is that al l human beings strive to be the best that they can be (Helms, 1993). Black raci al identity theory consists of five stages. The origin al five stages that were develop ed are pre encounter, encounter, immersion/emersion, emersion and
17 intern al ization (Helms, 1993). Revisions to the model have occurred over the last forty years with the most recent revision consisting of pre encounter, encounter, immersion emersion and int ern al ization (Worrell, Cross & Vandiver, 2001). At each of these stages, African Americans evolve, becoming more intrinsic al ly aware of their Black heritage, and oppression they have experienced while developing a greater sense of self and identity ( Coard Breland & Raskin, 2001; Cross, 1971; Harper, 2007; Helms, 1993). It is important to understand black raci al identity theory when working with African American m al e adolescents. Chav ous (2003) states that the role of raci al identity beliefs predicts educ ation al achievement. Identifying where an African American adolescent is situated within the stages can help educators and counselors work to improve a chievement (Chavous et al 2003; Ford & Harris, 1997; Harper, 2007). Guiding an African American adolesce nt m al e through the stages of the theory will help dispel the al self concept (Harper, 2007). By reaching the fin al stage, intern al ization, behaviors and attitudes of the African American adolescen t m al e become more intern al ized creating a greater outcome for academic achievement (Chavous et al 2003; Ford & Harris, 1997; Harper, 2007). Addition al ly, Duncan (2005) states completion of al l stages of the black raci al identity model as a completion of life span. Duncan (2005) suggests that work through the stages to intern al ization moves the African American from adolescence toward a mature, introspective, respectable adult. Therefore when investigating African American m al e underachievement, black r aci al identity theory can serve as guide to help educators and counselors find a starting point to provide appropriate services (Chavous
18 et al 2003; Chavous, Rivas Drake, Sm al ls, Griffin & Cogburn, 2008; Ford & Harris, 1997). Ecologic al Systems Theory A ssuming an ecologic al perspective is important in understanding African American m al e underachievement. An ecologic al systems approach is best in understanding the phenomena in m al e underachievement because it investigates relation al contextu al and situat ion al factors (Peirson, Boydell, Ferguson & Ferris, 2011). Using an ecologic al systems perspective al lows the researcher to shift the focus of inquiry from the individu al levels; people, settings a nd events; decisions, actions and impacts; research policy and practice; soci al politic al and economic forces; and historic al contemporary and et al ., 2011, p. 309). Ecologic al systemic thinking provides insight to the rese where positive and negative influences exist within their various systems (Kelly, 2007). strengths that ma y be identified as preventive interventions (Pierson et al ., 2011). how the systems are interdependent and how the interactions affect the subject (Foster Fishman & Beherens, 2008). When soci al scientists can understand the interdependence, patterns and consequences of interactions they can create and implement suggestions that promote posit ive change (Foster Fishman & Beherens, 2008). Researchers should be identifying strengths al ong with weaknesses when Fishman
19 & Beherens, 2008; Kelly, 2007; Pierson et al 2011 ). Ecologic al systemic theory creates a strength based model for investigation when appropriately implemented (Foster Fishman & Beherens, 2008; Kelly 2007). Racism, oppression, matriarch al families, SES, masculinity and not embracing a cultur al ly responsi ve curriculum creates disadvantages for African American m al es when compared to middle cl ass White m al es (Currie, 2005; Gay, 2000; Hooks, 2004; Ladson Billings, 1992; Noguera, 2003; Pollack; 1998; Rodney & Mupier, 1999). African American m al es must overco me multiple hurdles in their life experienced in family, community and school systems to just reach the baseline experienced by middle class students upon entering grade school (Bailey & Bradbury Bailey, 2010; Milne & Plourde, 2006; Rodney & Mupier, 1999). These ch al lenges experienced in their various systems and the interaction of the aforementioned systems create great resilience and achievement or create anger and resentment which leads to counter culture behaviors, rejecting education as a pathway that will create opportunity and financi al stability (Boykin, Tyler, Watkins Lewis & Kizzie, 2006; Howard Hamilton & Behar Hornstein, 1995; van den Bergh, Denessen, Hornstra, Voeten & Holland, 2010). Framing African American m al e achievement through a ecologic a l systemic lens creates opportunity for insight into factors that contribute to and impede academic success in public education from a holistic view. Statement of the Problem There appear to be four macro level systemic problems that contribute to academic failure. A m atriarch al family system, socio economic status, perceptions of masculinity, and lack of multicultur al awareness and acceptance in schools contributes to academic struggles for African American m al es in education (Currie, 2005; Harper et
20 al 2009; Pollack, 2006; Wyatt, 2009). These aforementioned systems independently and jointly can create barriers for African American m al es in schools. Each system is briefly detailed an d will be explained further in Chapter 2 the literature review. Single Parent Family System It is more common for African American children to be raised in single parent families than a tradition al two parent nuclear family (Rodney & Mupier, 1999). African American m al es from Matriarch al families are at greater risk of expe riencing psychosoci al problems and academic failure when compared to peers that come from two parent homes (Sterrett, Jones, & Kincaid, 2009). Often African American m al es have no contact or limited contact with their biologic al father. Not having a positi ve m al e role model in an African American m al al distress and at risk behavior (Harper, Terry, & Twiggs, 2009; Parker, & Maggard, 2009). Identification with a positive African American m al e role model for adolescent African Ame rican m al es establishes a relationship that al lows for di al ogue about African American cultur al v al ues (Mah al ik, Pierre, & Wan, 2006; Sterrett et al 2009). African American m al es that do not have a positive m al e role model in their lives have difficulty developing their raci al identity (Harper, et al ., 2009; Parker, & Maggard, 2009). Having no positive m al e role model leads to confusion in their identity resulting in lowered self esteem, and confidence in school (Harper, et al ., 2009). Not identifying wit h a positive m al e role model makes these boys more apt to join gangs to find belonging which can influence achievement in schools (Mah al ik, et al ., 2006 ; Parker & Maggard, 2009; Sterrett et al 2009). Al lowing space for raci al identity development will i mprove the al he al th, increasing self esteem and decreasing p sychologic al distress (Mah al ik et al 2006).
21 Absent fathers in African American households is not a myth, but a lived experience for African American children (Dorsey,Forehand & Brody, 2007). The dynamics of having a single parent household have many disadvantages and increased stress for the family in addition to ac ademic underachievement (Dorsey, et al ., 2007). Single parent families experience financi al burdens, greater expos ure to crime and drugs within their community due to income status and affordable housing, as well as psychologic al stress due to the aforementioned variable (Pasch al l, Ringw al t & Flewelling, 2003). When comparing single African American mothers to two pa rent families, single mothers experience limited financi al resources, greater isolation, and possess fewer coping strategies and resources, which impact their ability to supervise, guide and appropriately communicate with their children (McLoyd, Jayarante, Ceb al lo & Borquez, 1994; Pasch al l, et al 2003). The stress of often working two jobs, limited availability to their children, as well as distress in the lives of these single African American mothers increases the risk of their children failing academic al ly and increases risk of their drug use and crimin al activity (Mahlik, et al 2006; Noguera, 2003;Pasch al l, et al 2003; Rodney & Mupier, 1999). Al l of these ch al lenges experienced by African American children from Matriarch al families create greater r isk of academic failure and limits post secondary opportunity when compared to White middle class children that live in tradition al nuclear families (Rodney & Mupier, 1999). Socio e conomic Class Another barrier experienced by African American m al e boys wh en trying to succeed academic al ly is their socioeconomic status. Most Black m al es are raised in Matriarch al single parent families, placing these youth in a low socioeconomic status (Rodney & Mupier, 1999). There are many barriers presented for youth bein g raised
22 and educated in a middle lower and low socioeconomic background (Bailey & Bradbury Bailey, 2010; Goodman et al 2003; Rodney & Mupier, 1999). These youth often experience less supervised time afterschool, exposure to drug and gang culture, crime and lack access to qu al ity he al th care (Currie, 2005; Parker & Maggard, 2009; Noguera, 2003). Great disparities in he al th care access such as services and treatment exist for African American m al es when compared to their White middle class counterparts. T hese disparities influence academic availability and ultimately academic achievement due to being chronic al ly physic al ly ill (Currie, 2005). Poorer he al th care leads to more days of school missed, reduced ment al functioning that increases the probability o f ment al he al th problems and greater levels of distress in their life when compared to children who have adequate he al th care plans (Currie, 2005). Children who are reared in single parent families that are poor and live in high poverty communities are le ss ready to learn upon entering school (Milne & Plourde, 2006; Vail, 2004). Typic al ly these students lag behind more privileged classmates in language development and problem solving ability in the classroom (Vail, 2004). Nutrition is al so a factor that a ffects children that come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Poor nutrition is associated with obesity and greater he al th risks and illness (Goodman, et al 2003). In addition to these findings Vail (2004) argues that by not being able to provide an ad equate breakfast due to poverty, students experience difficulty in paying attention which will impact their academic success. These findings al l he al th, cognitive development and academic achievement (Milne & Plourde, 2006).
23 Perceptions of Masculinity al ities or appearance tradition al h negatively impacts education al achievement due to tradition al masculine views of behavior and masculine attitudes toward school ( Pollack, 1999 ). Boys are taught to be tough, not to cry, and to not act like a girl (Hooks, 2004, Pollack, 1999 ). Boys and me n are influenced through culture not to show signs of weakness which leads to a f al se sense of esteem, and bravado ( Pollack, 1999 ). This bravado outwardly makes boys appear confident and strong when inwardly they are suffering from low self esteem and worr ies that they cannot achieve academic al ly ( Pollack, 1999 2006). Boys have greater difficulty asking for help because they associate asking for help as feminine which can create further deficits in learning (Jackson and Dempster, 2009; Levant, 2001; Pollac k, 1999 2006). Effortless achievement is what is created due to masculinity. Effortless achievement is when boys outwardly denounce education and work to their friends to appear cool (Jackson and Dempster, 2009). To the classroom system and peer group, b oys appear to place no effort in their school work, yet behind closed doors they work diligently to complete school work, so they can achieve (Jackson & Dempster, 2009; Pollack, 1999 ). If these students do fail by chance they tell their peers groups that i t was not due to lack of ability, rather the lack of effort that they put into the assignment (Jackson and Dempster, 2009). Contrastingly, if these boys do exception al ly well they present their achievement as effortless achievement, which is associated wit h high intellectu al ability (Jackson and Dempster, 2009). This creates a difficult struggle for young boys intern al ly as they try to b al ance being cool, a masculine man outwardly to
24 others, while trying to maintain a feeling of self worth and achievement silently (Juelskjaer, 2008; Martino, 2000). These intern al conflicts can lead to ment al he al th issues that will have a negative impact on academic achievement, identity and emotion al development ( Simons, Van Rheenen, & Covington, 1999). Multicultur al Comp onents Ethnic identity awareness influences self esteem which contributes to academic success or failure for African American boys (Howard Hamilton and Behar Horenstein 1995; Mah al ik, et al 2006; van den Bergh, Denessen, Hornstra, Voeten and Holland, 201 0) Peer pressure can al so affect academic achievement for minorities (Howard Hamilton and Behar Horenstein 1995). Al l boys, but especi al ly minority boys, must struggle with their identity as they progress through sever al stages of development until they ar e able to accept their own raci al identity despite the v al ues, beliefs and identity imposed by the majority ethnicity (Cross, 1971; Helms 1986,1993). Developing and al identity is cruci al towards academic success (Helms, 1993; Howa rd Hamilton & Behar Horenstein, 1995). Stunted identity development creates lowered self esteem which leads to academic failure (Helms, 1993; Howard Hamilton & Behar Hornstein, 1995). Academic problems arise in the public school setting when educators do n ot embrace al l ethnicities by not providing diverse opportunities to learn (Gay, 2000; Ladson Billings, 1995). Research has found that African American students prefer more spirited and commun al learning opportunities than the tradition al majority viewed s tyle of individu al istic and competitive contexts often delivered by tradition al teachers (Boykin, Tyler, Watkins Lewis & Kizzie 2006). These students thrive when they are afforded the opportunity to work together and the curriculum is stimulating (Boykin e t al .,
25 2006). As aforementioned, van den Bergh,et al (2010) propose that the need to match learning style al ong with curriculum that is cultur al ly responsive will create engagement in the classroom. When cultur al ly responsive curriculum is not created pos sible lack of engagement and struggle with identity may occur from minority groups (Gay, 2000; Howard Hamilton & Behar Horenstein 1995; Wyatt 2009). Some educators may hold implicit prejudice toward minority students, thus perpetuating the ethnic achievem ent gap due to unknown or unaware prejudice (van den Bergh et al 2010). Many educators, especi al ly if they are from the majority race, often are not aware of their own whi te privilege. White privilege is defined as implicit and often explicit advantages that white people accrue from society creating an unequ al b al ance of power and position when compared to minority races. (Stewart, Latu, Branscombe, Phillips, & Ted, 2012) .White p rivilege poses a problem as it forces minority students to assimilate to the majority culture. As their own culture is being overlooked a result could be the creation of problems with cultur al identity, self esteem, and a lack of connection with the educat or, and pose negative views and attitudes toward school (Cross, 1971; Fordham & Ogbu, 1986; Harper, 2007). It was found that implicit measures of prejudiced attitudes of teachers influenced teacher expectations and student achievement of minority students of prejudiced attitudes (van den Bergh, et al ., 2010). This finding suggests that workshops be held for teachers exposing and discussing white privilege in efforts to bring awareness to teachers of their implicit v a l ues and beliefs toward minorities. Results from the I nteractions of Macro Systems African American m al es are at risk for dropping out of high school according to nation al statistics (NCES, 2011). Interactions between macro systems contribute to this
26 cu rrent epidemic in America. Negative outcomes for African American m al es include lack of positive m al e role models, low academic expectations, perceptions of masculinity, gang affiliation, cultur al ly insensitive curriculum and the misunderstanding of the m a l e student due to their lived experiences in their various systems (Bailey & Paisley, 2004). One in four African American adolescent m al es are involved in the juvenile justice system and are either incarcerated or under court supervision (Bailey & Paisley, 2004). Addition al ly, there is an overrepresentation of African American m al es enrolled in speci al education services which the literature states is due to biased referr al and assessment procedures of minority students (Green, 2005; Jordan, 2005; Shapiro, Loeb & Bowermaster, 1993; Watkins & Kurtz, 2001). African Americans comprise 12.2% of the tot al population of students served in speci al education services nation al ly in 2007 compared to 8.5% Caucasian, 8.5% Latino and 14.3% Native American and Al askan(N CES, 2011). One more factor that is contributing to academic failure is unsupervised time after school (Bailey & Bradbury Bailey, 2010; Woodland, 2008). Unstructured, unsupervised time after school especi al ly for African American m al es living in urban are as greatly increases their chances of participating in crimin al behavior such as gang related activities, violence and drug de al ing (Noguera, 2005). Often engagement in these activities is due to a responsibility to help financi al ly support the family (Woo dland, 2008). Fin al ly, due to lack of qu al ity he al th care many African American m al es experience emotion al and psychologic al stress that contribute to poor academic achievement (Kincaid, Jones, Cuellar & Gonz al ez, 2011; Sterrett, Jones & Kincaid, 2009; Woo dland, 2008). These students are unable to receive he al th services or he al th services are
27 al he al th. This leads to more days missed from school and reduced ment al functioning due to physic al illness and emo tion al stress experienced by the student leading to greater aca demic failure (Woodland, 2008). Need for the Study These ch al lenges experienced in their various systems either create great resilience or create anger and resentment leading to counter culture behaviors, rejecting education as a pathway that will create opportunity and financi al stability. It is imperative to foster awareness and critic al consciousness understanding how these systems can lead African American m al es toward failure. Understanding how these systems can impact ment al he al th, identity development and influence African American m al es to reject the education al pipeline can inform researchers of the current dilemma experienced in education for minorities. Through understanding of the ph enomena, researchers can begin creating interventions and strength based support to improve retention and graduation rates for minority m al es. There are some African American m al es that are advancing and graduating from universities and college. The purpos e of this research was to begin exploring the strengths that African American m al es possess. It is important to begin moving away from a deficit model to create a strengths based model that encourages engagement in academics. The researcher was interested in investigating, through a systemic lens, where these young men are influenced and encouraged to succeed in a white dominated education al system. Numerous studies reviewed work from a deficit model to identify problems experienced by African American m al e s in education. Little research has been
28 conducted at this time that work from a strengths based model to identify success factors that contribute to academic achievement for African American m al es. This study contribute s to the field by establishing a stu dy that shifts the focus from failures experienced from African American m al es in education toward understanding their strengths and successes. It identified how African American m al es from single parent families are advancing in education. This study iden tified what factors are working for African American m al e students in education. The study al so identified community, famili al and person al strengths and offer suggestions toward development of needed community programs and family awareness to promote acad emic success in at risk settings. Research Questions The followin g four questions guided the study: 1. What is the lived experience of African American m al es in education? 2. What are the factors for African American m al es based on their lived experience within their various operating systems (school, community, family) that contribute to their success? 3. What are the struggles for African American m al es based on their lived experience within their various operating systems (school, community, family) that contrib utes to their success? 4. Where do African American m al es receive positive messages and encouragement that influence their engagement in education and academic success, specific al ly from a systems perspective? Purpose of the Study The purpose of this investi gation was to understand where positive messages are received in African American m al es lived systems and how these messages contribute to academic success and advancement in higher education. The investigator propose d
29 key factors that promote academic eng agement and achievement for African American m al es interviewed Go al 1 To identify positive messages received in African American m al es lived systems that promote academic success. Go al 2 ke interpretations of what contributes to academic success Go al 3 To suggest a set of core components that promote academic engagement, opportunity and achievement for at risk African American adolescent m al es. In addition to the aforemen tioned go al s, the following objectives were exposed: 1. To give voice to re al life experiences of African American m al e adolescents who are academic al ly successful, illustrating their accomplishments in education while enduring numerous struggles and hardships based on the opp ressive system they experience. 2. To expose the v al ue of understanding and exposing raci al identity development in preparing young men for adulthood. 3. To share the v al ue of strong positive m al e role models in the community and their impact in the lives of you ng men who struggle and are at risk of adjudication and academic failure. 4. To assist policy makers and educators by increasing awareness of existing programs that contributes to the success of African American youth. 5. To aid in the understanding and instill hope on how to promote academic success for African American adolescent m al es and improve graduation rates nation al ly. 6. To foster research ideas for future studies on fostering academic and career outcomes for African American m al es.
30 Ration al e for Methodolo gy Phenomenology in soci al sciences is the study of lived experiences of subjects and their meanings; it attempts to understand and interpret these meanings with a degree of depth and richness (Van Manen, 1990). According to Husserl, (1931) phenomenology i s a lived experience and meaning is created in the moment, in the experience between researcher and subject (Crotty, 1998; Flood, 2010, Husserl, 1964; Tan, Wilson & Olver, 2009). The researcher experiences the subject and phenomena in the moment while maki ng sure to leave al l previous knowledge, judgment, and bias out of the investigation (Crotty, 1998; Flood, 2010, Husserl, 1964; Tan, et al ., 2009). This methodology was chosen because it al lows the researcher to explore the phenomena deeply and broadly ex posing strengths and struggles specific al ly from the subjects lived experience. Inductive an al ysis was paired with phenomenology to give voice to subjects interviewed based on their shared experience. Inductive an al ysis operates by focusing on specific dat a from interviews conducted, then moves to the gener al (Hatch, 2002). Understanding the specific elements of each transcription from the data collected generates meaning units from t he data. The researcher worked making connections of these meaning units a mong the al ysis is a search for patterns of meaning in data so that gener al (Hatch, p.161, 2002). By looking at the patterns acro ss the data the resea rcher worked to establish a status of gener al explanatory statements (Hatch, 2002) Using inductive an al ysis enable d the researcher to identify specific areas within the subjects systems that are contributing to academic success.
31 Organization of the Rest of the Study The rest of the study is contained in the next four chapters. Chapter 2 presents the review of literature that relates to factors that contribute to African American academic failure and success from a systemic overview. Chapter 3 d iscusses th e methodology that was used in the study, which explains the research design, procedures, population, data collection method and an al ysis procedures. Chapter 4 contains the results of the study as interpreted by inductive an al ysis. Chapter 5 includes the d iscussion, interpretation of findings, limitations of the study, and recommendations for further research and conclusion.
32 CHAPTER 2 REVIEW OF THE LITERA TURE Introduction The purpose of this investigation was to understand where positive messages are rec eived in African American m al es lived systems and how these messages contribute to academic success and advancement in higher education. The study attempted to identify a set of core components that promote academic engagement, opportunity and success in school for at risk African American adolescent m al es interviewed. The investigator will discuss key factors that promote academic engagement and success as experienced by African American m al es interviewed. This study identified the v al ue of strong positiv e role models in the community and their impact in the lives of young men who struggle and are at risk of adjudication and academic failure. By sharing the lived experiences of at risk academic al ly successful African American m al es, this study highlights i mportant factors that encourage academic success for African American adolescent m al es in efforts to improve graduation rates nation al ly. Chapter 2 will be a review of literature that addresses factors that contribute to the failure of African American m al es in secondary education. It highlight s the most s al ient variables and explain s the current dilemma that African American m al es are faced with in public education. It al so highlight s variables that empower and promote success for these young men. It expla in s al framework in addition to examining macro systems that influence academic achievement for minorities. Chapter 2 discuss es the many barriers that African American m al es experience in daily life and how these barriers can infl uence academic achievement and failure. Negative and
33 positive experiences will be explained using an ecologic al systems perspective to determine s al ient factors that may inhibit success in schools for African American m al es. Strength based interventions w ill al so be covered to explain achievement experienced by some African American m al es in America. The purpose of Chapter 2 is to give background of current research, and literature of African American m al e education al achievement to inform the reader of wh at is known ab out the topic. Addition al ly, Chapter 2 highlight s research that demonstrates successful interventions that improve achievement for these young men. Latino m al es are at the greatest risk of not completing high school with African American m al es following close behind Latino m al es based on nation al data provided by the Nation al Center for Education al Statistics (2011). In 2008, when comparing al l races from the ages of sixteen to twenty four, Latino m al es had the highest high school dropout rat e at 19.9% with African American m al es following at 8.7% nation al ly (NCES, 2011). There is an 11.2% discrepancy between the two races which makes it seem the greatest at risk population is Latino m al es. However, it is important to note that over the cours e of the last ten years the Latino population in the United States has grown exponenti al ly with a 43% increase compared to 12.3% for African A mericans in tot al population ( U.S. Census 2010). Based on this growth over the last ten years Latinos constitute 16.3% of the tot al population in the United States, whereas African Americans comprise 12.6% ( U.S. Census 2010). Ten years ago these two ethnicities were within three tenths of a point from one another. Latino population nation al ly outnumbers African Am erican as the largest represented minority in America. These statistics provide an argument that Latino m al es do
34 represent the largest m al e population to dropout out of high school, but are they the most at risk m al e population? When discussing at risk po pulations it is al so important to mention current incarceration rates nation al ly with respect to race. The last released U.S. Census data set on prison and jail inmates from the Bureau of Justice Statistics was released in 2006. It was estimated by the Bur eau of Justice that 12% of black m al es, 3.7% of Hispanic m al es and 1.7% of white m al es in their late twenties were in prison or jail (BJS, 2010). Addition al ly, it was reported that 44.3% of the tot al population of county and city jail inmates nation al ly w as made up of Caucasian; 38.9% African Americans;15% Latino; and 1.7% considered other (BJS, 2010). In fact, many have proposed that African American adolescent m al es are the greatest identified population for failure upon entering young adulthood (Colin, 2003; Poe, 2004; Pollack 2006). Interpreting the aforementioned data, Latino m al es may indeed be the largest population in crisis in our education al system in terms of dropping out from high school. African American m al es are at greatest risk of incarcera tion based on nation al data. Combining dropout rates for African American m al es al ong with young African American m al e incarceration rates one can postulate that African American m al es are at greatest risk of al l m al es in America (Colin, 2003; Poe, 2004). Combining these two variables, dropout and incarceration rates, c al ls for investigation of the education al system, as well as community measures being taken to empower these youth. In other words, as researchers after identifying their barriers toward achi eving in public school what interventions have been created to facilitate success outcomes in education? African American m al es are in crisis in America with regards to post secondary opportunity and
35 positive outcomes based on current statistics from NCES (2011). Are educators and community stakeholders creating preventive measures as well as interventions to begin improving opportunities for urban African American m al es and reduce incarceration rates? Theoretic al Framework Black Raci al Identity Theory Appr opriate raci al identity development is critic al for minorities during adolescence to develop he al thy ment al functioning, confidence, esteem and self affirmation (Warikoo & Carter, 2009). School models are often based on cultur al and academic stratification which impose privilege and class inequ al ity in the classroom as it is experienced in society (Bourdieu & Patterson, 1977; Bowles & Gintis, 1976;Wakiroo & Carter, 2009). This creates fictive kinship characteristics for African American m al es perpetuating t he pattern and cycle of academic failure for this group (Fordham & Ogbu, 1986; Howard Hamilton & Behar Horenstein, 1995). This behavior of fictive kinship is often blamed on rebellion, poverty, single parent mothers, low teacher qu al ity and drug affiliatio n (Warikoo & Carter, 2009). To the contrary research is combating this soci al myth, positioning a stronger argument that race, ethnicity and the cultur al ethos of the school either encourage or discourage academic engagement of youth (Farkas, Grobe, Sheeha n & Shuan, 1990; Warikoo & Carter, 2009). Farkas, et al (2009) argue that teachers need to reject the tradition al app often reject minority group, but especi al ly low income students which creates a self fulfilling prophecy for these students. Farkas, et al (2009) c al ls attention to researchers to develop a stronger multicultur al approach to working with al l students despite ethnicity. Farkas, et al (2009) suggests that by establishing equ al opportunities for al l
36 in education, the effects of oppression experienced in schools for minorities by the majority group is reduced and better academic outcomes can be achieved for minority groups. When individu al s from minority ethnicities are not equ al ly acknowledged, acce pted, and embraced by the majority, these individu al s may commonly experience discrimination and oppression. Some educators may hold implicit prejudice toward minority students, thus perpetuating the ethnic achievement gap due to unknown or unaware prejudi ce (van den Bergh et al 2010). Many educators, especi al ly if they are from the majority race, often are not aware of their own privilege (van den Bergh, et al ., 2010). This can pose a problem as it forces minority students to assimilate to the majority c ulture. By assimilating, minority students disregard their culture by joining the majority culture which could create problems with cultur al identity, and self esteem (van den Bergh, et al ., 2010, Fordham & Ogbu, 1986). However, the reverse effect can occu r for some minority students, fictive kinship, creating a lack of connection with the educator and pose negative views and attitudes toward school (van den Bergh, et al ., 2010, Fordham & Ogbu, 1986, Howard Hamilton & Behar Horenstein, 1995). Experiencing oppressive acts create negative experiences that impact academic engagement and achievement for Afri c an Americans (Farkas et al ., 1990, Wakiroo & Carter, 2009). An oppressive act is as an act that prevents people from being fully human (Friere, 1970). Fr iere (1970) explains that when someone experiences oppression they are made to feel subordinate to the oppressor creating feelings of inferiority and power differenti al s. It was found that implicit measures of prejudiced attitudes of teachers influenced te acher expectations and minority student achievement
37 al 2010). Appropriate cultur al training for al l educators is necessary to ensure they are aware of their implicit and explicit prejudices in order to enable them to create a classroom that invites and embraces students from al l cultures (Boyki n et al 2006). Van den Bergh, et al (2010) suggests that oppressive messages transmitted from teachers to African American m al e s can be harmful in their engagement, achievement and connection to education in schools. These prejudiced and oppressive acts experienced by African American m al impacts their psychologic al and emotion al development (Jenkins, 2006). Unfortunately Afri can American m al es have a more difficult time creating their own sense of self due to the definitions that have been given to them by larger society (Cross, 1971; Helms, 1990; Jenkins, 2006). These definitions of what an African American m al e is, created b y mass media, prejudice, discrimination and majority view, further disseminate stereotypic al perspectives thus margin al izing this population (Jenkins, 2006). African American m al es become confused when developing their own identity during adolescence. Thes e m al es struggle with their own identity. African American m al es struggle with identity issues such as whether to fulfill the expectation set by society to become gangster s, and drug de al ers or to engage in their academics and step outside of what society has viewed as a typic al role for black m al es (Jenkins, 2006). Adolescence is a critic al time for either education al achievement or failure for Black m al es (Chavous, et al 2003; Floyd, 2010; Graham & Anderson, 2008). Graham and Anderson (2008) discuss th e importance of raci al identity development and
38 success. Many African American students that are successful in school are often African American students this creates psychologic al distress (Fordham & Ogbu, 1986; Graham & Anderson, 2008; Howard Hamilton & Behar Horenstein, 1995). By ir cultur al heritage Black m al es improve self esteem, work ethic, confidence and are able to be oneself in school in the face of soci al pressure and criticism (Graham & Anderson, 2008). Raci al identity development theory helps educators know where to start with Black m al es to begin promoting academic success. A raci al identity development model provides a process for African Americans to abandon intern al ized racism experienced from daily living and interactions with the majority and develop a positive self concept of their raci al identity and group expression (Sue, et al ., 1998). Being able to free oneself of intern al ized racism improves self efficacy, esteem, and confidence which enable African Americans to move toward experiencing greater oppo rtunities in their life (Coard et al 2001). Freeing oneself of intern al ized racism creates an opportunity for individu al s to respond differently to their socio cultur al environments and maintain greater psychologic al well being and interaction (Coard, et al ., 2001) William Cross (1971) is credited with developing the black raci al identity model (Sue, et al model adapting his work relating it to psychologic al states, ment al he al th and counseling related issues (Sue, et a l outlined below.
39 C al identity development model al identity development model consist of four stages (Cross, 1971). These stages are linear and include Pre encounter, Encounter, I mmersion/Emersion, and Intern al ization. These stages have been revised twice over the course of the last forty years with revisions occurring in 1991 and again in 2000 (Worrell, Cross, Jr., & Vandiver, 2001). The origin al model was developed by William Cro ss in 1971. Pre encounter is the first stage of the Black raci al identity development. During the Pre Encounter stage of Black raci al identity development model African Americans s (Worrell, et al 2001). During Pre Encounter African Americans are dominated by White culture, wanting to be like the majority thus denigrating their own culture and v al ues (Sue, et al ., 1998). During this stage African American m al es are more likely to assimilate to the in at their schools. Encounter is the next stage of this model. During the Encounter stage African Americans begin to question their previously held beliefs and their past desires to assimilate to the majority culture (Sue, et al ., 1998). Often during this stage individu al s experience an explicit act of prejudice, racism or discrimination which makes them question their past beliefs (Worrell, et al ., 2001). During this time the individu al begins to al ign within their own ethnicity. Next is the Immersion/Emersion stage where African Americans rejects al l v al ues that are not from their own culture (Sue et al ., 1998). During this stage individu al s immer se themselves into Black culture and often reject the dominant culture. They
40 begin to embrace and create a sense of their place in this world, and the development of their culture over the years (Vandiver, Fhagen Smith, Cokley, Cross, Jr., & Worrell, 2001) Rage, anxiety, and guilt, emotions that are potenti al ly destructive when uncontrolled, fuel these explorations of Blackness (Vandiver, et al ., 2001). Intern al ization is the fin al stage of the Cross model. During the Intern al ization stage, African Americ ans gain acceptance of their identity, become self confident and affirmed as an African American within society, and are al so comfortable and acceptin g of non Black worldviews (Sue et al ., 1998). However, it is important to note that during the 2000 expan ded revision this stage changed in that intern al ized Blacks could differ in their acceptance of individu al s from diverse groups (Vandiver, et al ., 2001). Vandiver, et al (2001) state that reaching the Intern al ization stage does not free African Americans from ment al he al th, rather it frees individu al s to concentrate on issues beyond the adding ment al he al th and psychologic al components at the intern al ized stage and argues th at by reaching a positive raci al self conception, gains in esteem, confidence and ment al he al th functioning do occur. When African American m al es can concentrate on issues beyond racism, oppression, and blackness, space becomes available al ong with esteem and confidence to focus on academics and career paths. Ecologic al Systems Theory The ecologic al systems model attends to relation al contextu al and situation al factors identified within an individu al through understanding the various macro, meso and micro systems that comprise the individu al al ., 2011). Ecologic al systems theory was created by psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner (1979) posits that human development was shaped and created by various encounters an
41 individu al experiences within their existence. Bronfenbrenner (1979) explains that each encounter and ecologic al environment an individu al interacts with helps shape and creates their meaning as well as development towards adulthood. Thus, every environment whether at school, in the community, extended family, nuclear family or within self has impact on the development of that individu al Leonard (2011) furthers this argument stating that high school students who are developing properly can successfully navigate their lived syste ms, which will be reflected in good grades and achievement. Leonard (2011) argues that by using an ecologic al systems theory with at risk populations educators are able to look at the problem from a holistic view and identify specific systems that need rem ediation. Ecologic al systems theory investigates the interplay of macro, meso and mirco levels of individu al s. These levels vary in their complexity and interaction ranging from soci al politic al and economic forces (macro); to community, school, town (me so); to (micro) which is where the individu al interacts in day to day, face to face experiences (Pierson, 2011). Through this perspective individu al soci al and system experiences interact and influence one another either for the benefit or detriment of t he identified individu al (Pierson, 2011). It is important to understand how the individu al makes meaning of their lived experience, while at the same time investigating soci al environments and systems experienced within the individu al interdependence and influence of the systems (Kelly, 2010). This helps counselors experience the whole individu al and understand the individu al as well as where negative messages are transmitted that create distress and possible po
42 suggesting that by understanding the culture of a community one can create methods that are congruent with that culture to improve achievement in schools and life in the com munity. The ecologic al systems model investigates the various level systems and how the systems are intra and interdependent of one another. As stated before there are three main levels that are used by researchers and counselors when operating in an ecol ogic al systems theory. These three levels are macrosystem, mesosystem and microsystem. Macrosystem is defined as the largest system and is the dominating cultur al soci al politic al and economic states within society (Bronfenbrenner, 1979; Leonard, 2011; Pierson, 2011). The macrosystem consists of an outer circle of people and messages created from society that impact the development and experience of the individu al but the individu al never experiences intimately. The mesosystem is considered the bridge between the individu al world and the systems experienced outside of their home. The mesosystem is comprised of the city or town, community, school, peers, work setting and church where the individu al lives and operates (Bronfenbenner, 1979 ). Investigators at the mesosystemic level are investigating the interactions between the systems to gain insight to the synergy the systems jointly have on the individu al Where does the individu al gain confidence, esteem or motivation? Where does the ind ividu al struggle, experience hopelessness, disengagement, or failure? The purpose of investigating systems is to identify strengths or positive experiences in one system and adapt these
43 findings to systems where the individu al struggles to eradicate negati ve experiences, thus promoting self worth and confidence (Goldenberg & Goldenberg, 2008). Fin al ly, the microsystem is defined as the interaction that the individu al has with each unique system (Bronfennbenner, 1979). The microsystem is the direct experienc e with each system the individu al experiences, that is the individu al s experience at school is separate from the individu al s experience at church. The microsystem looks at each system individu al ly. Factors that Contribute to Underachievement There are fi ve main macro systems identified in this literature review that affect academic achievement for African American m al es. This section of Chapter 2 highlight s significant factors that can contribute to academic failure for African American m al es. The five ma in macro systems that influence academic achievement and opportunity for these youth include oppression, masculinity, matriarch al family, socio economic class, and the interaction of class, gender and race. The following section will outline by system the effects that each system plays in the academic achievement, development and opportunity of these youth. Oppression Oppression is defined as the act of treating or governing an individu al in a cruel and unfair way (Oxford, 2008). Oppression takes many forms and often can be contextu al ly situated amongst many systems (Ken, 2007). Oppression can be situated in soci al locations that have been influenced and created by power, persuasion, philosophies and materi al re al ities of race, class, and gender. These inter actions and manipulations of systems make it hard for any individu al in any given circumstance to be al l oppressed or al l oppressing (Ken, 2007).
44 (Zutlevics, 2002, p. 82). Zutlevic s (2002) explains that resilient autonomy is achievement through hard work, determination and will. Oppression often creates barriers that make it harder for individu al s to achieve equ al ity, and advancement from lower socioeconomic backgrounds to more stab le soci al and economic states (Zutlevics, 2002). Addition al ly, oppressive acts create larger ment al he al th problems such as depression and low self esteem for African Americans (Goodman & West Olatunji, 2010). African Americans historic al ly have experience d hegemony in public school settings (Goodman & West Olatunji, 2010). Hegemony is defined as the dominance of one soci al group or country over others (Oxford, 2008). African Americans have experienced segregation, lived through integration while enduring h ate crimes, racism, prejudice, and discrimination during the 1960s and today experience various levels of implicit and explicit racism and oppression at school (Howard Hamilton & Behar Horenstein, 1995; Joe & Davis, 2009; Lew in, 2006; van den Bergh et al 2010). Oppression creates a self fulfilling prophecy for African American m al es as they begin to believe that there is no point in trying to achieve because even with their best effort in school it will not produce the same opportunities as their white m ajority counterparts (Harper, 2007; Taylo r et al 1994). Mah al ik et al (2006) explains that African Americans that accept their oppressed role and are unable to develop their own raci al identity outside of the majority will experience greater levels of psychologic al distress. Though in one sense rejecting the majority is positive because it creates a certain level of empowerment by defying the
45 majority rule it does creates gaps and limits opportunities for African Americans in education (Fordham & Ogbu, 1986; Harper, 2007). Fictive kinship therefore carries many implications for young African American m al es. First, by African Americans rejecting White middle class education these young men fail academic al ly and are more susceptible to street life and cr ime (Fordham & Ogbu, 1986; Howard Hamilton & Behar Horenstein, 1995; Jordan, 2005; McMillian, 2003). Second, by rejecting the dominant culture which drives education al standards many African American m al es turn to drug and gang related culture which leads to dropout and greater risk of incarceration (Bailey & Paisley, 2004; Noguera, 2005). Educators must understand these concepts and help young African American men foster resiliency which focuses on strengths of the individu al to overcome barriers in educat ion and oppression that is transmitted from the dominant culture (Goodman & West Olatunji, 2010). Perceptions of Masculinity Masculinity is another macro level system that influences achievement and engagement for m al es in education. Tradition al views of masculinity dissuade academic engagement for boys (Juelskjaer, 2008). In order to abide by the code outlined by masculine hegemony boys receive messages to reject any characteristic of being successful in academics as it is perceived as feminine (Juelskja er, 2008). Masculine culture rejects boys that work hard and achieve in school, terming these boys as nerds, (Kehily & Nayak, 1997). Kehily and Nayak (1997) suggest that humor is the organizing principle used at school for boys as it relates to masculinity Martino (2000) expands their research suggesting that humor structures how boys relate; it creates a system of verb al abuse that establishes a hierarchy of masculinities. Boys f al l on a spectrum of
46 masculinity which determines their level of acceptance a on their ability to ch al lenge, name c al l and joke with each other (Martino, 2000). Boys that are not as verb al athletic or are more interested in academics become subjects of ridicule based on this system (Kehily & Nayak, 199 7; Martino, 2000). This verb al abuse or bantering back and forth between boys are deemed ritu al s of abuse in masculinity culture which is a measurement of ev al uating m al e prowess between each other (Kehily & Nayak, 1997). This aforementioned description o f masculinity hegemony is problematic for academic achievement and advancement for boys. If boys do not subscribe to masculine hegemony these boys are susceptible to ridicule, rejection from the group and experience greater levels of psychologic al distress ( Pollack, 1999 2 006). Outwardly toward their peer group boys are influenced through masculine culture to reject school, though intern al ly many understand the importance of school and lost opportunity if they fail academic al ly (Jackson & Dempster, 2009). Therefore an intern al struggle arises and boys must often hide their own intellect or compensate by becoming an athlete, musician, or class clown to retain masculine status within the hierarchy (Jackson & Dempster, 2009; Kehily & Nayak, 1997; Martino, 2000 ). This can create greater levels of stress experienced by the young man, as well as, increase vulnerability to psychologic al dis tress or impairment (Simons et al 1999). Boys are conditioned by fathers, uncles, media, tradition, family and community to possess characteristics as what is defined as masculine (Farrell, 1974 ; Hooks 2004; Pollack, 2006). Boy code is de fined as a set of cultur al norms, the messages boys hear (Pollack, 1999) Jack son
47 and Dempster (2009) further delineate masculinity by providing a set of three rules. These rules suggest that in order to be masculine one must (a) reject al l characteristics of the feminine, (b) the relentless focus to be powerful and successful and ( c) being bold, aggressive and exhibiting no fear Messages about being masculine are transmitted from our society through multiple mediums teaching young boys to be tough, conce al ing empathy, natur al love and ultimately to hide al l pain (Pollack, 2006). Th ese messages are transmitted in clichs teach these young men to suppress feeling emotions, es peci al ly those that are considered feminine (Pollack, 2006). Soci al control, especi al ly in the form of guilt, al voices which can lead to ment al he al th concerns, lowered self esteem and confidence (Frank, Kehler, Lovell & Davison, 2003; Jackson & Dempster, 2009; Pollack, 2006). In this patriarch al culture young m al es are not al lowed to be acknowledged for their individu al ity and uniqueness, rather their v al ue is dictated by their performance and what they are able to ac hieve (Hooks, 2004). Masculinity exchanges self esteem for bravado (Pollack, 1999, 2006). To maintain homeostasis within masculinity most boys conce al their emotions such as sadness, hurt, not loved, wounded, and criticized (Farrell, 1974 Hooks 2004,Leva nt, 2001, Pollack, 1999, 2006). These suppressed feelings reformulate into anger and manifest as aggressive behaviors. Pollack (1999, 2006) states these actions fulfill the expectations of the boy code. However, un de al t emotions such as sadness, hurt, wou nded, and not loved can lead to identity confusion, arrested states of identity
48 development, and possible ment al he al th concerns (Pollack, 2006). Pollack (1999, 2006) and Hooks (2004) argue that by not acknowledging negative emotions and working to underst and suppressed emotions such as hurt and humiliation these young men are at greater risk for depression, anxiety disorders and academic underachievement. Masculinity can al so create symptom related to m al e underachievement which is described as effortless which argues that due to boy code and masculinity boys replace their self esteem with bravado extern al ly or for the world to see (Jackson & Dempster, 2009; Frank et al 2003; Martino, 2000; Po llack, 2006). Effortless achievement occurs when boys outwardly denounce education and work to their friends to appear cool. However, behind closed doors they work diligently to perform the task so they can achieve in school (Jackson & Dempster, 2009). If these students do fail by chance they tell their peers groups that it was not due to lack of ability, rather the lack of effort that they put into the assignment. Contrastingly, if these boys do exception al ly well they present their achievement as effortle ss achievement, which is associated with high intellectu al ability (Jackson and Dempster, 2006). Effortless achievement creates another emotion al rollercoaster for young men in constructing their identity (Jackson & Dempster, 2009; Frank, et al 2003; Ma rtino, b al ance self worth against being cool or masculine with respect to academic achievement (Jackson & Dempster, 2009; Juelskjaer, 2008; Martino, 2000). Doing well in school is seen as nerdy and overly feminine which can lead to peer ridicule (Jackson
49 (Simons et a l 1999). Success in academics is objective and quantified through grades in courses. Thus, success in academic achievement can be suggested to be linked to self worth (Simons, et al 1999). Due tradition al views of masculinity in American society many b oys struggle emotion al ly when working to maintain an extern al image with their peer group and intern al view of their self worth as well as success in school (Jackson & Dempster, 2009). This double bind can increase levels of anxiety and influence academic ability and achievement. al what we cannot feel, by supporting patriarch al culture that soci al izes men to deny feelings, we doom them to live in states of emotion al al ls for a critic al consciousness that examines the deconstruction of tradition al patriarch al practices and teaching. Young m al es need to be able to express their emotions without being ridiculed or considered too feminine (Farrell, 1974; Hooks, 2004; Pollack, 1999 ). Jackson and Dempster ( 2009) suggest considering re ev al uating how educators measure success by shifting some of the focus away from product and more on praising the effort and process. Redefining these gender roles to create a safe place academic al ly for boys to engage academic al ly will be difficult due to tradition al definitions of masculinity and femininity. Space can be created for boys to free themselves from the chains of masculinity. Overcoming tradition al views of masculinity can be achieved through educating parents and teachers whom can construct new communicative patterns and a community that is eg al itarian, creating space for emotion al growth and education (Pollack, 2006).
50 Single Parent System Many African American families over the course of American history have bee n out of wedlock and fem al e centered (Battle & Scott, 2000). Since the 1960s African American single parent households has risen to 63 percent, with 92 percent of these families headed by mothers (Battle & Scott, 2000; Hill, 1999). There has been a consid erable amount of research conducted on the effects of not having a father figure present and the effects of education al achievement, crime, gang membership, premarit al sex, to homosexu al ity (Battle & Scott, 2000; Du Plessis, 1993; Young, Jensen, Olsen & Cu ndick, 1991; Pasch al l et al ., 2003; Peoples & Loeber, 1994). Battle al e households that are capable of raising children in a single parent household, academic achievement and he al thy development has more to do w ith availability/accessibility and possession of economic resources than gender or a nuclear family. The single parent mothers need support from extended family and community members which will promote successful child rearin g (Battle & Scott, 2000; Murry et al 2001). African American m al es that do not have a positive m al e role model in their lives have difficulty developing their raci al identity, which leads to confusion in their identity resulting in lowered self esteem, confidence in school, more apt to join gangs to find belonging which al l influence achievement in schools (Mah al ik et al ., 2006; Parker & Maggard, 2009; Sterrett et al 2009). Identification with a positive African American m al e role model for adolescent African American m al es al lows space for raci al identity al he al th, increasing self esteem and decreasing psychologic al distress (Mah al ik et al ., 2006).
51 Single parent mothers typic al ly experience greater economic, work related and famil y related distress than tradition al nuclear families (Murry, et al ., 2001). Many single parent mothers experience the pressure of providing financi al ly sometimes working two shifts to provide for their children. Single mothers often feel over worked and in adequate in providing basic needs to their children that can lead to psychologic al distress for these mothers (Murry et al ., 2001). This stress experienced by mothers, if not managed, leads to diminished ment al functioning and can create psychologic al diso rders such as anxiety, depression and substance abuse (Brody & Flor, 1998; Ceb al lo & Borquez, 1994; Jayarante; Murry et al ., 2001). Two factors that contribute to poor ment al he al th and functioning are education al and financi al resources (Ensiminger, 199 5). Ensiminger (1995) found that educated mothers possessed greater capacity to manage stressful times and gener al ly were able finding suggests the importance of extended family and community support for lower socio economic mothers in raising their families to provide soci al support which will promote academic achievement for youth. Thus, Extended families and community support are imperative in promoting academic engagem ent and success for African American m al Distress is experienced at greater levels in families that are reared by single parent mothers (Dorsey, et al 2007). This distress is experienced typic al ly when mothers have limi ted postsecondary education, experience co parenting conflict (with absent father, ie. child support), often lack interperson al and parenting skills (Dorsey et al ., 2007). Parenting skills are linked with matern al self esteem which often influences
52 the bon d between mother and child (Murry et al 2001). Many African American single parent mothers work in jobs that create both financi al and he al th related stressors due to poor pay and less than adequate he al th care (Goodman, Slap & Huang, 2003). Financi al an d he al th related distress trickle down within the family system and influence African American m al al and psychologic al well being (Goodman et al 2003). For many mothers, working two jobs is a re al ity which cre ates long hours and often compromises parenting, supervision, and availability for them to help their children with school (Mahlik, et al 2006; M urry, e t al ., 2001; Pasch al l, et al 2003). Being unavailable in the afternoons for their children due to wo rk can create ment al he al th issues for mothers especi al ly when they compare themselves to other mothers in the community that may be financi al ly stable and are supported by a partner (McLoyd et al ., 2004). These identified stressors have impact on the si ngle parent African American mothers self worth (Murry et al 2001). Adolescents from single parent matern al homes when the mother is impaired experience diminished self esteem, guilt, and may reject white middle class education because these youth feel an obligation to help provide for the family (Noguera, 2003;Pasch al l, et al 2003). Addition al ly, when providing basic needs for the family (food, shelter, safety) are in question education often is not as v al ued or important. Al l of these factors influen ce academic engagement, achievement and future opportunities. Often adolescent African American m al es will seek support from their peers when the mother is unavailable (Chester, Jones, Z al ot & Sterrett, 2007). These youth identify their mother is busy wor king and turn to establishing friendships in the community to
53 manage their own soci al needs and support (Chester, et al ., 2007). The problem that arises for lower SES African American m al es is the community they live in and their choices of friends and gro ups to join (Chester et al ., 2007; Quanes & Rankin, 1998). African American m al es living for a sustained period of time in an economic al ly stressed community, predicted association with antisoci al peers who dismissed academics and the importance of achiev ing in school (Quanes & Rankin, 1998). Young Black m al es that live in lower socio economic communities therefore are at greater risk of academic underachievement and opportunity due to limited interaction with their primary caregiver and the influence of n egative peer groups in their community (Chester, et al ., 2007; Quanes & Rankin, 1998). Again extended family and he al thy supportive community support appear to be important in fostering success for these young men. Chester et al (2007) found that singl e parent homes with high levels of positive parenting skills fostered greater trust, security, self worth and self reliance for their children and adolescents. Families that use positive parenting skills create he al thy psychosoci al development that may aid in character development and decision making when finding and joining peer groups for young Black m al es (Chester et al ., 2007; Sheely & Bratton, 2010). Chester et al (2007) findings suggest by developing a positive and strong relationship with an adol escent that these youth based on their psychosoci al ability will seek out more positive friendships. Being able to develop he al thy and positive relationships with their peers may increase their soci al support and belonging in turn decreasing their vulnerab ility toward aggressive and delinquent behaviors al ong with depression (Chester et al. 2007). Therefore when examining factors that contribute to African American m al e academic success or failure it is
54 important to understand the family system, its inter action and what messages are transmitted from the home. Socio Economic Status Another barrier experienced by African American m al e boys when trying to succeed academic al ly is their socio economic status. Most Black m al es are raised in matriarch al single pa rent families, placing these youth in a low socioeconomic status (Rodney & Mupier, 1999). There are many barriers presented for youth being raised and educated in a middle lower and low socioeconomic background (Bailey & Bradbury Bailey, 2010; Goodman et al 2003; Rodney & Mupier, 1999). These youth often experience less supervised time after school, exposure to drug and gang culture, crime and lack of access to qu al ity he al th care (Currie, 2005; Noguera, 2005; Parker & Maggard, 2009). Great disparities in he al th care access such as services and treatment exist for African American m al es when compared to their White middle class counterparts. These disparities influence academic availability and ultimately achievement due to being chronic al ly physic al ly ill (Currie, 2005). Poorer he al th care leads to more days of school missed, reduced ment al functioning that increases the probability of ment al he al th problems and greater levels of distress in their life when compared to children who have adequate he al th care plans (Currie, 2005). Children who are reared in single parent families that are poor and live in high poverty communities are less ready to learn upon entering school (Milne & Plourde, 2006; Vail, 2004). Typic al ly these students lag behind more pri vileged classmates in language development and problem solving ability in the classroom (Vail, 2004). Nutrition is al so a factor that affects children that come from lower socioeconomic
55 backgrounds. Poor nutrition is associated with obesity and greater he a l th risks and illness (Goodman, et al 2003). In addition to these findings Vail (2004) argues that by not being able to provide an adequate breakfast due to poverty, students experience difficulty in paying attention which will impact their academic succ ess. Poverty and inadequate he al development and academic achievement (Milne & Plourde, 2006). Addition al ly, these young black m al feeling obligated to help financi al ly provide for the family. The pressure and guilt associated with helping in providing for the family often leads to de al ing drugs and other forms of crimin al activity that produces income for the family (Parker & Maggard 2009). Young bla ck m al es engaging in illeg al activities to provide financi al ly for the family increase the likelihood of dropout and incarceration, limiting positive outcomes for these young men (Bailey & Bradbury Bailey, 2010; Parker & Maggard, 2009; Woodland, 2008). Afr ican American m al es are at a double disadvantage being a minority and coming from a low SES background (Espinosa, 2005). Oppression is visible again as these young men enter public education and must adapt to a set of white middle class rules. Kupchick and Ellis (2008) defend reproduction theory in their research and claim that public schools are shaped by the needs of the capit al ist marketplace. This theory holds that schools recreate class and inequ al ity that currently exist in society (Kupchick & Ellis, 2008). African American m al es must learn how to abide by a new set of rules at school that do not exist within their community or home. This may create frustration and require training for students learning to navigate an unknown terrain with different rul es.
56 Learning this new set of rules can create weariness of the school system as well as eventu al defiance as students feel that they are being treated unfairly when compared to their white counterparts (Kupchick & Ellis, 2008). Raci al minorities therefore may find themselves al ienated or rejected by the schools as they deem their discipline and treatment from authority figures unjust and unfair compared to White students (Townsend, 2000). This further perpetuates the academic disengagement and dropout rat es for African American m al es. Due to their perceived inferiority African American m al es experience a sense of rejection, and feel targeted by administrators again assuming the role of fictive kinship to feel adequate (Fordham & Ogbu, 1986; Howard Hamilton & Behar Horenstein, 1995; Kupchick & Ellis, 2008). Teachers and administrators need to be aware of this cultur al difference and develop school rules that encompass al l economic, linguistic and cultur al ly diverse backgrounds to promote belonging and engage ment of al l students within the school (Epinosa, 2005). Interaction of Race, Class and Gender Race, class, and gender are the basic categories for soci al organization (Battle & Scott, 2000). It is important to understand the interactions of gender with bot h culture and soci al structure when working with families of color. The interlocking of these systems: gender, class and race, create oppression and resistance for families of color (Battle & Scott, 2000; Bien & Tienda, 1987). Each system can by itself cre ate inequ al ity for African American m al es, and when al l three systems interact negatively, the outcome of the interaction can create large gaps in opportunity for these young men (Roscigno & Ainsworth Darnell, 1999). Availability of education al resources t hat are cultur al ly sensitive have influence on African Americans education al achievement and
57 opportunity (Roscigno & Ainsworth Darnell, 1999). When low SES African American m al es are raised by single parent mothers, they are more likely to struggle in scho ol (Roscigno & Ainsworth Darnell, 1999). When teachers dismiss cultur al ly responsive instruction and positive interactions with African American m al es they are more likely to disengage in academics and drop out of school (Wyatt, 2009). Trusty, Ng, and Pla ta (2000) found a significant three way interaction between gender, SES and ethnicity, when investigating post secondary education al choices for U.S. students. The interaction of ethnicity and SES al ong with gender and ethnicity were significant in predict ing postsecondary career paths for African American men (Trusty, Ng, & Plata 2000). African American men from lower SES backgrounds were less likely to have awareness of career choices and opportunity outside of their own lived experience within their comm unity (Trusty, et al ., 2000). African American men from middle to upper class backgrounds were knowledgeable about various career paths and varied greatly in their career choices (Trusty, et al ., 2000). SES and ethnicity play a major role in academic outco me and career path for young African American men. Trusty et al (2000) research suggests that many minority students come from lower SES backgrounds can achieve, yet often are not sure what career path to choose and f al l back to familiar careers experienc ed in their community or family. The researchers suggest the importance for counselors to understand the interaction that SES, gender and ethnicity play in shaping African American boys and girls toward careers. Counselors need to be knowledgeable and unde rstand the interaction of SES, gender and ethnicity and their influence with each individu al minority student to match ability,
58 person al ity type and achievement in school with careers and majors (Trusty et al ., 2000). Promoting Success There is a field o f researchers that have begun identifying factors that do promote success for young African American men in education. Parent al involvement, afterschool programs, mentoring, teacher student relationships and family community support have been found to prom ote success and opportunity for African American m al es. The following section describes studies that have been conducted that have identified factors that empower and promotes academic success for African American m al es. Parent al Involvement Parent al invo lvement is a key issue when discussing low income African American al involvement in the lives of African American students can lead to behavior problems in school as well as increased stress in the family. This lack of involvement often (Sheely & Bratton, 2010). Al ong with lack of academic support, soci al emotion al development suffers due to lack of involvement of parents. Early in the stages of development if attachment and appropriate soci al and emotion al needs are not fostered in the home, deficits in development may occur with that child that will greatly impact achievement in schools (Aviles, Anderson & Davila, 2006). Children that come from a neglected home often suffer from intellectu al cognitive and academic impairm ents, (Aviles et al 2006). When speaking specific al ly about m al e underachievement poor soci al and emotion al develop ment will lead to failure in school.
59 Sheely & Bratton (2010) found that the implementation of child parent relationship relationship in the home with the family. A signi ficant finding in this study is the use of strength based counseling interventions to reduce behavior problems during the school day, as well as reduced levels of stress in the home. One can postulate that by reducing acting out behaviors during the school day the student is more likely to engage in learning thus improving achievement. Addition al ly, through this family training program the child is more apt to receive the appropriate nurturing and support at home to academic al ly achieve (Sheely & Bratton, 2 010). Smith (2009) works to dispel the myth that African American parents that come that these parents are quite engaged in academic success, but use a different medium to relay their message than middle and upper class White parents. Smith (2009) explains that many parents that are from lower SES backgrounds often work two jobs or have night shifts that do not enable them to participate in parent teacher conferences or sch ool functions. African American parents from low SES backgrounds motivate their children through their own narrative of academic success and failure (Smith, 2009). This narrative is infused with a cultur al ly informed perspective that works to influence the ir children to complete high school (Smith, 2009). These parents want their students to al ly dispels the myths of lack of parent al involvement with qu al itative findings that tell stories of how parents from lower SES b ackgrounds actu al ly want their children to do better than them in their academic careers.
60 Smith suggests that as counselors and educators we need to become advocates ju st hold a high school degree. Due to limited access to college admissions, in efforts to maps that clearly outline pathways and steps to arrive at the destination of college a these parents do want the best for their children; they just may be limited in how to access information for their children. Counselors and educators need to become advoca tes and immerse themselves, working with poorer families to provide access toward greater opportunities in academics and future employment (Smith, 2009). Afterschool/Mentoring Programs Lack of positive role models and unsupervised afterschool time increase s the risk of these young men being involved in crime, gangs and drug related activities (Noguera, 2005). The research of Noguera (2005) is supported by a 1980 release from the Carnegie Foundation that found the peak hours for juvenile crime were between t he hours of 3 p.m. to 6 p.m .. These findings of afternoon juvenile crime led toward a movement to provide afterschool activities for these urban youth (Woodland, 2008). Three models of afterschool programs emerged as a result of the Carnegie Foundation st udy and are still used nation al ly (Woodland, 2008). The three models include the extracurricular activities model, the mentoring model, and the ROP model. The most widely used in the United States is the extracurricular activities model (Woodland, 2008). T he extracurricular model exposes students to a number of activities such as sports, arts, crafts, technology, tutoring, and supervised free play (Woodland, 2008).
61 The mentoring model operates similar to an extracurricular model, but places great emphasis on the adult student relationship ( Choi & Lenberger, 2010). Each student is provided a mentor that helps the student grow soci al ly, emotion al ly, and academic al ly. Research by Mitchell, Bush, and Bush (2002) provides evidence that the mentor model is effect ive for African American m al es and increases success and opportunity for these young m al es when these students are able to connect with their mentor. The relationship between mentor and mentee is the key for appropriate soci al and emotion al development, as well as, academic success ( Gordon, Iwamoto, Ward, Potts, & Boyd, 2009; Grossman & Belle, 2006 ). This model serves single parent families well because it provides the student with a responsible outlet to discuss their emotions, behavior and academics after school when often the single parent is working or overwhelmed with household duties and caring for other children (Woodland, 2008). Fin al ly, the ROP or rite of passage program has been designed by African American scholars and community activists of whom the primary focus is on helping students move from one stage to the next in life successfully ( Gordon et al ., 2009; Woodland, 2008). The program focuses on raci al identity and the development of young men. Many ROP programs use the afterschool model, yet go beyond the school week by providing activities and retreats on many Saturdays (Woodland, 2008). Activities in ROP programs include critic al discussions and cultur al based activities that de al with history, civil services, community outreach, lecturers from the African American community, and outdoor related activities. Students that participate in the ROP programs are assigned and elder who acts as a mentor and becomes an integr al part of tenets. The three
62 tenets are to provide curriculum and experiences focused around the African American youth, encourage African Americans to embrace their culture, v al ues and ide al s while establishing a raci al d ( Gordon et al ., 2009; Graham & Andersen, 2008; Woodland, 2008). These programs have provided a framework for aiding underprivileged students in urban and rur al areas to succeed in life. Though al l are effective in providing assistance to many youth, it seems that ROP programs that are infused with the extracurricular model provide the greatest opportunity for African American m al es (Woodard, 1995). al identity is a cornerstone for increasing confidence, esteem, comfort an d acceptance for al l ado lescents (Mah al ik et al 2006; Parham & Helms, 1985; Smith,2004). African American m al es that are able to develop and understand their raci al identity are more likely to have height ened self esteem, and confidence and thus more likely to achieve in schools (Mah al ik et al 2006). relationships and suggested that both raci al identity and conformity to masculine norms in the dominant culture explain unique varian ce in Black men's self esteem and psychologic al al es self esteem was positively related to participants' Intern al ization raci al identity attitudes, and negatively related to conformity to tradition al masculine norms in the domina al ik et al ., 2006, p. 102). It is likely to conclude from this study and the review of literature that when after school programs improve identity, confidence and achievement for young African American m al es, African American m al es are afforded greater opportunities to learn, thus increasing their opportunities post secondary (Mah al ik et al ., 2006; Woodland, 2008). Woodland (2008) would argue the necessity of blending al l three programs
63 mentioned as well as involving the family, school and community to foster and sculpt academic success for young black m al es in education. Teacher Student Relationships A study done by Maylor (2010) addressed the lack of presence of African American teachers in the schools and whether i t influenced academic achievement of African American m al es. Maylor (2010) found that it was not so much the presence of an African American teacher in the school that influenced achievement and attainment among African American m al es; rather it was the qu al ity of the teacher. The qu al ity of the teacher as described in this study possessed skills that exhibited compassion for African American children and were teachers who have knowledge and pedagogic skills that influence the student to grow development al l y, learn and achieve in the classroom (Maylor, 2010). The argument thus is when administrators are recruiting teachers from diverse ethnic backgrounds investigation should be focused on the qu al ity skills of the teacher and their ability to understand and promote learning and engagement for minority groups. Maylor (2010) al al appropriate identity development of African American students thus improving self esteem and achievement. A study done by Uwah, McM ahon, and Furlow (2008) investigated school belonging, education al aspirations and academic self efficacy of African American m al e high school students and their academic achievement. When African American m al e high school students are directly targeted by educators to participate, these acts of engagement by educators are seen by the student as meaningful, influencing the et al ., 2008). When African American m al e students are not invited to pa rticipate in classroom
64 discussions, these students are more likely to withdraw from academics and less likely to seek out academic opportunities (Uwah et al 2008). It is then suggested that because African American m al e students are less likely to engag e, such behavior may influence some teachers into believing that these m al es are disinterested in their education. Teachers that actively engage African American m al e students in the classroom will invite these students to become part of the community cla ssroom, improve confidence and engagement in learning, ultimately increasing academic achievement (Uwah et al ., 2008). The most significant finding of the study was that when African American m al es felt encouraged to participate these students had greater levels of academic self efficacy (Uwah et al ., 2008). This finding is significant as it supports previous research, which suggests that academic self efficacy is a better predictor of academic achievement than either self concept or self esteem (Uwah e t al ., 2008). What Uwah, McMahon and Furlow (2008) suggest is authentic interaction from educators will engage African American m al es and promote success. When such interactions occur in the school community these students begin to believe they can perfor m at a higher level. Addition al education (graduation from high school, four year college, graduate school) directly influenced their sense of academic competence (Uwah et al ., 2008). Pedagogy is anothe r theme that has emerged from the current literature and is a driving factor in promoting success for African American students. Uwah, McMahon and Furlow (2008) argue that pedagogy deeply impacts engagement for African American students. Achievement was al so associated with teachers that were empathic and
65 committed to delivering qu al ity instruction while working to build relationships with al l of their students (Wiggan, 2007). Engaging pedagogy delivered by teachers that was cultur al ly sensitive, al ong with their caring attitudes helped create a classroom climate of teamwork which encouraged student involvement and proved to motivate learning and deeper critic al thinking (Wiggan, 2007). The major themes that were reve al ed from students in Wiggans (2007) stu dy were students desired more engaging than disengaging pedagogy from teachers. Students reported that when teachers encouraged critic al thinking, were interactive and involved with their students, promoted teamwork and modeled self direction and were over al l caring to their students al l impacted their school achievement (Wiggan, 2007). Thus, through the literature it is suggested that counselors work directly with educators to explain the importance of engaging African American m al e students. Counselors al so need to work to improve African American m al aspirations through academic and career development through direct counseling and outreach within the community exploring post secondary options. Addition al ly, counselors in the schools ne ed to investigate pedagogy of classrooms and develop profession al development workshops for teachers that are research based to dispel myths of minority disengagement. By counselors helping educate teachers on engaging pedagogy, greater student involvement and engagement is likely to occur which will lead to greater academic achievement (Wiggan, 2007). Family/Community Support Matern al psychologic al distress impacts Black m al achievement (Dorsey et al ., 2007). The poor ment al he al th of the primary caregiver, often the mother, creates added pressures for Black m al es to help provide for the family
66 (Mahlik, et al 2006; Noguera, 2003). Current literature emphasizes the need for single parent mothers to seek support from extended fa mily and community members that are positive (Chester, et al ., 2007). Grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts and uncles can provide adequate support for African American children from single parent families to foster success academic al ly in schools (Murry et a l 2001). Myers and Taylor ( 1998) found that single mothers that were able to seek out and obtain support from their soci al networks showed greater resiliency and were less psychologic al ly distressed. Lower SES African American families experience great levels of distress and are academic al ly disadvantaged compared to their white middle class counterparts (Epinosa, 2005). Many do not have the same education al resources at home when compared to their white middle class counterparts (Epinosa, 2005). Awaren ess of human service profession al academic success (Vail, 2004). Educators should be cultur al ly aware and sensitive being able to identify and refer families in their classroom to soci al services and other human service agencies to provide addition al support outside of school (Vail, 2004). A school community that promotes educators and helping profession al s to work in identified low SES communities to provide adequate education al and he al th relate d resources to disadvantaged families to improve academic success is vit al (Vail, 2004). A team system of support is suggested by Vail (2004) to create equ al opportunity in school for students of color. When African American m al e students are provided app ropriate support to meet their physic al and psychologic al needs these students are better prepared to succeed in school (Chester, et al ., 2007). When parent al involvement in academics, positive
67 mentors in the community, academic and emotion al support, and improved relationships between teachers and African American m al e students occurs, these students will be more likely to navigate the White middle class dominated education al system successfully. Researchers and investigators need to be aware of systemic barriers that are oppressive to African American m al es. Continued research investigating systems is important to clearly identify barriers that minorities experience al ong with strengths that promote resiliency, which increases success in academic achievem ent. There has been a substanti al amount of literature and research conducted that has identified deficits, barriers and macro systems that create oppression. Ch apter 3 will propose the methodology and design of a research study that is interested in ident ifying variables that create resiliency, confidence and success for high achieving low SES African American m al e students.
68 CHAPTER 3 RESEARCH METHOD Introduction The purpose of this investigation was to understand where positive messages are received in African American m al es lived systems and how these messages contribute to academic success and advancement in higher education. The study attempted to identify a set of core components that promote academic engagement, opportunity and success in school for at risk African American adolescent m al es interviewed. The investigator will discuss key factors that promote academic engagement and success as experienced by African American m al es interviewed. This study identified the v al ue of strong positive role mod els in the community and their impact in the lives of young men who struggle and are at risk of adjudication and academic failure. By sharing the lived experiences of at risk academic al ly successful African American m al es, this study highlights important f actors that encourage academic success for African American ad olescent m al es For this study, at risk is defined as living with a single parent, and/or in a low SES setting or community. Achieving students wer e defined as students who hold a 2.5 GPA or hig her and are on track to graduate on time with a standard or advanced diploma. The study use d phenomenology to explore these from a strength based perspective. Soci al science defines phenomenology as the study of lived experiences of participants and their meanings; it attempts to understand and interpret these meanings with a degree of depth and richness (Van Manen, 1990). The researcher was interested contributed to their s uccess in school. Their lived experience possesses a v al ued truth
69 that begins to explain the phenomena experienced with data that is collected directly from their lived story (Flood, 2010). Thi s data offer s an explanation of the resiliency and ability to o vercome many obstacles that stand in the way of their academic success. T his study begins to understand the factors that promote academic success to encourage more community involvement and programs to support these students. Addition al ly, the study explor e d and identified important multicultur al components that will ai d educators The study raises the importance of developing a positive sense of raci al identity and its influence on academic success. Results of this study will aid in developing better cultu r al ly responsive instruction and awareness to improve engagement in the classroom for African Ameri can boys. Phenomenology guide d the study. Phenomenology As discussed in Chapter 1 phenomenologic al theory was created by philosopher Edmund Husserl (1931) Since its birth, adaptations have been made to al low a better fit for the soci al scie nces (Crotty, 1998; Flood, 2010; Husserl, 1964;Tan, McGrief, Couns, Wilson & Olver, 2009; Van Manen, 1990). Phenomenology focuses on the lived experience through the ey es of the subject and how that experience is shared with the researcher (Crotty, 1998; Flood, 2009; Husserl, 1964). In experience and language presented from the subject to the re searcher, as if the researcher is operating from a blank slate, knowing nothing (Flood, 2010). Husserl believed that through conscious awareness in the moment and the researcher operating as a blank slate, true understanding of the phenomena could be achie ved (Crotty, 1998 ; Husserl, 1964; Tan, McGrief, Couns, Wilson & Olver, 2009). Heidegger claims human
70 beings cannot enter into the world or experience o bserved without some bias (Tan et al ., 2009). Phenomenology to include bias as well as hermeneutics (Crotty, 1998). Hermeneutics is derived from the Greek word hermeneuein, which means to interpret, comprehend or make meaning from language (Crotty, 1998). The meaning in ancient Greek terms are the co ncepts of saying, interpreting, and translating which suggests the idea that something is new or of phenomena that needs to be made familiar (Crotty, 1998). Hermeneutic phenomenology is defined by having two main characteristics. The first part of charact eristic is a descriptive methodology by which the researcher is attentive to how the subject or phenomena appear natur al ly without interpretation, reflection or attributing any meaning to the subject or event (Van Manen, 1990). The second part is interpret ive in that there is no such thing as uninterrupted events (Van Manen, 1990). The contradiction is intention al and may be resolved when the researcher is able to al ready meaningful (Van Manen 1990). A ddition al ly, facts are transformed into language that makes them interpretable thus creating an interpretive process (Crotty, 1998; McConnell Henry, Chapman, & Francis, 2011;Van Manen, 1990). Thus, the focus of phenomenology is on reve al ing meaning versus defending an argument or creating a theory (Flood, 2010). This research is considered inductiv e and descriptive (Crotty, 1998; Flood, 2010). The process begins with a description of a situation that is experienced by the participant in daily life (Flood, 2 010). Researchers obtain descriptions from their participants about the phenomena being mindful to keep
71 their own judgments and bias separate from the work. Fin al ly, the researcher an al yzes the experiences of the participants, sharing the interpretations w ith the participants to create an agreed consciousness of the findings (member checking), to make insights of how the meaning of the phenomena is experienced by t he participants (Flood, 2010). Subjectivity Statement I come from a sm al l farm that is situat ed right next to Monticello in Charlottesville, VA. Charlottesville is college town with a strong community of lovers of the arts and music, resulting in a rich, cerebr al ly stimulating environment. Growing up in this community, I was raised Christian whic h has definitely created v al ues and beliefs of mor al ity, virtue and humility. Growing up with one parent as an administrator in a public county school and one parent as a private business owner I feel my politic al views are mixed and carry many qu al ities from both conservative to liber al thoughts. I feel this blend has enabled me to be open minded and curious while investigating questions within the field of soci al science. However, no individu al is free of their v al ues and judgment, though I work to be aw are of my biases and how bias from my own experience and knowledge can affect my data and an al ysis. Addition al ly, I am a marriage and family therapist who enjoys working with adolescents and families. I feel that I am a searcher of knowledge and work hard not to judge any one person or thing. I am natur al ly curious about human behavior, the role of oppression, and the influence of systems on individu al middle class man, I continue to grow my awareness of my own white privilege a nd the influence it has on my experience s with others either in therapy the lived world or research. I possess a base knowledge of the influence of oppression into systems and lived experiences of individu al s, and daily continue to increase my awareness o f
72 oppression and action toward soci al justice. As I grow as a therapist and researcher, I am not only changing as a person, but am committed to research that exposes injustice and obstacles for individu al s and families. As a practitioner and researcher I, will continue my research in helping understand and aid disadvantaged populations to help build a bridge toward equ al ity. Research Design The research study capture d the lived experience of achieving African American m al es that are considered at risk. The research design produce d results that give voice to assets, strengths and resiliency of disadvantaged African American m al es and their ability to succeed in public education. The research lend s insight to positive factors that contribute to African America n m al e academic achievement. The research was guided by phenomenology and intends to begin explaining how some African American m al es do achieve under compromised conditions. It will help educators become more aware of not only obstacles, but al so where th ese young men gather strength and confidence that enables them to achieve in schools. Fin al ly, this study gives voice to an underrepresented population and al lows the participants to voice their experiences about their struggles and achievements in their l ived systems as it relates to their academic success and advancement. The research study was qu al itative in nature using four main steps to collect data: ( 1 ) participant selection and recruiting was used with a school districts database (2) individu al ope n ended interviews were conducted by the researcher, (3 ) comparison to cu rrent literature was made (4 ) member checking w as carried out to enhance v al idity of researcher interpretations. Triangulation of data occurred to ensure verification (Crotty,
73 1998; H atch, 2002). The following sections will explain in detail participants and settings, data collection procedures, and an al ysis of data collected. Participants and Setting Participants The participants were chosen f rom a purposeful sample from one urban hig h school and one rur al high school in the same Southeastern school district The researcher use d the following sampling method to (1) address the research questions (2) create a more specific participant pool that captures the researcher s interest (3) it is more specific than simple demographic samples as it capture d a specific participant pool identified within the public school setting (Marsh al l, 1996). The school system is comprised of seven high schools. The researcher recruited participants from two s chools targeting achieving at risk African American m al es. Achie ving African American m al es were defined by the study as youth that (1) are on track to graduate on time with either a standard or advanced diploma, (2) Hold a 2.5 GPA or higher (3) a nd are be tween the ages of sixteen and eighteen years of age. At risk African American m al es were defined as being raised by a single parent mother (2) wer e between the ages of sixteen and eighteen years of age (3) and were considered low SES by being eligible for free and reduced lunch The researcher communicate d with the loc al research department of the school district, and princip al s to gain access to participants A tot al of six students w ere s elected for this case study. Settings Two schools were chosen in a Southeastern state in efforts to capture and reflect both urban and rur al experiences in secondary education. The two schools reside within the same county and school district. The county has a population of 247,336 people
74 based on the U.S. Census of 2010 The county consists of the following ethnicities : 69.6% White, 20.3% Black, 8.4% Hispanic of Latino origin, 5.4% Asian persons, 2.6% persons reporting two or more races, and 0.3% American Indian. The median household annu al income taken from 2006 2010 da ta was 40,644. Twenty three percent of individu al s living in the county are considered to be below poverty level ( U.S. Census 2010). Occupations within this county range from white collar to blue collar professions with agricultur al as the main industry and employer in the rur al community as reflected in the demographic data provided. The community is a diverse setting where students in the urban public school setting interact across varied socioeconomic levels and ethnicities. The public school setting in the urban community encompasses many profession al service workers. The three largest employers in the urban setting are the VA hospit al private hospit al and the university including the medic al teaching hospit al that is a part of t he university system. White collar professions include, but are not limited to professors, medic al doctors, dentists and lawyers. There are trades and sm al l business owners immersed throughout the community, though many townspeople are drawn to the communi ty by the university. Addition al ly, there are al so many community member that work in blue collar public service positions. Persons below poverty level within the urban community were 34.6% respectively in 2010 compared to 17.4% respectively in the rur al c ommunity of this selected county ( U.S. Census 2010). Table 4.1 provides demographics representing the entire county. It reflects tot al population median household income percent below poverty level and ethnicity. Tables that follow 4.1 represent each scho ols demographics respectively with the last table
75 reflecting the unweighted GPA and type of diploma to be received by students who participated in the study. 4 1 County d emographics Tot al Population 247,336 Median a nnu al household i ncome $40,644 Percen t below poverty level 23.6% White 69.6% Black 20.3% American Indian and Al aska Native persons 0.3% Asian persons 5.4% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander N/A persons reporting two or more races 2.6% Hispanic or Latino origin 8.4% The rur al high sc hool is located twenty miles from the urban community in the same school district and county. Agriculture is a dominant industry within the rur al community. Many families operate medium to large farms within the rur al community. Owning or working on a farm is the livelihood for many community members that live in the rur al district of the county. Some individu al s do commute to the urban community to work various jobs at the university, and hospit al s. The urban high school demographics for the 2010 2011 sch ool year was White 48.4%, 37.1% Black, 8.2% Hispanic, 0.3% American Indian, 5.9% multiraci al or persons reporting 2 or more races (FLDOE, 2011). 37.5% of the students at the high school
76 were considered economic al ly disadvantaged based on household income (FLDOE, 2011). The dropout rate for the school based on ethnicity was 0.7% White, 2.2% Black, 1.4% Hispanic, and 4.5% multiraci al This high school offers standard and advanced diplomas. It has AP courses al ong with an internation al ly accredited Cambridge program. Table 4.3 below gives an overview of the demographics of this urban high school. 4 2 Urban high school d emographics for the 2010 2011 school year Demographic % Dropout by s chool Dropout by d istrict White 48.4% 0.7% 1.4% Black 37.1% 2.2% 3.4% Hispanic 8.2% 1.4% 1.9% Asian 0 0 0 American Indian 0.3% 0 0 Multiraci al 5.9% 4.5% 3.2% Economic al ly d isadvantaged 37.5% The rur al high school during the 2010 2011 school year was comprised of 68.1% White, 19.6% Black, 8.9% Hispanic, 0.2% America n Indian and 3.2% multiraci al or persons with two or more races (FLDOE, 2011). 33.2% of the students were considered economic al ly disadvantaged based on household income. The dropout rate based on ethnicity was 1.6% White, 2.4% Black, 5.1% Hispanic and 5.6 % multiraci al This high school al so offers standard and advanced diplomas. The school has advanced and AP courses. This school al so has a speci al ty program in agricultur al science. The school offers four speci al ty programs within the agricultur al science program, which are
77 veterinary assisting, anim al science, agriscience technology an d horticulture science. Table 4 4 gives the demographics for this school. 4 3 Urban h igh s chool d emographics for the 2010 2011 school year Demographic Dropout by s chool Drop out by d istrict White 68.1% 1.6% 1.4% Black 19.6% 2.4% 3.4% Hispanic 8.9% 5.1% 1.9% Asian 0 0 0 American Indian 0.2% 0 0 Multiraci al 3.2% 5.6% 3.2% Economic al ly d isadvantaged 33.2% 4 4 Students selected for study from two southeastern high sch ools Unweighted GPA Qu al ified for free & reduced l unch Diploma Jon 3.81 Yes Standard Jerry 3.27 Yes Advanced Stevie 3.20 Yes Advanced Tom 3.36 Yes Standard James 3.73 Yes Standard Jimmy 3.26 Yes Advanced IRB approv al was obtained from the unive rsity and the county school district T he researcher c onsult ed with the district guidance supervisor to explain the purpose of the study, the procedures and to solicit input on school selection for the study. Once
78 research consent was obtained the research er travel ed to t he designated schools and established contact, selection of participants and then conduct ed the interviews after obtaining inform ed consent documents. For students who were under the age of 18, both inf ormed consent and assent were obtained before the interviews were co nducted. Informed assent was addition al documentation required that was given to the parents of the participants under the age of 18 to give permission for the researcher to interview the participants. Data Collection Procedu res A phenomenologic al field study was conducted using interviewing, the review of current literature as sources of data and member checking. Specific research questions used to direct data collection and an al ysis include d : (a) what is the lived experience of African American m al es in their education?(b) What are the factors that contribute to the success of African American m al es within their various operating systems (school, community, family)? (c) What are the struggles for African American m al es based on their lived experience within their various operating systems (school, community, family) that create resiliency and contribute to their success? (d) Where do African American m al es receive positive messages and encouragement that influence their engag ement in education and academic success, specific al ly from a systems perspective? The data for this research was c ollected in three main ways: using demographic selection criteria as described earlier for at risk African American m al es taping and transcr ibing the open ended interview, and reviewing archiv al data to support field data and finding s. The selection criterion was used with the school districts database to select participants. Specific open ended questions, which will be described in a later se ction, in a semi st ructured interview format, serve d as a protocol for each inte rview.
79 Data w as collected over a two week pe riod, as the researcher conducted six interviews. Each interview last ed between thirty to fifty minutes. The au dio recorded intervie ws were transcribed by a profession al transcriptionist The transcriptions w ere an al yzed by the researcher and placed into meaning units to generate themes across interviews and al d ata in the form of current scholarly literature was used to frame the study, compare and support i ts results. Participants were assigned al iases to conce al their identity and respect their confidenti al ity. Selection A demographic criterion w as created and used as a selection tool to identify and recruit at risk achieving African Ameri can m al e students. The criterion was created to identify ethnicity, GPA, at risk by identifying single parent or nuclear family and SES. The desir ed sample of students was Afr ican American m al e s between the ages of 16 18 years of age, with a cumulative GPA of 2.5 or higher, who achieved proficient or advanced scores on the state mandated assessment, are on track to graduate on time with either a standard or advanced diploma, an d meet the criteria for at risk as described earlier Six students were selected from the two high schools to participate in the study. Three students were chosen from the urban high school and three students were chosen from the rur al high school. Four students lived with the identified primary caregiver as the mother. Two students had begun their high school career living with their single parent mother and were later removed from the home due to her inability to care for the student. One mother suffere d from ment al illness and information about why
80 the sixth student was removed from the home is unclear. These two students were placed in the care of their grandparents to complete their high school education. One student resided solely with his grandmothe r; the other student lived with both grandparents. These students were included in the study due to the resiliency of their stor ies despite the distress experienced in their family systems. Interviews Specific open ended questions were used by the resear cher and serve d as a protocol for each interview so the data collection format remain ed consistent. These interview q uestions were used a s a guide to help maintain the consistency of the semi structured interviews across p articipants. The researcher use d t he same list of questions for each participant. The interview questions were used as a guide to conduct the study and follow up questions were used as needed to deepen the understanding of d the interview: 1. What do you think contributed to your academic success in school when compared to your other friends that have not been as successful in school? 2. What has helped you stay on track to graduate with an advanced or standard diploma? 3. Can you de scribe the characteristics of Black m al e? 4. How does being a Black m al e influence or inhibit your success in school? 5. Who or what has made you feel proud about being a Black m al e? 6. Who specific al ly has encouraged you to achieve success with regards to your edu cation? 7. Have you found community support to aid in your academic journey? If so can you please tell about this experience for you. 8. Is there anything else that has contributed to your success in school, be it a mentor, family member, church, community agenc y, teacher, that we have not covered? Could you briefly describe that experience to me?
81 Literature Review Once the data was interpreted and themes wer e generated fr om the study the researcher compare d the findings of the study to current lit erature. The researcher use d current literature to support the findings of the current research. Using peer reviewed literature is an addition al Manen, 1990). The main purpose of exa mining current literatu re was to explore how the findings of the research compare and contrast to current literature. By comparing the findings of lived experiences of the participants with related studies and findings the researcher will improve the v al idity of the current stud y (Van Manen, 1990). To maintain study integrity, the researcher use d triangulation of data from member checking individu al interviews, and review of literature, which can build a solid case for justification of themes (Creswell, 2003). Member Checking D a ta was collected, transcribed, interpreted and triangulated. T he researcher was unable to meet with the participants again to review statements written in the due to testing and graduation However, membe r checking did occur through distribution of individu al packets with results and interpretations to participants of the study. Six pac kets were distributed, and four packets were returned t o the researcher. Four students participated in member checking to ensure verification and trustworthiness of the study. Upon completion of an al ysis the researcher created individu al packets of information for each student interviewed. The packet that was distributed to the students included excerpts from that student al be included in the research results The packet al so provided students with a detailed
82 procedure to review the materi al improve trustworthiness and verification. The students were instructed to correct any misinterpretations given by the researcher to ensure the students experience was correctly captured in the research and results of the study. O nly one minor correction was made from feedback recei ved from one of the participants. The other three participants that did participate in the member checking agreed with al l statements and interpretations of data. This process of member checking improves v al idity (Hatch, 2002). If findings are incorrect, or participants wish to include addition al information, findings were rewritten accordingly. The methodology for this study was qu al itative and subjective in nature, so multiple methods of data collection were used to establish v al idity and verification, a nd member chec king by the participants was encouraged. It is important to note that the rur al school returned al l three packets, whereas the urban school only returned one pack et The urban school was more difficult to regain access to the participant popul ation. Direct transcription w ere used, and referenced against documented studies from the literature review for trustworthiness and authenticity (Van Manen, 1990). Reflexive Journ al A journ al was kept throughout the research process. The researcher took n otes while interviewing participants in addition to daily reflections while an al yzing the transcriptions. The researcher developed themes and reworked thes e themes recording them da il y. As each day of an al ysis occurred themes were condensed and regrouped t o capture the lived experiences of participants interviewed. The journ al served as an
83 addition al tool to guide the development of themes. Each day during an al ysis the journ al was used to group and regroup themes developing richer meaning from the data. D ata An al ysis Inductive an al ysis was used to interpret the data in the study. Inductive an al ysis operates by focusing on specific data from interviews conducted, then moves to the gener al (Hatch, 2002). Meaning units were defined as individu al statements th at stand al one and provide meaning (Hatch, 2002). Understanding the specific elements of each transcription from the data collected generates meaning units from the data. The researcher worked to make connections of these meaning units among the transcript ions as a whole. Inductive an al ysis searches for patterns of meaning to provide gener al statements about phenomena under investigation (Hatch, 2002). By looking at the patterns across the data, the researcher worked to establish a status of gener al explan atory statements (Hatch, 2002). The researcher began by taking the transcriptions and breaking the tex t into meaning units and then assigning meaning units to a domain. Domains are groupings retrieved from the meaning units that provide semantic relations hips to inform the researcher. The researcher then look ed for patterns individu al ly and across domains arguing for these patterns to have the status of gener al exploratory statements about the phenomena. The steps used by the researcher while an al yzing the data are explained by Hatch (2002, p.162) as follows : Read the data and identify frames of an al ysis. Create domains based on semantic relationships discovered within frames of an al ysis. Identify s al ient domains, assign them a code, and put others aside. Reread data, refining s al ient domains and keeping a record of where relationships are found in the data. Decide if your domains are supported by the data and search data
84 for examples that do not fit with or run counter to the relationship in your domains. Complete an an al ysis within domains. Search for themes across domains. Create a master outline expressing relationships within and among domains. Select data excerpts to support the elements of your outline. Chapter 4 will address an al ysis of the data co llected. Chapter 4 provide s excerpts from i nterviews conducted and risk African American m al es in public schools. It will examine the results based on the aforementioned steps provided in Chapter 3 Chapter 4 experiences in public education and what factors contributed to their academic success.
85 CHAPTER 4 FINDINGS Introduction The purpose of this investigation was to understand where positive messages are received in African Ameri can m al es lived systems and how these messages contribute to academic success and advancement in higher education. The study attempted to identify a set of core components that promote academic engagement, opportunity and success in school for at risk Afri can American adolescent m al es interviewed. The investigator will discuss key factors that promote academic engagement and success as experienced by African American m al es interviewed. This study identified the v al ue of strong positive role models in the co mmunity and their impact in the lives of young men who struggle and are at risk of adjudication and academic failure. By sharing the lived experiences of at risk academic al ly successful African American m al es, this study highlights important factors that e ncourage academic success for African American adolescent m al es in efforts to improve graduation rates nation al ly. As outlined in Chapter 3 participants were selected using a Southeastern public al was granted from the school system the researcher was given access to the county wide database. Three high schools were chosen to participate in the study. Two of the three high schools extended permission for this proposed research study within their school. Six students par ticipated in the study. The two high schools chosen reflected one urban and one rur al setting within the same county in efforts to capture a diverse experience of public education from the participants in the study.
86 The students were chosen based on criter ia that placed them as at risk students who are academic al ly successful in secondary education. Al l six participants were seniors who were graduating on time from their designated high school with either a standard or advanced diploma. Al l of these student s held a GPA of 3.0 or higher. These students were identified as at risk based on the following criteria: they were eligible for free and reduced lunch and were living with a single parent mother. The researcher was able to identify the GPA and SES status SES was determined by whether or not the student qu al ified for free and reduced lunch. As contact was established and permission was granted at the high schools to conduct the research, the researcher met with th e princip al of the two identified schools explaining the study and the addition al effort needed from the princip al to recruit participants from the study. Since living status in the home was not identifiable through the use of the public schools database t he researcher had to screen by asking potenti al participants if they lived in a single parent household. A tot al of six participants were chosen for the study, three participants each were chosen from the urban and rur al settings. Two of the six students used in the an al ysis origin al ly lived with their mother, however were later removed from the home due to environment and biologic al circumstances. Due to ment al illness and inability to care for their children in both circumstances caregiver rights were t urned over to the grandparent(s). The resiliency and academic success of these students, despite many hardships adds to the v al ue and worth of the research warranting their inclusion in the study.
87 The researcher will explain each theme individu al ly withi n Chapter 4 illustrating the importance of each finding. The following themes emerged from the interviews and are listed by number of times these themes are report ed across the data: Family V al ues, Self Concept, Belonging and Community Support/Outreach. I t is important to note that ecologic al systems theory guides the interpretation and an al ysis of the findings. Themes independently and interdependently influence academic engagement for at risk African American m al es. Results Four themes emerged from the interviews according to the degree of s al iency experienced across the interviews that encourage the academic success of at risk African American m al es. The themes are listed based on number of times observed across the six interviews conducted. Family V al u es, Self Concept, Belonging and Community Support/Outreach each independently and interdependently influence academic engagement and success in school for African American m al es. Each theme nce each theme has on their academic journey and success. Family V al ues Family v al ues is the strongest theme that emerged from the an al ysis and appears to be the core foundation for academic success for the youth interviewed. Family v al ues encourage basic skills that are required to be successful academic al ly such as drive, motivation, independent thinking, and strong work ethic. As will be discussed in Chapter 5 family v al self esteem and confidence Family v al ues are the foundation for fostering greater
88 adaptability in schools toward experiencing oppression, overcoming stereotyped expectations of boys in school and increases the ability for m al es to ask for help. Addition al ly, as will be reflected through the excerpts of the interviews family support is experienced through extended family. Though al l but two students at the time of the interview lived with their mother and siblings access to grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousi ns appeared across interviews. Cultur al family dynamics were experienced across interviews where families support each other through extended family networks. Some students had supportive fathers though students reported infrequent contact with their fathe rs. Students reported the importance of having mentors within the family, the strong influence and wisdom expressed by grandparents, and fin al ly, having cousins or uncles who had succeeded academic al ly. Single parent mother encouragement Jerry shares how al ues inspire and encourage academic engagement. He share core v al ues of work ethic that his mother established in his household Jerry: My mom al to school or go get a job. And al ways said. It, it kind of puts a fire under your butt but it lets you know that you have somebody who cares about your life, who cares about where you end up. And I think important piece that a lot of kids probably are missing. Jerry offers a clear example of the importance of parent al involvement in African American m al al journey. This mother establishes clear rules and boundaries within the house a nd expresses her expectations for her children to succeed in life. Addition al ly, this student is able to understand that though his mother is rigid in her expectations; her ration al e behind her expectations is for her children to be
89 successful. According t o Jerry, his mother is teaching responsibility and fostering independence by outlining expectations. She is instilling work ethic v al ues, support, and motivation to be successful. He continues expressing the differences experienced in his household compare d to some of his friends. Jerry: I know some kids, like, their parents are never home. Their parents never re al ly they only t al k to their parents a couple of times a week. They just They mom al so, but she still finds time or makes time for us to t al k to her about any school work that we need al l about the parents. It starts with the parents. A few strong points are raised within this excerpt with respect to parent involvement and teaching children to become independent responsible learners. Jerry articulates the differ ence between some of his friends and his experience in school with regard to support from parents. His experience in being parented is quite different than some of his friends. His friends who do not have supportive and involved parents do not possess the based on his report do not seem to care or engage in learning. Jerry expresses the importance not just of having a mother who is concerned about his academics, but one who is al so involved He expresses feeling supported, which increases his level of confidence and encourages his own engagement in education. Lastly, the mother described above is a working mom. She is often busy and at work as described by Jerry, yet she finds time to suppor experience while promoting the importance of pursuing and successfully achieving an education. Again she understands and v al ues the importance of education, while
90 teaching her children v al ues that are required to be successful in sch ool such as work ethic, motivation, and focus. Jon continues sharing family v al ues passed from his mother and his experience developing his self concept. She helped him establish comfort in his identity through encouragement, experience and di al ogue. Jon: My mother taught v al ues that I still hold to today that, helps me get through school sometimes. I would guess that some people think that person al al ly at way. I was al ways raised to believe in who I am and if you can accept for who you are if other al friends. why would people care so much about person al appearan ce? One important piece from this passage is the family v al ue of fostering acceptance of self and the mentoring of the mother helping her son build his own sense of identity. Identity development is critic al in early and late adolescence, especi al ly for mi nority groups who not only have to navigate basic development through lifespan, but al so raci al identity development as they compare themselves to the majority. Here the mother is instilling basic v al ues of learning to understand oneself, accepting oneself and learning to love oneself. This mother is helping her son develop a positive self concept and identity for himself. This di al ogue probably has been an ongoing conversation nd development of self concept Jon continues. Jon: The main v al ue was to, to al ways pay attention and al ways listen, and al ways be willing to compromise. I thinking like, oh gosh, I do not want to do this, I re al ly do this, can we at least do this and that? The teacher would agree. And
9 1 al t that with me and Another important v al ue that is expressed in this passage is teaching skills that help African American m al es learn how to navigate education al situations where the student does n ot al ways embrace work demands The mother here teaches compromise or go al orientation. The student uses the term compromise, but it seems more appropriate to interpret this finding that some work is not al ways desirable and by setting a reward or somethin g to look forward to at the end of the assignment completing the assignment is more manageable. Again, the parent is teaching core skills that enable the student to be successful in school. Work ethic emerges again by the mother sharing and emphasizing wha t is necessary to be successful in school and in life. The mother expresses the importance of the willingness and v al ue of work ethic in school. V al ues of motivation, determination and focus create a work ethic passed from parent to child. Jerry s upports the mother who v al ues education and teaches the importance of work ethic. Jerry: I live with my mom and my brothers. I think my determination and my focus. Having a parent who is constantly on me about my grades al ways on top of her gr ades, so she al ways pushed, me and my brothers to get a better education and to, move better, al ways tried our hardest to make sure that we did better than ou r parents, that we want better for us so that we will have neve r have our families go through And that is just something my mom al ways instilled in us. She al ways said, work comes al ways made sure our education was the numb er one thing in our house.
92 Education is expressed as a core family v al ue in this passage. Al l members of this al ue education and he is able to receive positive messages about the importance of education across his lived family system. J erry is able to be taught about education al endeavors that emphasize the importance of his own education. Jerry expresses a desire to be successful and to advance further in his education than his parent. A key piece in this passage is that though his caregiver may not have been successful in her own education al journey, she understands the importance of education and his mother strongly supports the advancement of her son in his education al journey. Extended family encouragement Grandparents provide support within the family system to encourage the importance of education. Though al l but two students interviewed live with the identified caregiver as a single parent mother, cultur al ly the at risk African American m al es interviewed experience commun al support throughout their extended family. Students interviewed expressed support across their family system and receive encouragement to do well in school. Jon shares how his gr andmother became a role model and mentor instilling again v al ues of work ethic and motivation to succeed. Jon: I remember freshman year. I was in al gebra. It was al doing my homework. I did not feel like doing it. And I was thinking, b ecause my grandma, she worked hard, because she worked at Chance thinking like, wow, come on Jon. If grandma can do this, I mean, come on, this is al gebra. Like, come on, you can d push through that. I think about the things that my family have gone through, life is not al ways gonna be easy.
93 Again a message is passed down from older generations about the v al ue of work ethic. In this passage, Jon i llustrates how his grandmother inspired him through her own struggles and the action she took to provide for herself and her family. The opportunity was able to intern al iz motivator for his own engagement in academics. Using lived family experiences and messages he reflected on his own struggles with academics. Using his grandmother as a role model he was able to under stand that life can be difficult at times and that in order to advance in life motivation, focus and hard work are required. providing encouragement and support, which helped Stevie, engage in academics. He expresses how care and support helped him believe in himself and that he could achieve academic al ly. Teaching responsibility, motivation, and independence while offering support is what stands out in this passage. Stevie: O ne would have to be my mother. Anothe r would be my grandmother. M y uncle, and of course, as well as my guidance counselor. Those four main people re al ly like, helped me throughout my high school years, academic al ly. Having the people that actu al ly care and that love what child, gives you a sense of accomplishment. T hese people re al ly take time and give me that push and that sense of feeling use it or not. Giving me a guideline and leaving me roo m to create my own sense of way. Stevie experiences messages from family me mbers who v al ue education, show support and grooming for young men to be accomplished in academics and life. Addition al ly, the family and guidance counselor in this case encouraging the student to
94 achieve in academics is critic al cademic success. The guidance will be discussed later in education al personnel. It helps to get the adolescent thinking seriously about his education al journey, while sharing the v al ue and importance of education, but ultimately leaving the work and motivation up to the student as expressed by Stevie The expectation and belief has been set for the m al es that they can be accomplished and succeed in school, yet must motivate from within to succeed in this passage This the importance of families mentoring their children while offering room for independent thinking and error. This student expresses his appreciation for being able to make choices in his education and life, though at times t hey may not have al ways been right. Giving African American m al es freedom to make decisions, and encouraging and supporting their academic success promotes their development into responsible independent learners who become academic al ly successful in school Tom shares a similar story to others interviewed, sharing his perceptions of who has encouraged him to do well in school. As this excerpt will describe, Tom is influenced by messages passed from his extended family members. Family involvement and encou ragement helps Tom begin to v al ue education, engaging in academics and inspiring him to be successful in school. Tom: en they basic al ly told m e how they re al fifth grade. So, they re al ly pushed m e to get even further than they did, obviously I did. But then, towards the end of my high school year, or maybe middle of my high school year, t to graduate, get a diploma and go on to col lege So, that re al ly pushed me
95 further al ong as well to an education wise, to wanna prove to myself, to my grandparents that, I can do it Receiving encouragement f rom extended family members motivates Tom to be academic al ly successful in school. Grandparents can serve as a primary source of support encouraging m al es to do well in school. Past generations as experienced in this research share their shortcomings with education; such as unequ al opportunities in education compared to Whites and experiences with discrimination with their grandchildren not to discourage, but to encourage. These passed down stories serve as a cat al yst to motivate African American m al es to e ngage in academics as experienced by Tom. A family duty or honor emerges as described by Tom, motivating him to succeed in school. The v al ue of education and opportunity for advancement in life that an education provides engages Tom in academics. These mes sages carry a strong sense of power from elders within the lived African American m al that teach the v al ue and opportunity that education brings improve academic engagement and success as described by Tom Jimmy shares the influence his grandparents had on his academic engagement al family v al ues influencing his engagement in academics. Jimmy expresses how he receives messages of encouragement and support from his g randparents. Jimmy: Um, mostly comes from I mean, my grandparents al ways, like I stay at they al ways tell me the best thing for them to do was to like, midd le school. Make sure you graduate high school, make sure you door for a lot of opportunities, al ly what everybody tells me, a lot of options out there for me.
96 Again a core v al ue expressed from grandparents in this passage is the v al ue and opportunity that an education brings. This theme is expressed throughout al l interviews. This v al ue o f education is a critic al theme that fosters engagement in academics for these young men. Each student shared this core family v al ue and how it has influenced their academic success and motivation. Experiences of modeling from extended family A nother subt heme that emerged that supports family v al ues were experiences of modeling that occurred for some students and how it influenced their academic achievement in school. Jerry shared the impact his cousins had on his own academic engagement. Seeing family mem bers that are successful impacted Jerry positively. It helped him engage in his academics. Positive role models and mentoring encourages academic engagement and success for students interviewed. Jerry: high school, and al college al al al l about sports. I al l about what you want to do in life and exceeding in li fe. My cousins have t al ked to to be scared of it. Just to go there and embrace it. And you have go to waste. Jerry shares core family v al ues about righ t and wrong al ong with having positive role models within his family. This family v al ues education and demonstrates the importance of mentoring children and teaching core v al ues that will promote engagement in academics. Having the opportunity to discuss c ollege with his cousins has afforded this student an opportunity to explore possible post secondary opportunities. Exposure to college opportunities and positive mentoring experiences encourages Jimmy to think about future opportunities, which results in doing well in
97 encourages his academic success. He is able to experience and see something that he would like to obtain, which helps with future orientation and go al setting pre paring this student for life after high school. James continues to support the importance of positive modeling within the family discussing the experience that having both positive and negative role models in his family provided him, encouraging him to be academic al ly successful. James: Cause seeing you know, my uncles, the ones that did do good, and the ones that did do bad, seeing how everyone who treated t he ones who had been to jail who had went down the wrong path and seeing the response that, you kn ow the ones that had did something with their life, seeing the response they got from the d ifferent family members, and seeing how my some of my family members that had went to prison, get al l into drugs, seeing how their life was, it kind of had an im to be like that. James shares that his engagement in academics is partly due to the family v al ues placed on family members and their choic es in life. He explains how he saw his family members were treated by their elders afte r their involvement with drugs and time served in jail and explains how he did not want to be seen by his elders that way This excerpt again shows strong family v al ues in choosing the right path knowing right from wrong and praise that is given for family members who do succeed. This student has been witnessing these failures and successes of his uncles, he has chosen to focus on being successful and contributing to his family through succeeding in school. Through seeing the outcomes of negative choices in life of his family members this student made a choice to succeed in education.
98 In summary, despite some negative life experiences of the caregivers, work ethic, modeli ng, promoting identity of self, education al support, v al uing education, and creating a space within the home that promotes responsible independent thinkers are f amily v al ues that are expressed throughout the interviews. These v al ues are present across al l ide v al uable insight to create measures of support for African American m al es who grow up in compromised living conditions. Family v al ues were the most dominant of themes experienced across the interviews. Family v a l ues serve as the core foundation to other elements and systems that promote academic success for these youth. Self Concept A grounded sense of identity was expressed throughout the interviews and emerged as the second strongest theme. Each student maintai ned a development al ly appropriate sense of his own identity, esteem and confidence, leading to positive self image The theme of identity was influenced by the former theme of family v al ues. The foundation provided by supportive and encouraging cultur al fa mily dynamic promotes the second most frequently expressed theme across the interviews as what contributes to African American m al reve al ed in the interviews, secure identity h promoting action and doing in academics. These findings are supported in the following passages.
99 Developme nt of self respect and a he al thy identity Stevie discusses the importance of having self respect and esta blishing a he al thy identity A he al thy identity is explained by the development of sense of self and ho w self relates to others and the world as experienced by students interviewed. Students interviewed express a he al thy identity by the ability to have control over choices in their life and becoming comfortable with who they are as a person. He explains how he d eveloped self respect and a he al thy identity through support from his lived systems and intraperson al di al ogues. Stevie: By having respect for yourself and believing in yourself first, you know, f support, or encouragement, yourself, and so by thinking it and saying it in your head, and, over and over I can do this, and having your suppo rt or your encouragement from wherever it may come fr om, you know, it uplift s you, then that makes you want to go for it and say, I can do this S ome people may struggle with it g when you first get to high school... At some point try to picture or i magine yourself as, you know, of what you might want to be or who you want to be. Stevie states that identity is critic al in his academic success. He shares the importance of understanding himself, establishing his sense of identity and how that motivates him to be academic al ly succe ssful. He discusses concepts of managing anxiety, finding meaning in life and the capacity for self a wareness. Addition al ly, he motivates himself by telling himself he can do which helps him believe he can do well in school. Th rough use of encouraging himself and taking action he has experienced academic success. academic experience that help promote and establish a positive sense of identity. Ac complishment in academic tasks leads to greater self esteem, which in turn yields
100 confidence and willingness to take on harder tasks in academics, creating greater opportunities for success as expressed by Stevie This student shares that support and belie f from others whether it be teachers or parents increases belief in self which promotes action in education that lead toward academic success. Jimmy continues to explain the importance of developing a positive self concept and developing self respect thro ugh introspection and how it increased his ability to succeed in school. In his narrative, he discusses the struggles that he experienced when defining his identity and image in relation to others. His story is significant, discussing the troubles he exper class to be soci al ly accepted. He explains the significance that support and encouragement played from his family and education al systems creating a space in his life to begin thinking about the importa nce of education and the possibility of opportunities beyond high school. Jimmy : like w al king around with their, you know, sagging, or w al king around with the little w al k and everyt hing. I used to do, but I turned away from that around middle school, from that teacher. You know getting away from the lifestyle and mindset of, oh I wanna be this because I know if I go out, a lot al ity, it comes to you and what everybody else thinks. Just live your life When you look back and life and you say you lived your life the way you wanted to, then you can be happy than by saying I lived my life the way they wanted me to and not the way I wanted to. Jimmy explains his experience of changing his appearance and rejecting what he sees as a counter culture or stereotype of how a black m al e is suppose to act and dress. In mi ddle school, it appears he experienced being a part of a counter culture
101 group that rejected academic success. His friends, as he describes assumed a clothing style that matched rappers and acted in a way that rejected doing well in school while assuming t his identity as part of their culture, how they thought they were suppose d to act and dress. These students lived out what is known as fictive kinship, rejecting the majority white rule and acting differently to maintain their raci al identity (Howard Hamil ton & Behar Horenstein, 1995). He experienced failures in school while he was a part of this group and what he perceived as who and what his identity was suppose d to encapsulate. The last year of middle school he experienced a critic al incident that invo lved his grandmother and his schoolteacher This meeting had a significant impact on this student. He re al (sagging pants, strut, and acting up in school) may not be representative of himself nor his raci al identity. The influence of his grandmother and her concern al ong with his teacher encouraged him continue to explore his identity. As he began to reexamine his v al ues, he chose to redefine his identity al ong with reprioritizing v al ues withi n his lived systems. Change occurred. While exploring a new identity he began to become more concerned about what he thought about himself versus what others thought about him. He began to re al ize that life re al ly had to do with his own meaning and purpos e in life. This became another step in creating his identity and sense of self in relation to the world. The more intern al ly focused he became, while developing his sense of self respect, the more he was able to re al potenti al and establishing a life on his own terms.
102 This continued development of self concept grew into comfort and respect of self as a person while developing a he al thy identity As he states he re al ized he needed to live his life for him and not how others wanted him to live it. This critic al change of perspective occurred with the assistance of a teacher and the influence of his grandmother. This experience began the process of self discovery, which led to introspection, and rediscovery of self. The outcome of the meeting and reflection of self was a newly discovered self and identity. His new self concept was intern al ly driven, doing things for himself, bettering his life and academic career. The transfor mation al lowed the stud ent to grow in self respect, self esteem, and identity to stand apart from others and to improve his future by focusing on academics. Again, at a critic al important as Through development of self concept Jimmy was able to reassess the importance of education and refocus on what was important. Jerry shares his experiences on developing a positive self c oncept and its influence in his academic success and ability to fe el comfortable in his identity as a successful student when others may view him as different. Jerry: embody that per son and be them. I think if you have your own sense of kind of mix your ideas with the people you ad mire to get better ideas, al l about being yourself, and letting your ideas I al ways go the other direction. Letting them see who I am and why I am this way, instead of causing negativity. I like to do things a lot on my own, but I will ask for help when I need it. I like feeli ng accomplished. I have my be any change at al l I have to break out of the funk, and get my own strength, and you know your rhythm back.
103 Jer ry expresses the importance of understanding and establish ing a he al thy i dentity that is reflective of who he wants to be. He models some of his identity from positive role models, yet remains authentic to himself by creating his own identity that fits his person al ity. He exhibits higher level thinking and reflection of self while sculpting his identity to ensure that he has ownership of his expressed self. Strong characteristics of confidence emerge as he speaks about being independent, focused, and having the ability to ask for help when he needs it, which many m al es struggle with due to messages passed from society and media about how a m al e should act in society and in school (Jackson & Dempster, 2009; Pollack, 2006). He expresses being strong in your m ind, which suggests the ability to self reason, his peer group. Jerry is depicted here in the research as a person who exhibits a strong sense of identity in self, confid ence, and esteem. His comfort within his identity influences his academic success and ability creating his own opportunity. Jerry is comfortable with his identity, manage s difficult times through self reflection, seek s support when needed, and take action making him less likely to experience role confusion and ment al he al th issues. Jerry continues. Jerry: I think if more people sit back and just name al l the things that make them t based off which you like and who you are and what you like to do, it can help you to do the things that you love to do instead of just doing work. al l in your head things, you know. Person al life, school life, fun. I think al l three of those kin I mean, improve into education.
104 Jerry explains the importance of understanding oneself and the importance in acceptance of his own identity and maintains a positive self image, he discusses how it leads to a positive effect on his academics. He suggests that by growing aspects of self such as creative self, soci al self or athletic self can create b al ance and wellness. erience su ggests that nurturing different aspects of the indivisible self maintains positive ment al he al th and actu al ly aids in his academic engagement and success (Myers & Sweeney, 2004). This perception of growing aspects of self is important in understa techniques. He is aware that too much involvement in any one area may affect growth or cause possible distress in another area of self. However, working to maintain b al ance and grow various aspe cts of self will promote greater over al l wellness and functioning in life (Myers & Sweeney, 2004). Development of belief of self and confidence self concept and extends concepts of self conc ept to include belief in self to be academic al ly successful in school. He discusses the importance of believing in oneself to be successful in school, as well as athletics. Tom discusses the importance of establishing confidence in self, being able to igno re negative criticism or opinions of others and a determination and work ethic required to do well in school. Tom: Um, I was basic al and I al ong the way in school until I got to high school when I started to re al ize that grades started mattering more, and to want el ieve in me or what I look like then that means I s what drives me. I
105 believe in who I am o gonna make you believe ng very far and if you believe in what others tell you, negative stuff, you may not make it in this world. Tom reflects on what helped him re al ize that he had to take action for his own academic career. Whether from famil y v al ues or from education al per sonnel this student came to the re al ization that in order to do well in school he had to focus, put forth his best effort and take control of his own life. Early in the passage Tom t al ks about taking e classroom, whereas many students often place responsibility on others for their success or failure in school. A positive self concept develops the belief in the individu al that they can accomplish tasks they attempt as described by Tom. Tom appears to tr ansfer his basketb al l skills such as motivation, drive, hard work and intensity modifying those skills to fit in the classroom. As a result confidence in the classroom becomes a by product of academic success. Developing belief in self and confidence appea rs to be a critic al component toward achieving academic su ccess for African American m al es. Each of the students interviewed share the importance of believing in themselves, building confidence and the impact these two characteristics have in developing th eir self concept Accepting and understanding of self helps remove the desire to These students describe that they are not concerned about what others think about them, which helps their education al success. It helps their success as it removes cool when asking
106 aggression in school and how it led to academic success. Tom: W hen I first got in high school, I had bad temper tantrums. I had bad issues my anger, and as the years have gone on I started to re al ize that I e say or do to you al ly a mind thing to yourself. That if you want to be c al m and relaxed, y ou have to do i t yourself. N o one can change you. Not a counselor, not, not a parent, not a friend, nobody. Cause you have to want to change yourself in order to be changed. in myself. I believe in the way I dress, the way I t al k, the way I do things is, is al e judge how I am, just to fit in. Tom explains how management of negative emotions is another skill that is required for academic success in school. Tom by learning to control his negative emotions went from fourteen discipline referr al s his sophomore year to zero since his junior year. Again, he discusses the awakening he experienced: if he wanted to change, he had to do it himself, and be in control of his emotions This led to exploration of the mind and emotion connection. He re al ized that he could manage his emotions through his cognition This led to better control of his negative emotions and the ability to use think through his negative emotion to better manage himself in school. By managing his negative emotions, reducing his tantrums at school, he was able to stay in school more, and receive fewer referr al s. Fewer discipline referr al s afforded more time in the classroom, which led to b etter grades in school. Developing a positive self concept is critic al to academic success in school. As African American m al e students are able to develop a positive concept of self their confidence, belief in self, and development of taking more control of their academic success will occur. Students who are able to become more introspective and incorporate more aspects of self into their management of daily living will be more
107 successful. By b al ancing and learning to practice wellness their over al l funct ioning improves. This has a positive effect on academics. Awareness and respect of self creates confidence, and self efficacy al ong with belief in self. Students interviewed were able to reject perceived stereotypes of m al es in school school, which often can negatively affect academics. Instead, the African American m al es interviewed were willing to ask for help due to their comfort in self and identity. Asking for help is a critic al skill in being academic al ly successful. Belon ging Belonging is the next theme that emerged from the interviews and is supported across three subthemes. The three subthemes experienced in the interviews are, African American m al e identity, education al personnel and extracurricular involvement. Student s interviewed had a strong sense of raci al identity, which helped in encouraging students to engage in the school community. As experienced by students interviewed a sense of belonging to the school community increased their engagement in academics. Belon ging was experienced by either joining athletic teams, organizations or by relationships created with education al personnel. One or a combination of al l three promoted a sense of being a part of the school community, which influenced academic success. Stud students achieve academic success. African American m al e identity African American m al al identity influences their ability to be academic al ly successful and find belonging within public school. Students interviewed share experiences from implicit to explicit prejudices experienced by teachers, students and faculty believing stereotypes of African
108 American m al es from the media and experiences of prejudice within their own race. Students interviewed in the study were able to seek out support from family members, famous cultur al leaders, community members or education al personnel to help develop their sense of cultur al identity and how they interact ed within the family, school and larger community as an African American m al e. Adults t al king with African American m al e students about their raci al identity and culture helps increase greater outcome s of self concept and academic success for African Ameri can m al es (Graham & Andersen, 2008). Stevie describes the struggles experienced by African American m al es upon entering high school. He shares his perceptions of the difficulties associated with being an African American m al e and the soci al academic success. Stevie: I feel as though African Americans have it much harder because we tend to not push ourselves and we tend to depend o n other people to help us get by, and to help us push forward instead of being more independent al with especi al ly when entering high school. Y ou want to be the class clown, you jus t wanna be cool with everyone and so you tend to not focus worry about anything else, oh I have somewhere I belong now, so you Stevie feels that many African American m al es tend to follow the assumed role that society or media has given them in their identity as a student in school. He speaks of assumed masc uline roles within school of al l races. M al es are conditioned in society to be tough, to act cool, and be funny ( Pollack, 1999 ). Society has norm al ized disengagement in academics for young men and rewarded boys who are tough, cool or
109 funny whether in schoo l or society. Masculine culture looks down on boys who work hard and achieve success in school, terming these boys soft or nerdy (Kehily & Nayak, 1997). Humor or being funny is the vehicle boys turn to at school instead of using academic achievement to man age emotions and fit in (Kehily & Nayak, 1997). He ,but al so what he believes his peers have learned from society. He shares that many African American m al es expect others to help them or depend on others to get by in life and school He al so t al that entering high school is hard and a high school student wants to fit in. He expresses that it is harder fo r African American m al es and that often fitting in becomes more important that doing well in school. Belonging can influence academic success either positively or negatively based on the group the student decides to join and build their identity around bas positive role models have in his life and how it encourages him to do well in school. Stevie: Women activists, black politicians, entertainers, or just in gener al seeing black people succee d in a m al e dominated, white world makes me proud. For us as minorities coming from such a sm al l group seeing us getting stronger and, you know having respect for ourselves and dignity for ourselves just to say that we deserve better and that we can do be tter. You know just put the work in and you wi ll succeed. I would say I enjoy living life. I enjoy taking the time out to oward where I want to be. Picking positive role models inspires success, leadership, determination and accomplishment as described by Stevie. Seeing positive African American leaders of the community succeed in large markets such as entertainment and po litics is inspiring and keeps teenagers motivated. Again, family v al ues and core v al ues that promote hard
110 work, r espect for self and heritage inspire African American m al es to be successful in school. It seems that Stevie knows that he does not have to tak e assumed or historic al roles of African American m al es or m al es in gener al in school and somewhere a message of being proud of cultur al heritage has been transmitted. As he reflects on looking up to his cultur al leaders and shares their success stories it makes him proud to be an African American m al e. It al so inspires him as he sees the struggles of his race as a whole over the course of time and instead of believing a self fulfilling prophecy of African American m al es in school, he chooses to better hi ms elf by engaging in academics Jerry discusses his experiences of being an African American m al e in school and who has encouraged him in African American culture to do well in school. Jerry: I would say al l the black m al es who have graduated high school a nd gotten a college education are heroes to me. Just because of their T hold them down, put a damper ove I admire al l black m al g of their lives. I think if more young black m al es look up to more, to older black m al es, I think it will instill determination and maybe a go al to be like them or to accomplish m odel. Jerry speaks of the students who are successful and their ability to overcome obstacles and not be held down and show they can succeed. This takes resiliency, determination, and strong work ethic. Al l of these young men possess these qu al ities as i s shown through their success. Positive role models are a key for engaging African American m al es and to encourage success in academics as described by Jerry. Jerry identifies with positive African American role models that are successful. He uses their su ccess to guide his own academic success. He sees these men that have succeeded as accomplished African American m al es, identifying a v al ue for Jerry as being
111 successful in school and wanting to belong in a group of successful African American m al es. Tom co ntinues to explain the importance of having positive African American role models. He discusses how Martin Luther King gave him courage to overcome negative actions or interperson al conflict by using negative acts experienced toward Tom to motivate him to do better in school, increasing his knowledge base. The interviewer is included in this excerpt as a di al African American m al conten t Tom is sharing. Tom: violence to get your point around to others. So, in my case, I just use their words to push me further, instead of using violence. Interviewer: S o, instead of ret al iating you use that as something to make you stronger, to push you harder to prove them wrong. Tom: Yeah, exactly. Interviewer: Mm thinking about is education, the v al ue of education and not necessarily public school education but the v al ue of having knowledge. I wonder how you feel about that, what, what it means to have knowledge. Tom: Having knowledge means, makes you equ al It makes you equ al Because you have to have knowledge to, you have to have knowledge to on, in one mind set, without anything new being taught to you, then you are not moving very far. An influenti al leader in African American culture s tands out here again as a r ole model to overcome experiences of oppression, inequ al ity and promote advancement in education for young African American m al qu al equ al al
112 when compared to other races. His experience has al ways been trying to catch up or to prove that he is equ al to the majority. He uses a lot of lang uage that expresses that he must prove that he is equ al Tom uses an influenti al leader in the civil rights movement to motivate him to do well in school and to motivate him to gain new knowledge and awareness. of how oppres sion can mo tivate students to engage in academics This student is determined to prove to society and doubters that he can achieve success and will graduate from high school. He uses the negative acts such as people stereotyping him based on being an Afric an American m al e athlete to motivate him to excel and maintain good grades. This management technique can be effective as long as the negative emotions are managed through a positive outlet so that resentment does not build in this student. For the student s who were interviewed for this project and experienced oppressive acts their identity, confidence and core v al ues mediated the negative acts and feelings refocusing the frustration into a positive behavior that would produce positive results academic al ly. James shares a slightly different experience of what it has been like to be an African American m al e in public school. He experiences negative acts and thoughts from friends in school of his own ethnicity encouraging him not to do well in school. He share s his experience: James: One of the things that made me re al ize that was seeing how many of my friends or, how many people of my own co lor who was actu al ly sort of trying to pull me down, like that crab e ffect, you know? It was more African Americans no t wanting to see me do good than it was white people. They get caught up in my only way out is selling drugs or, having a bunch of kids and being on welfare I just feel like some people feel sorry for themselves.
113 The desire of his friends to join in the ir rejection of majority rule play out in this al e in school. He is experience most likely caused a struggle with identity as well as belonging as his African American m al e friends were trying to bring him down or into the drug culture and his mentors and family were encouraging and rewarding his academic success. Belonging played a critic al role in his academic success. James could have chosen to be accepted by his peers and could have ended up failing in school. James was able to negotiate this ch al lenging period of his life by relying on family v al ues and relationships and the school community to help him navi gate his life to be successful. These passages as well as those described earlier in this section, illustrate a strong message of the present effects of oppression in American culture. James describes friends who have surrendered to oppression and a learne d helplessness. Oppression creates barriers that make it difficult to advance and often create a learned helplessness as experienced here. Learned helplessness or self fulfilling prophecy does in one sense empower African American m al es into believing they are defying the White majority rule, but in essence it limits their opportunities and continues the power differenti al between majority and minority (Harper, 2007). He shares the example of many of his friends who do not see the importance of engaging in academics and choose counter culture lifestyles such as selling drugs In the case of this James he has not bought into the concept of learned helplessness through the support of his family and teachers, and strong core v al ues he has learned from them. I nstead he uses
114 the support and v al ues he has come to believe to continue to advance him and his family in education al success. Positive messages and experiences occur in many of their lived systems for the African American m al es interviewed that help crea te a positive self concept and belief in self that encourages academic success. Famous and person al role models are a key to overcoming stereotyped roles of African American m al es in school based on the poke of either implicit or explicit oppressive messages that they have encountered either in school, through soci al connections, the media or society as a whole. These students ability to successfully navigate through experienced oppression can be attribut ed to core v al ues, a strong sense of self concept, famous African Americans who are successful, support from faculty or coaches belonging to the school community, al ong with their own resiliency and determination to be successful in life. Extracurricular involvement Extracurricular involvement was a nother sub theme supported across al l interviews that promotes belonging in the school community Whether sports, clubs, student government or band students interviewed expressed the importance that extracurricu lar involvement played in their academic engagement belonging and success. Each student shared that one critic al aspect of being involved in an extracurricular activity is that a minimum grade point average was required in order to participate. Having to maintain a minimum grade point average encouraged students to do well in school due to their passion or love for the sport or organization they participated in at the school. The second common theme within the subtheme of extracurricular involvement acros s the interviews was that sports and clubs created a sense of belonging to the
115 school. Students shared that being a part of something outside of academics made them feel like they were a part of the school community and increased their sense of belonging. Students described that by feeling like they belonged, they took more pride in their work in the classroom and sever al expressed the importance of being a role model within the school. Stevie expresses in the following passage the benefits and skills part icipating in student government have on his success in academics and positive development of self concept His experience illustrates the importance of belonging and feeling part of school community by being involved in an extracurricular school activity. Feeling a sense of belonging helped Stevie to become vested in his education and increased his academic engagement being provided the opportunity to participate in something he was passionate about. Stevie: I think what helps me is being involved within the school. I think what re al ly helped was when I joined student government and that re al ly showed me that first year of like, how important it is you know, students events and stuff. And doing that, relating that towards my academic success, it was seeing s omething that I feel like I can do in the future time, then I need to put myself and dedicate myself to my academic work just as well as my SGA work. And so, by doing something that I f elt that I loved and that I had a passion for, it re al ly just drove me to like, strive, to better myself and ch al lenge myself as well. Stevie describes a sense of accomplishment and increased feeling of confidence by successfully planning and holding ev ents. This sense of accomplishment al so aids in his belief in self, self concept and sense that he can succeed. Addition al ly, Stevie describes the possible career paths that he could pursue based on his experience and skills practiced in SGA. This future o rientation creates thinking in the present of what he needs to accomplish in the classroom to get to college or life beyond high school. He is
116 able to recognize the dedication to academic work and achievement necessary in order to meet go al s in the future. Stevie al so discusses finding passion and love for something that he feels improves him as a student. He is describing engagement or buy in of an activity at school that can help motivate him in the classroom. Creating fun at school or participating in a desirable activity makes classroom and academic time more manageable as it gives students something to look forward to each day or week at exploration and development o f self as well as determination to be academic al ly successful in school as it was a pathway toward a future career. Jerry continues to explain the importance of participating in extracurricular activities in school and its influence on academic success. Je belonging is expressed through his involvement in athletics at the school. He begins by explaining the structure the school has put in place to hold student athletes accountable in the classroom and its influence on his academic engagem ent. Jerry: al ways some kind of qu al omething that al ways motivates me. Again the minimum grade point requirement for students to play sports engages students in the classroom. Being involved in extracurricular activities illustrates the importance of helping African American m al e students find something outside of the classroom, yet within the school community where they can be involved. Being involved in an activity al so creates a sense of belonging to the school community. love and passion is sports. His love for sports moti vates his performance in the
117 classroom. He knows that if he does not have the required grade he will not be able to play. He continues to explain how sports influence his performance in the classroom. Jerry: o something but you have another thing that you love. And just to have something for you to express yourself in, I think al so helps you be creative, and it helps you to improve al abou t doing things that you like. But in the game you have to b al ance it out. B al ance as in school is gonna al ways seem like work, and stuff that school, lik e you know, sports. B y yo u doing those fun al l work. al Jerry continues to describe another important piece for his success, which is creativity and expression. Creati ve expression and having the opportunity to be creative helps with his b al ance and ability to be academic al ly successful for Jerry He speaks of b al ance and suggests taking breaks from schoolwork al lows his mind to rest, refresh and recharge so that when h e revisits his work he is al ert and able to re engage in his studies. and its correlation to academic success is finding fun in school. There are activities at school that ar e fun. By making school fun throughout parts of the day the academic periods are bearable. Having fun while at school al so encourages the students sense of wanting to go to school to participate in activities they find rewarding as described by Jerry. Jerr y describes how he joined the school community and found a sense of belonging by finding activities he was good at and enjoyed doing at school. It helped keep him engaged in his core academics. Aga in involvement in sports is an experience shared by Tom tha t helped him become academic al ly successful. Tom as other students re al ized that in order to
118 participate in basketb al l, his passion he had to maintain a minimum GPA. Tom al so speaks of the importance of being involved in an activity during the afternoon h ours when school releases for the day. Tom shares how participating in an afterschool him into a life of crimin al activity and drugs. Tom: seen a lot of f riends not putting their mind into schoolwork and them f al ling off and into the streets or um, going to jail and stuff like that. That made me re al ath in the future so I decided to put more into schoolwork and try to ma ke more out of myself than just a average kid. When I found out that in order for me to play sports, what I love the most, I had to um, to, to have good grades in s chool. Tom described wanting to do well in school and to be successful though he observed h is friends going to jail and getting in trouble and he decided he did not want to take that path. He chose sports to stay engaged in school. Not only does he have to perform in the classroom to be eligible to play on the court, but he was al so expected to attend afterschool weight trainings in the off season as well as practice and games during the season. Having supervised afterschool time reduces the chances of African American m al es participating in drugs and crimin al activity (Noguera, 2005; Woodland, his friends who, according to him were not making good decisions. His passion for sports helped steer him away from possible negative outcomes associated with street l ife and hanging out in the afternoons. and v al ues that footb al l taught him. He was able to learn discipline, work ethic and the importance of being a role model at school an d in the community.
119 James: Footb al l taught me discipline, work ethic and being an athlete, they re al ly put you on a pedest al and they re al ly stress being a role model I t was just that incentive to make good grades so that I can kee p playing and being in p ractice. W orking out kept me off of the streets and put me in contact with a lot of respectable people that was going to try to shape me into a decent person you know. A lot of my friends were staying out late. And a couple of my friends were out but you k I had practice al al ly around al l that. My friends were doing drugs, al cohol, trying to be a gangster, hanging out with a bunch of different crews, just getting involved in bad activities. A lot of my friends, they were hanging out with older guys, doing what they thought was cool. They ended up breaking into people houses, just doing like, stuff like that. Two paths for at risk students are again illustrated in this passage. Belonging in either group was an option for James. However, due to James love for sports he chose to play footb al l. By choosing to participate in a school sponsored sport James was held accountable for his grades found a positive environment to belong to and al so gained exp osure to positive mentors. The skills James developed due to footb al l had an im pact on the development of his self concept and al so made him believe in himself. Through mentoring and coaching he started to believe that he could be somebody and he was taug ht how to be a contributing student to his school. This case illustrates the character and confidence building that team sports offers in addition to setting standards for academic success based on minimum GPA requirements for eligibility. James mentions t hat being coached by respected people who taught him discipline, work ethic, being a role model and shaping him into a respectable person contributed to his success in the classroom. M al es in gener al and young African American m al es in particular can benef it from this type of mentoring. Participating in extracurricular activities creates opportunities for students to become involved in the school community, to learn v al uable life skills, and to develop character and v al ues, al l while reducing unsupervised a fterschool time which often can lead to crime related activities.
120 James as Tom shares about the lifestyle path his friends chose which led them to gangs, drugs, and crimin al activity. He continues. James: Yea h coaches and stuff depending on the perso n, you re al ly do get a lot of core v al ues from footb al headed people, a lot of people who are re al ly egotistic al that, al l about me, al l about I, but al ues and things you can learn from just being involved in a team sport, you know, t hat if you look for it Having caring coaches who used core v al ues of character in their coaching of footb al l helped this student learn right from wrong. He mentions in his interview that his only m al e role models i n his family were his uncles and some were good and some were bad. For African American m al es who do not have positive role models in their lives team sports can be a place for students to learn many core v al ues and the necessary skills to become accomplis hed students and citizens. This student found footb al l as a place that taught him discipline and focus, which he was able to transfer into the classroom and into his character during the school day. It al so created a family as he describes in the following passage. James: Like I s aid out of my friends get caught up in the whole, nobody loves me, that type of stuff. F ind Why you gotta hang out with those guys and do that stuff, trying to fit in? Get on the footb al l team, and get another family. Footb al l, basketb al l, been playing sports since I was like eigh t years old. My mom, my every single one of my games if I ask them to. I made a lot of friends a lot al people that, you know, care about me. James raises the point that family does not have to be biologic al to be considered family. He expresses in this passage the family and support that he was able to find by participating in organized sports. Sports have taugh t him many life skills and v al ues in addition to keeping him off the streets. The lessons that he has learned on the field
121 have helped him become a role model to others in addition to being academic al ly successful in the classroom. He suggests a viable al t ernative to street life if students are willing to participate. His message articulates the positive impact that non academic school involvement can play in the development of young adults encouraging engagement and success in the education al system. He al so speaks of how it prepares students for futures outside of high school. His passage lends insight to the importance of providing outreach to at risk youth who may not have advocates to encourage participation in non academic school activities. Based on t he reports of the students interviewed in this research, recruiting students, but especi al ly African American m al es to become part of the school community will help promote belonging and improve academic success. Involved education al personnel Princip al s, teachers, school counselors and coaches can have a significant impact on the academic success of al l students. Education al personnel can have an even greater impact on margin al ized populations such as African American m al es by encouraging academic success and inviting them to join the school community as expressed by students interviewed Many m al es who participated in the interviews discussed the v al ue that being noticed in school had on their academic career. Most in learning. In addition to increased belief in self students al so felt belonging to the school c ommunity through relationships with education al personnel as experienced across the interviews. For some as will b e reflected in the forthcoming passages the willingness of educators to take extra time, see potenti al in them or show authentic empathy for their lives created critic al turning points in their academics.
122 Jimmy begins to explain the importance of having a caring adult in school: Jimmy: I n middle school I was a hard head, going to be this, going to be that, and a teacher opened up my eyes and he told me that I had potenti al to be c understand why. I was re al ly trying to be cool at the moment and then he but he had a parent meetings. It hurt me to see my grandma sitting at the end of the that opened up my eyes and made me kind of change my whole perspectiv e of what I was doing, so. discourage. This teacher saw the academic potenti al Jimmy possessed despite the sroom and can be difficult for educators to see as identity struggles for these youth. This teacher in one can be the cat al yst that helps m al es break through the media st ereotypes placed on many African American m al es in school. This student discussed earlier that he was wearing low riding pants and portraying the rapper image while in middle school. True genuineness and caring for al l students by the teacher presented an opportunity for change for this student. The influence of his grandmother and the teacher helped this student to turn the corner and engage in learning. This student is now on track to attend college in the f al l. Teachers have the power through persuasion and encouragement to reach even the most difficult students and create positive change. He continues: Jimmy: And then he started t al king to my grandma about it during meetings, and in re al h al ly l it hurt her re al bad. T hen I just, it started turning around. I g ot my grades back
123 up He told me th at he knew I could do it. And he told me al to be somebody, and he just stayed on me. And that re al al ly stay on me. A lot of people gave up on me. To this day, there are a lot of people like that gave up. This passage explains the link between family v al ues and education al personnel, al ong with illustrating the importance of creating genuine connection with the family. This teacher k new this student could achieve in the classroom and c al led a meeting with his caregiver to discuss what he saw as potenti al The meeting was not to discipline the student or to t al k about how the student was a disruptive child in the classroom, but to expl ain that this student could achieve and to encourage engagement in academics. The teacher believed in the student and was working to build an al liance in the home to help empower the student to be academic al ly successful. The teacher al so wanted the stude nt to feel belonging to the school community, that he had support at school. Growing up in a family that encouraged doing well in school it became hard for the student not to think about engaging in academics. The bridge from school to family was a success ful strategy for the teacher to help this student improve his academics. This teacher al so believed in Jimmy when others did not. Some teachers do not either have the time or they become frustrated with students such as the one sharing his story. As he exp al igns with hegemony and many experiences of African American m al es in schools. As students go unnoticed they begin to believe that no one cares and may since they feel they can never be as good as their White and saw ability in Jimmy he had assumed the role expected of him by the stereotypes
124 and prejudices he had encountered in his lived systems. However, a teacher was able to see ability within this student and believed in the potenti al academic success of Jimmy. This relationship and belief bestowed from the teacher to the student helped this child turn the corne r in his academics. The student felt invited to positively participate in the school community. Jimmy shares the positive effect a caring teacher has on a disruptive student that can be successful in school: Jimmy: Well, me and that teach er, he was prett y cool, but he was al so kind o f awkward, kind of weird. H e ran his classroom different from the other my work and make jokes, crack j okes and he b e smart back and say something dumb, say something stupid and make every thing worse. Then he started t al king t o me after class and ask me why I was acting up. I was doing it in more classes too but none of my other teachers re al ly had an impact on me like anything to me until the meeting, but he was the main reason why the al led for it. The true compassion for teaching illuminates in this passage. This teacher went out of his way to mentor Jimmy and showed t his student that someone cared about his academics. It became a big turning point and had a significant impact on Jimmy four years later when he reflects on things or people who made an impact on his education al journey. It began with a belief from the tea cher that this student could achieve success regardless of the color of skin, cultur al could have just seen Jimmy as another troublemaker have been quite different. This teacher learning and v al uing his education by taking time to build a relationship with him and his family. This teacher invited an at risk disruptive African American m al e to become a part of the school community and embrac e doing well in school.
125 Jimmy explains his perception of what a teacher should be like: Jimmy: A lot of teacher s are just like, I quit. I give yo u ch understandable. They go through it a lot, through a lot of students each year, but then again, as a teacher, I feel that they should be a mentor to you, like that teacher. Teachers should be more of a mentor and not what you want. This student raises an important point from his perspective. Though it is d ifficult to reach al l students how do teachers look beyond messaged stereotypes through our media, former troubled students, burnout in the classroom and implicit or explicit prejudices? As described earlier many African American m al es assume roles that op pression has created in the classroom. They often feel inferior and can f al l into a learned helplessness or counter cultur al identity in an effort to maintain their pride damaged by experienced prejudice, discrimination and racism experienced either at sch ool or in other lived systems. Through establishing teacher student relationships, African American m al es feel belonging. When his teacher reached out to him in eighth grade i t helped him re al ize that he could succeed and that education was important. It helped him believe in himself Jerry shares his experiences of his education al journey, providing examples of caring and supportive education al personnel that encouraged academic success. Jerry: My education al journey. I found support in some of my pr evious princip al s. My teachers have good support from t h em. Y al l the time. But outside of home, I would have to say my princip al s and my tea chers, and friends. Al l my teachers somehow see something in me
126 and they al ways encourage me and they al ways want me to do bette r, and they al ways push me. Jerry received the same support and praise from teachers, though he had never been a difficult stu that he re al ized the v al ue of building relationships with princip al s and teachers early on in his high school career. He took initiative to create relationships with faculty and staff at his high school, working to create bonds at his school that would provide him with support on his academic journey. Again, messages of encouragement and belief are s al ient in his experience and the simple feeling that someone else believes in him helped c reate academic success for this African American m al e. He attributes a great de al of his academic success to the fact that his teachers saw potenti al in him and pushed him to succeed. Again, Jerry raises the importance of building a relationship with each of his teachers in the next passage. He explains the v al ue that he has found in building working relationships with his teachers. He believes that if he had not been able to establish a working teacher student relationship he probably would not be on trac k to graduate. Jerry: N ext to the parent, a teacher is right there to having a good relationship. Because the parents try every day, just as teachers do every day. They in teract with them every day. Y teachers. Th e least you could do is get to know them and find out things about them that you never knew. wi th any of my teachers I would be struggling right now. I think I probably al f o f my credits. I proba do list. This student is different from Jimmy in that he was able to see the v al ue of creating relationships with his teacher. Instead of waiting for teachers to engage him he
127 engages teachers and works to build relationships with them. Messages passed from his family about how to succeed in school and his initiative establishing relationships with teachers created support and investment in his education that produced su ccess in school. He establishes good relationships with his teachers, which help him become part of the school community. Stevie shares his positive experiences with caring education al personnel: Stevie: My guidance counselor saw that I could potenti al ly do AP and to ch al lenge myself a little bit more. My first semester of it re al ch al lenging but I could do the work. It was the first moment where I felt like I was pushing myself, like I was re al ly giving myself a chance to accom plish some thing. ch al lengin g yourself to be in these classes. Now, she al so said, if next u know that you tried. So having my guidance counselor there to guide me through my academic al ly started, you know, to ask for help. Stevie found encouragement from a school counselor. The school counselor recognized the ability of this student and encoura ged Stevie to move beyond his fear or doubt and try to succeed in AP classes. This extra push of encouragement from the counselor gave the student a belief that he could do the work. The counselor has built rapport and a relationship of trust with this stu s opinion and belief that he could succeed. This particular counselor did his or her job by acknowledging the potenti al in Stevie and pushing Stevie to see his own potenti al The counselor was able to recognize the stude and the counselor. This led to heightened awareness of the student that he was not re al ly doing the work and his decision to put forth more effort in the course. The hard
128 work paid off. T he relationship and rapport that the counselor built with the stud ent helped the student achieve academic success. At the end of this passage the student acknowledges the impact that the interaction with the counselor had on him. He re al ized what a big t urning point it was for him and that it was okay to ask for help. The counselor believed in him which created some sense of confidence in his ability to do the work. Al though it is unclear whether the counselor worked with the student to teach him how to a ask for help may have arrived from the confidence he acquired when he knew the counselor believed in him. Tom explains in this next passage the true caring of students experienced at his school, especi al ly in the fact that this student faced expulsion from the school. Faculty of the school could have dismissed this student, yet the faculty decided to work with this student empowering this youth to make better choices and be academic al ly successful. Tom: M y princip al my te nth grade year, when I got into some big trouble at school. I could have been in jail for, for years, for a long time for this. He and a couple of other teachers, and staff members al l got together and they were t al king and about a month later I got back he started coming to me, t al xt year high school for me because he al ways tries to keep me on track and tries to make s al l right and not f al ling beh ind in any way in school. The importance of supportive education al are unclear, sch ool faculty saw something in this student and gave him another chance to succeed. Upon returning to school the princip al of the school became a mentor to al journey and experience at his high school. The faculty of this school were able to see the poten ti al of this student and
129 the at risk environment outside of school this student experienced. Instead of giving up on Tom, the faculty with the princip al leading by example mentored this student. When al s a year. After daily interaction, and building strong princip al /teacher student relationships this student has not had a referr al in two years and is going to graduate on time with his peers The student experienced the support of a caring adult at his school who genuinely cared about him. It made him re al ize that he could succeed. It al so made him feel a part of the school; it gave him a sense of belonging. Princip al s, teachers, school couns elors, coaches, custodians and other adults in school can have a great impact on the lives of the students they interact with on a day to day basis. Through these interviews it becomes evident that the relationships created with personnel at the school ha ve the idea that they can succeed, and it increases the belief the student is not al one in their academic experience. The their teachers created a similar comfort when asking for help and working harder in the class. Encouragement al so is a key finding within this theme. Encouragement helps grow belief in self, which pr oduces increased esteem, and confidence that leads to academic success. Fin al ly, educators who create a bridge toward welcoming minority families into the school community can foster a positive school environment that encourages success in students as is evident in the story of the students interviewed Minority families often feel intimidated by the school community. Creating and building relationships that
130 promote belonging and acceptance can build bridges of addition al support in the family and communit y (Smith, 2009) Building relationships with the family and community can contribute to student engagement in academics. Community The theme of community support and outreach was supported in al l but one interview conducted. Five students expressed that t hey received support from the community in various ways whether from neighbors, a church community, or gener al community due to athletic stardom. Some students were involved in community outreach programs such as Take Stock in Children. The students who pa rticipated in this program discussed the impact the community outreach program had on their academic success and future orientation. These students al so make suggestions to make programs like Take Stock in Children more accessible or inclusive to more seve r e at risk students that may not be succeeding academic al ly in school. Take Stock in Children is a community outreach program that recruits disadvantaged minority students who maintain a certain GPA in school. The students are selected to participate in th e outreach program which holds the students accountable to maintain a certain level of academic success, be crime and drug free, maintain good behavior in school, stay in school and meet with an assigned mentor once a week. The student is exposed to postse condary opportunities including college visits, career development and choosing a career path that matches their interest and skills. Students who maintain the minimum requirements and graduate from high school are awarded a scholarship to attend a four ye ar university or college or attend a trade school. The program al so holds parents or caregivers accountable by coaching and encouraging the caregivers to become advocates for their children by imitating and
131 maintaining relationships with school personnel i ncluding, but not limited to teachers, administrators and coaches. These students voice the impact that these programs had on helping them with future orientation and engaging in their academic careers. The students who participated in the outreach progra ms expressed a re al need for developing programs that do not target high achieving students but low achieving at risk students As will be reflected in the upcoming passages some feel a greater emphasis should be placed on students who are failing in midd le school or early high school to help engage these students and promote academics. Community support Jon reflects on the community support he received from the church community that he attends with his family. He discusses the impact that the congregation has on his academic engagement, specific al ly the influence praise had on him and how it developed his self concept and belief in self, which led to academic success. Jon: al ways gone to chu rch with my grandma, y would instill v al ues T hey would te ll me that you have of things. Th al ways easy and When I was a kid I used to love praise I used to love when people tell me, do a lot of things, pretty much, yeah. Jon receives messages from his church commu nity that lead to positive outcomes in his academic success. He receives messages of encouragement and reason that hard work will pay off. These messages appear to become intern al ized as he has discussed in the family v al ues section how he knows if his gra ndma or members of church can work through hard times he can as well. The church community al so creates
132 the student to believe in himself and give him an extra push to do w ell in school. Jerry reflects on the influence community support has in his academic success. He shares his experience of community support received in his neighborhood. He shares messages that he has received from his neighbors emphasizing the importance for African American m al es to complete high school. Jerry: N owa days, a lot of communities are advocates for black m al es T hey re al ize that a lot of kids are dropping out of school, and not going to school, and they want to change that, adults re al ize tha t we are the future happen in the future. I have neighbors al l the time who ask me about neighbors, wh o support sports here, sup port the school. So I think nowadays a lot of families and a lot of people in the community are wanting change. Community involvement and awareness of African American m al erry reports that neighbors are aware of the current crisis and provide support through encouragement of doing well in school or throug h attending sporting events. Again, having neighbors and community members who support African American m al es creates a s ense of belonging, and the belief in self and that others care about the welfare of the student is vit al interpreted as bettering their community through improvement of graduation rates and academic success for African American m al es. Jerry continues to describe what it feels like being a senior and having community support. Jerry: It feels great. It feels like anything is anything is possible. Like, anything you want to do and put your mind to it and work at it, it can come
133 ccess invites this student to believe that he can achieve success in academics. Involvement of the well in school, not just for himself, but for members of his community. The sense that Jerry has community support in his athletic and academic endeavors create increased confidence in self, work ethic, and the ability to navigate difficult times. Community support fosters success in academics. When African American m al es feel supported by their neighbors, positive role models in their community it increases feelings of self worth, esteem and belief in self (Woodland, Martin, Hill, & Worrell, 2009). These individu al s re al ize their ability to be successful. James continues to bu support. James experiences community through his involvement with athletics. James describes his experiences being a star athlete on the high school footb al l team. A link between school involvement and co mmunity support is observed in the experience of this student. He shares the connection of being involved in a school sponsored program and receiving support from education al personnel and encouragement to succeed in experience of having community mentors has had positive impact on his academic success and engagement. James: Yeah, playing with me, with like playing sports. Y ou get a chance to the y take notice of that. P eople re al ly give out their helping hand for people who show that they want to do something, they want to help themselves. You know, I jus t I made a lo t of friends re al ly act as mentors for me. care about me.
134 Sports have provided a medium to promote academic success not just through GPA minimum requirement to participate in athl etics, but al so through exposure to the community. Community members get to know this student athlete and follow his career, providing support on and off the field. Support for James ranges from the school community through his counselor to family and frie nds who reside in the larger lived community. He expresses the fact that individu al s in the community care for him, which boosts esteem and confidence. Feeling supported creates opportunity for this youth to succeed academic al ly. He is able to seek out sup port when needed and is not al one in his academic journey. Sports not only provide a physic al and emotion al outlet, but al so provide an opportunity to gain exposure to the community. Through athletics this student established networks and mentoring opportu nities in his community. Caring c ommunity members creates opportunities for youth to be encouraged, inspired and groomed toward becoming contributing members to society. Community outreach help direct students to possibilities postsecondary in addition to encouraging academic success while in high school. Jon shares his experience of participating in Take Stock in Children. This program helped Jon to begin to think about possible career path s, opportunities after high school and the possibility of attending a four year college. Jon describes his experience participating in Take Stock in Children. Jon: I guess they just picked from a selected group of students that do well in school, eighty ho nor roll, 3.0 GPA, and we went through an interview, and then they picked me as a scholar, for their scholarship. I was in middle scho ol. al ly feel the weight of it until I got into high school, and like, wow, where am I going to go to colleg e? I started looking up universities online, because my grandma was saying, you should look for a university.
135 college This passage expresses the interdependence of systems family v al ues coupled with community outreach, influences inspires future orientation and academic engagement. The Ta ke Stock in Children program provides a springboard for Jon to begin exploring possible postsecondary career paths. The program targets minority youth at a critic al time, during middle school, providing a foundation for possible opportunities after high sc hool. The timing of the program is critic al for adolescent development in addition to the high stakes of grades and academics as these youth approach high school. By exposing these youth to collegiate campuses, campus lifestyle, classes and environment it inspires academic engagement and the determination to do well in high school based on the possible future after high school. Jerry shares his experiences of community outreach programs. He shares the positive experience and impact on academics having Afri can American mentors and participating in a program that promotes excellence in education and character had on him. He al so t al ks about P AL S which is a program that provides ment al he al th and support for students who struggle in high school. P AL S workers p rovide consultation and counseling services directly on high school campuses in this Southeastern community. He shares that being able to create bonds with mentors or community outreach workers encourages students to think about life after high school whil e providing immediate support and encouragement for students to do well in school. Jerry: And, al so once you find yourself doing better and fin al ly seeing that you can make it and you can find other people who may be struggling and find other people who mi ght not believe that they can, and what I do like about our school now is that they have different clubs or organizations that
136 comes, like P al s. A couple of years ago, we had Iota Youth Al liance, and it was a mentorship for young black, African Americans a s well. And so, by support having another bond with someone coming and supporting and giving you different aspects of life and opening your eyes to the t have and that you never thought that you could do. The power of outreach programs such as Take Stock in Children, P AL S and Iota Youth Al liance creates hope in potenti al life possibilities and fosters believing in self. Another vit al role that outreach p rograms play in promoting the academic success of disadvantaged youth is grouping similar students together, which shows students they are not al one in the process. Jerry expresses how it was helpful to see that he was not al one in his academic journey by meeting likeminded students who shared many similar characteristics of upbringing and academic potenti al Not only do outreach programs like this create future oriented thinking, but they group students together which creates a support group that collectiv ely will promote academic advancement. importance of outreach programs, yet argues the importance of creating outreach programs that target students that do not do well in school He feels programs that support more disadvantaged populations are necessary to expose students to life after high school while encouraging and promoting the importance of engaging in academics and successfully graduating from high school. Stevie: I woul d like to see, in the future years, that we have more outreach programs that re al al some students who might not have that requirement may nee d help in another area and y ou help them build up to an education al requirement like, Upward Bound and programs like that. Those are programs that re al ly help first generation and low two years, and those type of programs re al ly help because they gave you a sense of what I could be like with an education, and what you could ac complish with an education.
137 Stevie illustrates the impact that outreach programs had on his engagement in academics, possible opportunities that an education provides, and the belief that he will graduate from high school. What is unique in his story is that he suggests greater development in outreach programs that target greater at risk youth. He states that he does not believe that there are enough outreach programs that target the struggling African American m al e, the student who is failing in school. He discusses the importance that his involvement in outreach programs had on him and that he feels there are not a lot of programs that target the severely at risk populations. He continues articulating the impor tance of targeting severely at risk populations. Stevie: Re al ly target kids that, that are struggling that may have the GPAs of 1, and that are just barely getting towards a 2. I feel as though that with some outreach programs, they se good students need the help. Those are the ones that are struggling, that are feeling that they have nowhere to go and they have no sense of belonging. I think we have so much dro them. S o I feel as though having more outreach programs like that, things like that, those re al ly do help students in my opinion. Stevie raises an interesting point. There may be very capable African American m al es who can achieve success academic al ly, yet do not have the support or encouragement to engage academic al ly Stevie believes. Stevie feels more community outreach should focus attention on the at risk youth that are failing or just barely pass ing high school. As this student describes, these youth should be receiving the most attention. These students likely do not have any of the supported systems that have been discussed in any of the themes described herein These severely at risk students a re often cast out into society to fend for themselves. Stevie shares that he believes that resources are limited for more at risk populations. He suggests finding ways to develop and increas e outreach programs that target African American m al es that are o n
138 the cusp of dropping out. Outreach programs that foster support, encouragement, skill training, and v al ues would create positive outcomes for these margin al ized youth. In conclusion, community support and providing community outreach are influenti al in fostering academic success for African American m al es. As described th roughout this theme five out of six m al es have benefited from programs and interaction with community members mentoring and supporting their academic endeavors. Community support and out reach provide another important system that promotes academic success for at risk African American m al es in this study. Community support breeds belief in self, esteem and confidence. It al so holds these students accountable as members of their community a re watching them, supporting them and expecting success from them. Though these students are independent ly responsible as their self concept has developed, the community can create supportive dependency by holding these students accountable to academic suc cess through the expectations set for them by their community members. Summary Six African American students shared their lived experiences of being academic al ly successful in high school in this study. The an al ysis suggests four main themes that empower these youth in their academic journey and successful completion of high school. Family v al ues, identity development, belonging and community support al l encourage successful academic achievement for these young men. Each theme suggested in an al ysis fosters academic engagement and success for these African American m al es. The t hemes identified are experienced across students lived systems and impact academic engagement and success.
139 Family v al ues provided a foundation for students interviewed to begin explor ing the importance of engaging in academics. Students received messages and support across family settings. Grandparents and single mothers shared their experiences with students and emphasized the importance and v al ue of education while teaching and encou raging core skills such as work ethic, motivation, determination and self respect helping students engage in academics. Modeling and mentoring al so emerged from family v al ues as students were able to experience uncles, aunts and cousins in their lived syst ems. Students shared the v al ue older generations had on their motivation and engagement in academics and helping students believe that they could achieve. Students appreciated having mentors within their family they could t al k with, gain knowledge and expe rience about the importance of education, going to college and opportunities an education brings for African American m al es. Self concept the second most s al ient theme was critic al in the academic success of African American m al es interviewed. Positive s e lf concept will be discussed in Chapter 5 as student s shared it contributed to their academic success. Students reported being comfortable in their own self image influenced their academics. Asking for help, belief in self, and confidence al l emerged as a result of having a positive self concept influencing academic success. Students shared how family di al ogues and interactions with mentors had influence on their development of self concept Students described by having a positive self concept the worry subsided Di al oging at home with family member s about developing positive character traits and self respect encouraged positive self concept growth. A positive self concept
140 influences academic engagement and supports academic s uccess as experienced by students interviewed. Belonging was the third most s al ient theme experienced by participants and is supported across three subthemes: African American m al e identity, extracurricular involvement and education al personnel. Belonging to the school community encouraged academic success as shared by students interviewed. Students expressed the importance of feeling a sense of belonging and how it encouraged their willingness to perform in the classroom. Many students shared how sports g ave them something to look forward to in the school day, while for others it was elective classes, or organizations and al l shared the v al ue having a positive relationship with an adm inistrator, teacher or coach had in facilitati ng their growth as a studen t and their academic success. Students expressed by feeling apart of the school, and being supported by caring adults in the classroom or an extracurricular activity it increased their belief in self, self concept and own academic self efficacy. The last theme that supports and encourages academic success for at risk African American m al es is community. Community was broken into two subthemes: community support and community outreach. Students gained confidence, belief in self and al so were held accountabl e for their actions in and out of school as well as the extracurricular activity they participated in at school. Students shared community members helped foster belief in self that they could achieve academic al ly as well as creating a sense of duty to do w ell in school to make their community members proud. Community members were defined broadly and included the church, neighbors and broader community members that attended athletic events and school related activities.
141 Community outreach was al so found impo rtant in supporting academic success as reported by students. Students shared that community outreach helped students jump start their thinking about life after high school and the possibilities of attending college. Students al so shared that outreach prog rams provided mentoring which helped students establish positive role models encouraging engagement in academics. The outreach programs al so helped teach students basic skills that improved engagement in the classroom supporting academic success. Chapter 5 will provide theoretic al and inte gration of results. Chapter 5 will discuss these findings in greater detail exploring the independence and interdependency of these themes. Recommendations will be made to continue the empowerment of young African American m al es, while discussing limitations and future directions for research.
142 CHAPTER 5 DISCUSSION Introduction The purpose of this investigation was to understand where positive messages are received in African American m al es lived systems and how these me ssages contribute to academic success and advancement in higher education. The study attempted to identify a set of core components that promote academic engagement, opportunity and success in school for at risk African American adolescent m al es interviewe d. The investigator will discuss key factors that promote academic engagement and success as experienced by African American m al es interviewed. Th is study identified the v al ue of strong positive role models in the community and their impact in the lives of young men who struggle and are at risk of adjudication and academic failure. By sharing the lived experiences of at risk academic al ly successful African American m al es, this study highlights important factors that encourage academic success for African Am erican ad olescent m al es Through the discussion of results, implications for practice are shared to build on current practices to empower at risk African American boys to be academic al ly successful in public school. This Chapter 5 includes a brief introduc tion, discussion of results, practice implications for counselors, future recommendations for research, limitations and conclusion. Discussion of Results Four main themes emerged that can empower at risk African American m al es to experience academic succe ss in high school. The four most s al ient themes found
143 across the interviews were family v al ues, self concept, belonging and community support and outreach. Each theme possessed subthemes. Family v al ues expressed by the participants included single parent mother encouragement, extended family encouragement and experiences of role modeling from extended family. Each theme appeared to promote v al ues of work ethic, v al uing education, determination, self respect and drive encouraging engagement in academics. Positive self concept was broken into two subthemes: development of self respect and a he al thy identity, and development of belief in self and confidence. A positive self self respect, confidence, and self esteem that supported academic success for students interviewed. Positive self concept helps students develop skills to be comfortable in their own identity, manage peer pressure and stress while v al uing the importance o f education. African American identity, extracurricular involvement and involved education al personnel contributed to the understanding of the importance of belonging for African American m al ated both positive and negative outcomes based on the group the student chose to join. Students discussed how pride in their cultur al heritage impacted their engagement in academics. Positive African American role models encouraged students to persevere in school, giving them hope that they could do well in school. Exploration and acceptance of their raci al identity helped students find belonging within their family and school community. Extracurricular involvement al so promoted belonging showcasing studen ts
144 t al ents providing opportunities to establish relationships with peers and involved education al personnel. Fin al ly, education al personnel supported belonging by providing authentic interactions with students who made students feel that someone cared abo ut their academic success and supported them in the school community Community involvement was the fin al theme that emerged from the interviews conducted. This theme was conceptu al ized into two subthemes: community support and community outreach. Community support is defined by support given to students in the greater community where the students resided. Community support was found in students neighborhoods, church community, Boys and Girls Club, and caring adults that resided in the greater community and interacted with students due to their presence in sports or extracurricular activities Students al l shared their experiences that caring adults in their identified communities had on their academic engagement. Caring adults whether experienced in family, school or community systems fostered belief in self, confidence and a sense of pride that created a sense of duty in students to do well in school. Community outreach is defined as programs that are feder al state or privately funded that target at risk p opulations providing opportunities to expose students to opportunities postsecondary. Community outreach provided similar results for students, and al so helped students begin thinking about career paths and life after high school. Community outreach expos ed students to positive mentors and experiencing elements of college This exposure to college life excite d students to think about possibilities postsecondary, which as students shared encouraged them to do well school and become successful academic al ly.
145 Family V al ues The theme of family v al ues support academic engagement and success for students who were interviewed. Family v al ues included work ethic, self respect, drive, interviewed relayed the positive impact that their mothers, and extended family members have on their success in school. Students al so discussed how positive support from family members encouraged greater belief in self, fostering academic success in scho ol. the v al ue of education for that child (Gutman & McLoyd, 2000). Praise and encouragement, from parents, supports academic success, whereas criticism, doubt, and disappointm ent expressed from parents appears to disengage students from academics (Gutman & McLoyd, 2000). Previous research, al ong with the findings of this study, help explain the positive influence parents can have by t al king openly with students about their aca demics, and by providing encouragement, and genuine care and concern for the student. Students recognize the praise from family members who encourage them, and say that it helps them believe that they can achieve academic success in addition to making thei r family proud. Single parent mother encouragement Al l but two students interviewed resided in homes where the primary caregiver was identified as the mother. Students shared that though their mothers worked and were often tired their mothers al ways made time for them to discuss their schoolwork. Al l mothers were low SES who instilled v al ues of a strong work ethic as well as the v al ue of education and the opportunity it can afford their children. An involved and
146 supportive African American parent concerned in the academic success of their students confirms s and low SES parent s do want their children to succeed academic al ly. Smith (2009) suggests that working class African American caregivers motivate their children through their own narrative. tough love. These students appreciated that their mothers were present in their lives. Extended family encouragement data reve al ed that grandparents frequently served as a primary source of support, encouraging African American m al es to do well in school. Past generations, as experienced in this research, share their shortcomings in education to encourage academic engage ment. For example; some grandparents shared their experiences of segregation, and discrimination not to discourage, but to encourage students to pursue an education and v al ue the opportunity afforded to them. These passed down stories and family duty or ho nor emerged as a theme, and served as a cat al yst motivat ing African American m al es to engage more fully in academics and achieve greater success. Encouraging adolescents to become responsible, independent learners fosters self esteem and confidence as expressed by al ked about feeling empowered by the encouragement to do well in school and the freedom to make their own decisions with regard to academics even if their choices were n ot al ways correct. Having such freedom to make choices promoted autonomy and independence for these African American m al es, helping to build confidence and basic skills to be successful in school. When caregivers share the v al ue of education, drive, and re sponsibility students are likely to
147 develop similar attitudes (Snodgrass, 1991). Sharing core v al ues of the importance of education, work ethic, and responsibility increases the o pportunity for success while reducing discipline problems in school (Bennett 1986; Snodgrass, 1991). Experiences of modeling from extended family members Students were able to experience both positive and negative life experiences from their extended family members regarding life choices. Again, having positive caring adults in t he lives of at risk African American m al es is critic al in encouraging academic success. Uncles and cousins served as both positive and negative role models for these youth. Students were able to experience the reactions from family members when their uncle s were involved in crimin al activity versus uncles who were successful. Seeing family members make poor choices in life helped them stay away from crimin al activity. Addition al ly, having positive role models in the family was important as they looked up to these figures and modeled their behavior after successful role models. Figures such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins serve significant roles in shaping African American m al es, fostering academic success in school (Murry et al ., 2001). Messages sharing the v al ue of education and mentoring are important in developing self concept and encouraging academic engagement for African American m al es in school (Graham & Andersen, 2008). Developing a Positive Self Concept As young African American m al es na vigate their lived systems they encounter many obstacles soci al ly, economic al ly, and environment al ly that place them at risk of failing academic al ly (Vail, 2004). The ability to navigate the many obstacles experienced in daily living for the interviewed Af rican American m al es begins with the ability to develop a positive self concept and belief in self. Students across interviews explained
148 that as they were able to gain confidence and esteem, they began to believe that they could achieve academic al ly in sch ool. Students shared that thinking they could be successful in school led to saying they could be successful in school. This finding is supported by a study by Woodland et al (2009), who al so found that when students receive support and encouragement they are able to increase confidence and self esteem that fosters the belief they can do well in school. Belief in self from the students interviewed lead to engagement and action in the classroom where the outcome was successful academic achievement in school Development of positive self concept versus f al se positive image Belief in self and a positive self concept helps individu al s develop a he al thy identity (Erikson, 1968; G al e, 1974). Not only do many minority m al es struggle with basic identity developmen t, but minority m al es must al so manage raci al identity development in their teenage years. Experiences of oppression can be distressful, stunting raci al identity development and creating negative academic outcomes for many African American m al es, especi al l y if no support or encouragement is provided in their lived system (Gordon et al ., 2009). Mentors and caring adults can help minority m al es by engaging youth in di al ogue developing a he al thy raci al identity to foster positive self concept thus supporting academic engagement (Gordon et al ., 2009). Adolescence is often a critic al development al period where many teenagers (Erikson, 1968). Adolescence can become a time of confusion, where fitting in and al se positive self image for many teenagers, as was shared by the African American m al es interviewed. A f al se positive self image is described as emulating percept ions expressed in pop culture and
149 (Jackson & Dempster, 2009) al se sense of identity and compromised academic achievement a nd postsecondary opportunity. Students shared their own experiences al al se positive self image instead of developing a positive self concept experi enced problems with academic s and many turned to gang life and selling drugs. Parents and educators need to help students understand the dangers that person al image and soci al acceptance can have on academic engagement and success. Parents and educators ca n take action by t al king with African American m al es helping them develop a positive self concept. When African American m al es are comfortable in their own self concept they are more willing to engage in academics despite negative stereotypes of being acad emic al ly successful as a m al e (Graham & Anderson, 2008; Pollack, 1998). As Jimmy shared in his story, he worked to personify popular rappers by his dress and assumed negative attitude toward teachers creating problems for him at school and disengagement in and helped him develop a positive self concept Experiencing the encouragement and support of caring adults helped Jimmy create his own concept of self that was more positive. He discussed that his love for rap music still existed, though it did not overshadow who he was as a person and what he hoped to accomplish in life. Again, family v al ues al ong with establishing a sense of belonging in the school community enabled this youth to develop a po sitive self concept, which encouraged academic achievement in school.
150 Many m al e students struggle with image and identity, often compromising engagement in academics for being soci al ly accepted by their peers (Jackson & Dempster, 2009). Many boys who do n ot develop a positive self concept become susceptible to cultur al school, looking down on academic success or viewing academic success as a feminine qu al ity (Jackson & Dempster, 2009 ; Pollac k, 2006 ). Positive self concept and belief in self Developing a positive self concept and belief in self from the support and encouragement gained from experienced lived systems helped to build confidence and esteem for the young men interviewed in this st udy, thereby creating engagement and success in education. As their confidence and esteem increased these young men began to re al ize the importance and v al ue of education and took measures to engage in academics. However, engaging in academics can be a ris k for many African Americans as it can create discomfort for many in their peer group who view such engagement as and self respect that develops a positive self co ncept which then enables them to overcome possible rejection or rid icule by their peers. (Bandura, 1986; Leonardi, 2007). Students begin to v al ue academic success and future opportunities over being soci al ly accepted (Leondari, 2007). Belonging The importan ce of belonging is explained across three subthemes: African American m al e identity, extracurricular involvement and involved education al personnel. Each subtheme illustrates the importance belonging plays in making students feel that
151 they are a part of th e school community. Students interviewed explained, belonging to the school community encouraged their academic success. African American m al e identity Implicit and explicit forms of oppression and prejudice still exist as described by students interview ed. Stereotyped messages of African Americans transmitted through media and society create assumed positions in the classroom and school environment (van den Bergh et al ., 2010). Addition al ly, if an African American m al e does not experience a sense of bel onging in the school community he is more likely to fail in school (van den Bergh et al ., 2010). Students interviewed over al l stated that teachers and administrators did not explicitly show favoritism to White students compared to them, though each shared an experience of perceived oppressive acts in the school environment based on stereotypes of dress or image, being an African American m al e athlete, or simply being an African American m al e. Some students discussed their impression of African American m al e students in gener al and their perception that many African American m al es expected someone else to do the work for them. From an African American m al e perspective, such an al hegemony ex perienced in school (Goodman & West Olatunji, 2010). A learned helplessness or self fulfilling prophecy has al ready been put in place due to historic al messages and media persuasion of oppression. Many African American m al es simply do not believe they can achieve success in school and when coupled with tradition al stereotyped media influences and masculinity these students find greater acceptance being the class clown for example, instead of ch al lenging the norm (Kehily & Nayak, 1997; Martino, 2000).
152 Some students experienced both of these soci al issues, yet were able to avoid these self fulfilling prophecies of Africa n American m al es and perceived tradition al masculine roles in school by having family, school and community members interact with them. These important cultur al v al ues and her itage, which helped develop an appropriate raci al identity. By developing a positive raci al identity at risk African American m al es that were interviewed were able to establish a sense of belonging to the school community, thus improving the chances of academic success. Unfortunately, overcoming obstacles of historic al oppression is still evident in the nting to be equ al academics. Being equ al implies barriers or obstacles these youth must overcome to achieve equ al ity. Such feelings of not being equ al or experiences of prejudice can impact both psychologic al and emotion al development (Jenkins, 2 006). Feelings of inadequacy may be experienced by African American m al es who do not have family support, role models, or encouragement in academics. Students who do not have adequate support may consequently struggle with identity, turning to counter cult ur al activities, participating in crimin al activity, and joining gangs to experience belonging (Jenkins, 2006). Conversely, positive African American role models and family members help African American m al es develop a positive self concept, embrace their raci al identity, and become academic al ly successful as experienced by the students interviewed. Addition al ly, caring adults from African American m al es lived systems can improve esteem, work ethic, belief in self and confidence. One of the keys to develo ping a
153 positive self concept is engaging these youth in conversations about their raci al identity helping them embrace, understand and accept their cultur al heritage (Graham & Anderson, 2008). African American m al es who are exposed to and can identify with successful positive African American m al e role models are likely to believe that they too can be successful (Grossman & Bulle, 2006; Mitchell et al ., 2008). As experienced in the interviews, students found inspiration from a variety of sources Grandparen ts, cousins, uncles, famous civil rights leaders, and coaches helped them successfully manage negative experiences in school. Having role models ai ded in the development of self concept and determination to overcome struggles experienced by at risk African American m al es : thus influencing academic success in school. Modeling, mentoring, and coaching build self esteem, confidence and belief in self which can tear down oppressive beliefs and produce academic al ly engaged and successful youth (Gordon et al ., 2009; Kolar & McBride, 2011). It is important for educators and family members to help African American m al es understand and develop their raci al identity (Gordon et al ., 2009). Raci al identity development and reaching the stage of intern al ization will hel p in building confidence and esteem where students focus on achieving success in school for themselves and not competing to be equ al to their White counterparts (Gordon et al ., 2009). Extracurricular involvement Being involved in extracurricular activitie s at school accomplishes many things for African American m al es. It creates a sense of belonging to the campus community activity involves maintaining a mi nimum GPA that holds students academic al ly accountable Fin al ly, participating in a school related activity makes students more
154 visible to faculty, and community members who may provide support and encouragement to excel in academics. Students interviewed discussed the v al ue that becoming a leader and role model within the school community and lived community had not only on their academics, but al so on building self esteem and confidence, thereby promoting greater self concept and belief in self. F aircloth and Hammer ( 2005 ) suggest, motivated and successful in contexts in which they have a strong sense of relatedness (p.306) Engagement in extracurricular activities for at risk youth fosters soci al ization with peers, holds students accountable in the classroom and promotes a belonging to the school community (Knifsend & Graham, 2012). In addition to form al extracurricular activities, students interviewed mentioned the importance of finding t hings throughout the day or afternoon that are enjoyable at school. Finding things throughout the day or afternoon that promote positive feelings and thoughts creates a better outlook on attending school, engaging in core curriculum schoolwork and over al l opinions of school as shared by students. When individu al s experience more positive experiences versus negative experiences in their lived systems they are more likely to participate and successfully manage their environment (Hanson & Mendius, 2009). This was true for stu dents in this study as they were able to find fun things to participate in at school, which made going to school enjoyable. Involved Education al Personnel Involved education al personnel made a difference in the lives of students interview ed by showing genuine encouragement and academic success while creating belonging within the school community. Teachers who build
155 relationships with at acceptance in the classroom influencing students to engage and be academic al ly successful (Uwah et al ., 2008). Similarly, they experience an increase in academic competence and belief in self, which again, supports their academic success (Uwah et al ., 2008). Students int erviewed bought into the v al ue of a high school education when teachers and administrators established relationships with them making them feel for al l students create an i nviting climate that promotes student involvement, and motivates learning, while fostering stronger critic al thinking skills for students (Wiggan, 2007). It takes strong mentors and caring teachers to build al liances with disengaged and suspicious youth t reflects this experience for at risk African American m al es Because of lack of engaged parents, as well as strong negative media and soci al influence, doing well in school tends to run counter to ever ything African American m al es v al ue in their adolescent years (Sheely & Bratton, 2010). Positive affirmations and encouragement are critic al in the positive development of adolescent m al es (Gutman & McLoyd, 2000). As described by students interviewed posit ive messages from teachers and administrators about their work and abilities creates confidence and belief in self. As students begin to believe that they can accomplish the work they become more willing to do the work, which leads toward greater achieveme nt in school (Wiggan, 2007). Creating positive relationships with involved education al personn el is one factor that encourages academic success for at risk African American m al es (Maylor, 2010).
156 Community Involvement: Support and Outreach Community support and outreach provides addition al support for at risk youth, helping youth to begin planning for the future early in their high school career. Community involvement played an integr al part for students in this study by holding students accountable for thei r academics and character outside of the home and school community. Students expressed the v al ue of being noticed in the community either by neighbors or organized groups. They discussed how it increased their levels of confidence, belief in self, developm ent of positive self concept and willingness to do well in academics. Students al so felt a duty to honor or please individu al s in the community who had supported them by performing well in school. Support from the community to students interviewed added v al ue to the importance of education, and sense of belonging thus increasing engagement in academics. Community outreach programs that provide mentoring opportunities inspired at risk youth who were interviewed to do well in school. Mentoring provides yout h with someone to look up to and to model their behavior after (Choi & Lemberger, 2010; Gordon, 2009). Mentoring programs al so instill hope for disadvantaged youth increasing their self efficacy and belief that they can do well in school (Choi & Lemberger, 2010; Gordon, 2009; Woodland, 2008). Youth interviewed expressed the v al ue of interacting with successful African American adult m al es who look like them, act like them and who were successful. These mentors, especi al ly those who come from colleges inspi re d education as expressed by interviewees. Addition al ly, mentoring programs build positive relationships with at risk African American m al es that appropriately support
157 s oci al and emotion al development that lead to greater academic outcomes (Mitchell et al ., 2002; Woodland, 2008). Lastly, community outreach programs helped the students interviewed with future orientation. Students stated that outreach programs such as Ta ke Stock in Children afforded them an opportunity to think about possible careers and attending college after high school something most students had not considered was a re al istic option for them. Students explained that programs such as Take Stock in Chi ldren instilled hope and a positive outlook for their future, which inspired them to work hard in school. Outreach programs help students to see the v al ue of education and consider possible career paths and opportunities that can encourage academic success Students are better able to see the purpose of learning and doing well in school when they can see a variety of postsecondary opportunities. Theoretic al Implications Black Raci al Identity Students who were interviewed al l appeared to have reached the in tern al ization al Identity Theory (1971). Students exhib i ted acceptance with their own raci al identity, levels of confidence, and comfort with their ethnic identity terviewed had experienced and successfully negotiated one or more acts of prejudice, racism or discrimination and some expressed relying on strong leaders from the African American community to gain the strength to persevere. Each student expressed key sup port from family members and discussions with grandparents, aunts, uncles or their mother about their cultur al heritage instilling v al ues such as self respect, overcoming obstacles, and embracing their Blackness.
158 According to Helms (1995) who adapted Cro when individu al s reach the intern al ized stage they have developed a positive raci al self conception, self esteem, and confidence. Being able to free oneself beyond the constraints of racism and oppression creates space to focus on other issues i n African Americans lived systems (Vandiver et al ., 2001). Students interviewed were aware of oppression and racism that still existed within their lived systems, but by having caring adults to help them navigate experiences of oppression in their lives, they were able to increase self respect, confidence and greater ment al he al th. Students shared that discussions with family members helped create positive self concepts al ong with self respect. Students stated that belief in self identifying with their cu ltur al heritage and family support helped manage raci al situations that arose at school. Exploring raci al identity in African American m al es lived systems, whether home, school, or community influences person al ethnic identity, wellness, and academic sel f concept (Woodland et al ., 2009). Exploring raci al identity with adolescent African American m al es increases cultur al knowledge, and self esteem, creating greater opportunities for academic engagement (Woodland, 2008). Discussions with caring adults for African American m al e students that embrace African American cultur al ide al s will promote positive identity development and wellness for these youth (Woodland, 2008). Exploring positive aspects of raci al identity creates a sense of pride and helps transit ion these young men into adulthood reducing the likelihood of risky behaviors such as crime, drugs, and substance abuse (Watts, Abdul Adil, & Pratt, 2002). Ecologic al Systems Theory Ecologic al systems theory guides the understanding of at risk African Amer ican m al
159 systems. Individu al soci al and system experiences interact and influence one another creating either benefit or harm for the individu al (Pierson, 2011). The meso syst ems identified in the study were family, neighborhood, community, school community, and outreach community programs. Each system contributed to the success of these students independently, and interdependently. The family system is critic al in understandi ng the success of the interviewed at risk African American m al es. The multigeneration al family system provided a solid foundation of support for students creating core v al ues such as work ethic, determination, self respect and motivation to do well in scho ol. Messages from caregivers that existed in multigeneration al family systems were al community systems. As students interacted in some or al l of these identified systems similar the mes, such as support, encouragement and praise were experienced sculpting their concept of self, confidence and belief they could do well in school. Each meso system is unique in its own way providing support, empowering students and increasing their self efficacy. For example the school community helped students build confidence and esteem while they learned new skills in clubs organizations or participating in athletics. The school community helped develop a sense of belonging by deconstructing barrier s or feelings of inadequacy for being a minority student by having students feel like a part of a team. Engagement in a community makes an individu al feel a part of the community, which in turn encourages investment of that individu al within the community ( Al banesi, Cicognani & Zani, 2007).
160 School community expands to community neighborhoods as students participate in athletic events or school events. Individu al s from around the community come, witness, support and encourage students to do well in the spo rt or club, but al so encourage students to do well in academics. After the events community members may see the student outside of the event and in the community, and sever al students described this in their interviews. When individu al s from the community showed genuine creating a belief in that student, and fostering pride and willingness to engage in academics. Having caring adult s in the lives of at risk African American m al e s can therefore improve academic success (Gutman & McLoyd, 2000; Woodland, 2008). Fin al ly community outreach provided both independent and interdependent support promoting academic success for the youth interviewed in this study. The outreach program prov ided encouragement to students helping students engage in academics and thinking about possible career paths and postsecondary opportunities. Community outreach was an addition al source of support for students interviewed creating an interconnected system of teachers, coach es school counselors and supportive family members, where students were able to receive positive messages about education from multiple sources and caring adults. Using ecologic al systems perspective is an effective way to investigate success factors for individu al s. It encourages the investigator to explore where both positive and negative messa ges are received and identify positive and negative messages that relate to academic achievement to help the researcher explain the phenomena. Addition al al systems perspective
161 helps identify where students may be struggling and may require assistance. The experie nces and engagement that caring adults can have on at risk youth. The results of this study suggest that each system in the lives of students interviewed impacted their development of self concept, possibilities in life and academic engagement. For studen ts interviewed in this study, positive experiences with caring adults in their lived systems impacted their academic development and opportunities. Implications for Counselors When working with at risk minority populations counselors can use an ecologic al systems perspective as an assessment tool to investigate where students are receiving positive and negative messages. This study suggests that creating a welc oming school environment and encouraging extracurricular involvement leads to feelings of belongi ng and engagement in academics as experienced by the studen ts interviewed. Al l students expressed the v al ue of participating in school related activities and how participation increased engagement and academic success. Students shared the v al ue of having p ositive experiences throughout the day and in the afternoon, which helped them stay focused to perform well in their core classes. School counselors especi al ly, could use these findings to encourage at risk African American m al es to engage in an extracurri cular activity at school. The experience of having a caring adult in the school was supported by students in this study. Students expressed that having a caring adult present during the school day influenced their desire to perform well academic al ly, incr eased self esteem and belief in self, al ong with fostering the exploration of possibilities after high school. This finding supports previous research by Maylor (2010) which suggests that
162 compassionate teachers who have knowledge and pedagogic skills that help the student grow development al ly, and academic al ly will al confi dence and self concept to help improve academic achievement. Students who feel they belong to the school community are more likely to be successful in school (Uw a h et al ., 2008). S chools and educators can continue to advance curriculum promoting cu ltur al ly responsive instruction. Addition al training could be provided to increase awareness of the negative con the chances of encouraging African American m al es to engage academic al ly Cultur al ly responsive educators can help at risk African American m al es feel accepted in the school increasing their sense of belonging to the school community (Maylor, 2010; Uwah e t al ., 2008) School counselors identifying and engaging at risk African American m al es and encouraging academic engagement, while offering counseling sessions to establish e rapport and trust with disadvantaged youth will help studen ts increase their academic self efficacy (Uwah et al ., 2008). When African American students feel invited to enga ge in the classroom it helps create a sense of belonging which influences academic achievement (Faircloth & Hamm, 2005). Faircloth and Hamm (2005) al so suggest that belonging within the school community best explains the relationship between motivation and academic achievement. When students feel a part of their school community they are more likely to do well in school. Counselors, teachers and administrators can help at risk students in the school community by inviting them to
163 participate in the classroom clubs, organizations or sports. As students find a place within the school community they experience a sense of belonging and academic success is more likely (Faircloth & Hamm, 2005). Outside of school, ment al he al th counselors can use ecologic al systems theory to help empower clients and the disadvantaged populations they serve. Being aware that positive interactions and experiences can encourage students to succeed in school is important in promoting success for disadvantaged youth. Ment al he al th counse lors can al so help empower families by sharing the importance of v al uing education and encouraging their children in their academics since positive encouragement from parents predicts academic achievement (Gutman & Loyd, 2000). Counselors may need to teach parents new ways to discuss the importance of education and highlight the success. Ment al he al th counselors can al so empower at risk disadvantaged youth by encouraging commun ity involvement. Counselors can help students find positive environments such as mentoring programs or the Boys and Girls Club where at risk students are provided an opportunity to interact with caring adults. Fin al ly, this study demonstrated the importan ce having caring adults within the school community and the positive impact caring adults have on academic engagem ent for this sample of students Students interviewed expressed that when they felt welcomed, invited or cared about, it created belief in se lf, and academic self efficacy Authentic interactions from educators will promote success, and when such interactions
164 occur in the school community students begin to believe they can succeed in school (Uwah et al ., 2008). Implications of a Positive Self Concept for African American M al es Ability t o Ask f or Help Asking for help is another skill that emerged once a positive self concept is established (Ryan & Shin, 2011). Al l students interviewed in the study voiced the importance of asking for help in the classroom. They expressed that feeling comfortable and confident gave them the courage to ask for help when needed. These students explained that if others thought less of them, or made fun of them for seeking out h elp in the classroom it did not affect t hem due to their belief and respect for self. This finding illustrates the importance of helping at risk youth develop a positive self concept as students described self respect and belief in self helped students be successful in the classroom. Developing a n Intern al Locus o f Con trol Fin al actions. Students expressed that over the course of high school they had learned how to manage situation al events and academic life knowing that they had control over their actions. They explained how they re al ized their actions produced outcomes in their life whether it was good or bad. This is known in the ment al he al th field as having an intern al locus of control. An intern al locus of control is the perception that one has some control over the events n extern al locus of control is the belief control is another important concept identified in the study, as many students interviewed believed their actions could produce possible desired outcomes in the
165 future. Many students shared that determination, drive and work ethic aided in their academic success. Academic success for these students is in part due to their ability to perceive that they do have control over their engagement in academics. Therefore, an important message for counselors expressed from interviewed students is helping struggling students believe that they do indeed have contro l and can take control to achieve success in school. Counselors can help at risk youth by helping them understand the difference between intern al and extern al locus of control and relate the concept to academic success. Helping students become more intern a l ly driven and motivated helps students become more autonomous, independent and self disciplined (Brooks & Goldstein, 2007). Limitations Due to the qu al itative nature of the study findings are not gener al izable. They are the experiences of six students in one school district in a southeastern community. These findings are unique to the individu al s who shared their experiences lived within their communities. However, the major themes that were generated from the study could be used in future quantitative re search working with at risk African American m al es to investigate interactions between themes within lived systems in efforts to make the findings more gener al izable. The researcher was unable to regain access to the school to conduct a proper follow up of member checking. This is another limitation of the study. Packets were distributed with excerpts and an al ysis to al l students that participated in the origin al interviews. Only four packets were returned to the researcher providing feedback from the resea al ysis. It would have provided greater trustworthiness to the study to have received al l six packets of an al ysis returned to the researcher to ensure that the
166 al ysis was indeed what the participants intended on sharing with regards to their academic success. Due to the nature of this study being a dissertation a team of researchers did not participate in the an al ysis of the study. Having a team of researchers could have improved the trustworthiness of the study by providing multiple perspectives when conducting an al ysis. When conducting qu al itative research working with a team of researchers when conducting the an al ysis is another way to improve the trustworthiness of the study. Working on a team creates multiple perspectives when wo rking to establish themes and enrich the data. Access to high schools was al so another limitation of the study. The researcher had a difficult time gaining access to conduct research in the public school setting. He intended on interviewing at three high schools in the community and could only gain limited access to two schools. One high school would not return c al ls or respond to emails to al low the research to be conducted. This raises an important concern for higher educators to create and establish pos itive al liances within the school systems where their university resides. The research conducted in this study is v al uable to educators in secondary education, but without proper access and re entry to the schools it limits the voice and findings of the st udy. This again is a limitation of the study, but can provide insight to educators on the importance of building al liances with secondary education al personnel. Building al liances within researchers designated communities creates opportunities to improve a ccess and engagement in education for disadvantaged populations. It al so creates a systemic network where teachers and
167 administrators have access to resources that can empower the student populations they serve. Future Recommendations for Research A foll ow up of a quantitative study would be appropriate exploring interactions between themes and their influence on academic success for at risk African American. Providing a quantitative follow up study determining how significant an impact the themes describ ed in this study have on academic success would be benefici al to the field to present more gener al izable findings. It seems that lived systems play an important role in either engaging or disengaging at risk African American m al es to be successful in schoo l A next step of research from this study would be to examine a nation al data set to interpret and understand how systems interact and influence academic success for African American m al es. Specific factors that could be examined in a quantitative follow up could be using family v al ues, positive self concept, raci al identity, extracurricular involvement, education al personnel, and community support examining their independent and interdependent interactions and if they influence academic engagement and suc cess for African American m al es. Addition al ly, it would be benefici al to interview single parent mothers of at risk African American m al es to understand their experiences and impact that they have on their children. Interviewing single parent mothers of th is identified population would help educators experience and understand their experiences, hardships, and suppor t they give their children. It w ould be benefici al to id entify the strengths and weaknesses that exist within the family system. By identifying these strengths and weaknesses educators could create community outreach programs that help empower these families and promote academic success.
168 Fin al ly, a follow up study investigating the impact that extracurricular activities has on at risk African Amer ican m al Does being an athlete make it easier for these m al es to perform in the classroom? By being an athlete does it make it easier to be accepted by their peers and does it carry less of a stigma as being t in the classroom? It would be interesting to removes the worry of being thought of as feminine or a nerd for excelling in academics. Conclusion It takes an entire commu nity and a community experience to help encourage and support at risk African American m al e s according to the findings in this study. Academic belief, engagement, work ethic and self concept began with family and expanded outward as students experienced v arious lived systems throughout their academic career. Lived systems experienced in students lives can either encourage or al that support is experienced across setti ngs bringing truth to the sa ying students to develop and experience belonging. Family v al ues, belonging, community support and outreach al l helped develop a positive self concept of students interviewed. Self concept guided academic self efficacy and encouraged academic success. When students are able to feel that they belong they possess greater self worth and belief in self, which will encourage the student to be suc cessful. Thinking about at risk African American m al es from a systems model can help counselors and educators encourage and support academic success. It is important to understand at risk African American m al es from a systemic perspective when helping thes e youth engage in academics.
169 African American m al es experience numerous obstacles and barriers that often deter success in academics. Using a systemic framework can aid counselors and educators to create a firm network, as experienced by students in this r esearch that will provide positive modeling and mentoring, in addition to encouragement while producing results so that African American m al es do graduate from high school. A systems framework is helpful in conceptu al izing margin al ized students as it can help identify systems where students feel al one or need support. Often, the school community is a place where students do not feel welcomed or feel threatened. When students are able to t al k about this with counselors, counselors can provide appropriate in terventions to help students engage better within the school community. Engagement in the school community will foster a sense of belonging for the student and belonging will, in turn, encourage academic success.
170 APPENDIX A INFORMED CONSENT Informed Conse nt for Factors in Education al Success of Achieving Students I am a student in Counselor Education Program in the College of Education at the University of Florida where I am working on a research project examining the factors contributing to the education a l success of at risk high achieving African American m al e students. This project is under the supervision of Dr. Mary Ann Clark. Participation in this project involves an individu al interview with a doctor al candidate in counselor education that is collect ing data for their dissertation. The interview will last for approximately 45 minutes at a ches the findings of the study. The purpose of this interview is to learn about the factors that your student defines as important in their education al success and subsequent secondary education al planning. With your permission, your student will be asked a series of questions that your student thinks al success thus far in their education al priority and the data will be kept confidenti al to the extent provided by law. Interviews will be audio recorded. Steps to protect privacy will include: (1) disguising al l identifying information asked for in the interview and (2) keeping al l written records of the interview in a c onfidenti al file to be seen only by the princip al al ed if they participate in this study. The data from these individu al interviews will be studied and the princip al investigator will explain the facto rs that appear to be influenti al education al success in his dissertation If you are interested you will be provided a copy of the voluntary and you may withdraw your student at any time without pen al ty of any kind. Compensation will be awarded to your student for participation in this project and will be in the amount of a ten dollar visa gift card. If you have any questions about this research pr oject, you can c ontact Jason Orrock. Al though discomfort resulting from this interview is not expected, if there were any, it should be no more uncomfortable than your student telling their story or speaking openly al journey thus al so have some positive effects. The results of this project will be used to share with educators who may be able to positively encourag e students to strive for higher education. Addition al benefits could include school and community programs designed to support and promote academic achievement and success for adolescent African American m al e students. However, students do not have to ans wer any questions they do not wish to answer and they may withdraw from the interviewing without pen al ty. I have read the procedure described above. I voluntarily agree to participate in the procedure and I have received a copy of this description.
171 s Signature Date Participant's Signature Date Witness (Interviewer) Date Princip al Investigator Date
172 APPENDIX B INFORMED ASSENT Informed Assent for Factors in Education al Success of Achieving Students I am a student in Counselor Education Progra m in the College of Education at the University of Florida where I am working on a research project examining the factors contributing to the education al success of at risk high achieving African American m al e students. This project is under the supervisio n of Dr. Mary Ann Clark. Participation in this project involves an individu al interview with a doctor al candidate in counselor education that is collecting data for their dissertation. The interview will last for approximately 45 minutes at a location to b e determined at your school. There will be one follow up session once the study is complete to ensure your lived experience matches the findings of the study. The purpose of this interview is to learn about the factors that you define as important in your education al success and subsequent secondary education al planning. With your permission, you will be asked a series of questions to understand what may have contributed to your academic success thus far in your education al journey. Your privacy will be gi ven the highest priority and the data will be kept confidenti al to the extent provided by law. Audio recording will be used. Steps to protect privacy will include: (1) disguising al l identifying information asked for in the interview and (2) keeping al l wr itten records of the interview in a confidenti al file to be seen only by the princip al investigator Your identity will not be reve al ed by participating in this study. The data from these individu al interviews will be used in the princip al investigators di ssertation to describe the factors that appear to be influenti al in your education al success Your participation for this research project is entirely voluntary and you may withdraw at any time without pen al ty of any kind. Compensation will be awarded for your participation in this project and will be in the amount of a ten dollar visa gift card. If you have any questions about this research project, you can contact Jason Orrock Al though discomfort resulting from this interview is not expected, if there w ere any, it should be no more uncomfortable than you telling your story or speaking openly about your specific experiences relating to your education al journey thus far. Being given the chance to share your experience may al so have some positive effects. T he results of this project will be used to share with educators who may be able to positively encourage students to strive for higher education. Addition al benefits could include school and community programs designed to support and promote academic achiev ement and success for adolescent African American m al e students. However, students do not have to answer any questions they do not wish to answer and they may withdraw from the interviewing without pen al ty. I have read the procedure described above. I voluntarily agree to participate in the procedure and I have received a copy of this description. Date
173 Participant's Signature Date Witness (Interviewer) Date Princip al Investigator Date
174 APPENDIX C INTERVIEW QUESTIONS Interview Questio ns 1. What do you think contributed to your academic success in school when compared to your other friends that have not been as successful in school? 2. What has helped you stay on track to graduate with an advanced or standard diploma? 3. Can you descri be the characteristics of Black m al e? 4. How does being a Black m al e influence or inhibit your success in school? 5. Who or what has made you feel proud about being a Black m al e? 6. Have you ever experienced negative feelings with regards to an interaction with the public education setting? Can you describe your experience? What could be improved in the education al setting so future Black m al es would not have to experience this? 7. Who specific al ly has encouraged you to achieve success with regards to your education? 8. Looking back over your education al journey where have you found support? Can you briefly describe how these experiences impacted you? 9. How has spiritu al ity influenced your academic success? 10. Have you found your community helpful in v al ui ng the importance of your education? 11. Did you have a mentor that stood out that influenced your academic success? Please, describe this experience. 12. Is there anything else that has contributed to your success in school, be it a mentor, family member church, community agency, teacher, that we have not covered? Could you briefly describe that experience to me?
175 A PPENDIX D INSTRUCTIONS FOR PAR TICIPANTS IN MEMBER CHECKING Instructions for Verifying Data An al ysis: Hi Gentlemen, I ask you to please take a few moments and read through the packet of data that I have sent you. You will find enclosed in this packet excerpts from our interview that we had a few weeks ago. In your packet you will find excerpts that have been chosen to be included in my disserta tion and later will be submitted for publication in an education journ al Please take a few minutes to read through these passages and an al ysis and PLEASE provide me with feedback if necessary. Please, follow these simple instructions: 1. Read the excerpts and interpretations of findings excerpt single spaced, interpretation double spaced 2. Does the interpretation make sense/do you agree/ is it the message you would want to send to educators/other students 3. If it is not, what were you trying to say? Pl ease, write directly on this form or attach your comments on separate paper, providing feedback to make sure that your experience/message/view is expressed correctly 4. Return to office in se al ed envelope to princip al scratching your name out and placing the following information on the outside of the envelope: For Jason Orrock UF Research Project Thank you for your fin al assistance. The main purpose of reviewing your excerpts is to make sure that my interpretations match your experience. Thank you again f or your support in this i mportant research effort.
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182 Hooks, B. (2004) The will to change: Men, masc ulinity and love. New York, NY: Atria Books Howard Hamilton, M., & Behar Horenstein, L. (1995). Counse ling the african american m al e adolescent. Elementary School Guidance & Counseling, 29 (3) 198. Husserl, E. (1964). The idea of phenomenology. Hague, Netherlands: Matinus Nijhoff Irving, M. A., & Hudley, C. (2008). Cultur al identification and academic achievement among african american m al es. Journ al of Advanced Academics, 19 (4), 676 698. Jackson, C., & Dempster, S. (2009). 'I sat back on my computer ... with a bottle of whisky next to me': Constructing 'cool' masculinity through 'effortless' achievement in secondary and higher education. Journ al of Gender Studies, 18 (4), 341 356. doi:10.1080/09589230903260019 Jenkins, T. S. (2006). MR. NIGGER: The ch al lenges of educating black m al es within american society. Journ al of Black Studies, 37 (1), 127 155. doi:10.1177/0021934704273931 Joe, E.M., & Davi s, J.E., (2009). Parent al influence, school readiness and early academic achievement of African American boys. Journ al of Negro Education 78, 260 276. Jordan, K. (2005). Discourses of difference and the overrepresentation of black students in speci al educ ation. Journ al of African American History, 90 (1), 128 149. Retrieved from https://search ebscohost com.lp.hscl.ufl. edu/login.aspx?dir ect=true&db =aph&AN=17229271&site=ehost live Juelskjr, M. (2008). Resisting and committing to schooling: Intersections of masculinity and academic position. Internation al Journ al of Qu al itative Studies in Education, 21 (1), 49 63. doi:10.1080/0951839070 1768799 Karatzias, A., Power, K. G., Flemming, J., Lennan, F., & Swanson, V. (2002). The role of demographics, person al ity variables and school stress on predicting school Satisfaction/Dissatisfaction: Review of the literature and research findings. Educ ation al Psychology, 22 (1), 33 50. heterosexu al Hierarchies. Gender and Education, 9, 69 87. Kelley, R. (2007). The search for thugs Harman Newsweek LLC. Retrieved from https://search ebscohost com.lp.hscl.ufl.edu/login.aspx?direct=true& db=aph&AN=27722537&site=ehost live Kelly, J., G., (2007). The system concept and systemic change: Implications for community psychology. American Journ al of Psychology, 39, 415 418.
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190 Zutlevics, T. L. (2002). Towards a theory of oppression. Ratio, 15 (1), 80. Retrieved from https://search ebscohost com.lp.hscl.ufl.edu/login.aspx?direct =true&db=a2h&AN=10454112&site=ehost live
191 BIOGRAPHIC AL SKETCH Jason Orrock completed his PhD in marr iage and family counseling at the University of Florida. Jason earned his B.A. at Virginia Tech, and his master and s peci al ist degree s in m ent al h e al th c ounseling at the University of Virginia. He is a registered ment al he al th counseling intern, intends to seek licensure in both ment al he al th and marriage and family counseling, and is currently volunteering at the al Hospit al in the adolescent clinic seeing individu al s and families with the primary client being between 12 to 25 years of ag e. The hospit al is part of the al school. He has been a speci al education teacher in public schools, has worked profession al ly as a home based therapist, and has had sever al intensive internships in ment al he al th clinics, worki ng with a variety of populations to include adolescents, adults and severe ment al interests have focused on the influence of perceptions of masculinity, as related to oppression, SES, and family involvement on the identity develop ment, ment al he al th and academic success of African American m al es. Thus, his work and profession al interests focus on family, improving ment al he al th and promoting wellness. He believes in a systemic model that builds al liances across profession al setting s including medic al community ment al he al th and schools to promote greater wellness for disadvantaged populations.