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"We Gotta Think About Our Community as a Collective": A Youth Participatory Action Research Study to Address Rural Black Students' College-Going Culture Experiences

Willis, Jenay (2023) "We Gotta Think About Our Community as a Collective": A Youth Participatory Action Research Study to Address Rural Black Students' College-Going Culture Experiences. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This study examined and addressed the role of the broader rural community as supportive in shaping access to higher education among Black students as knowledge holders of their own lived experiences. Using a youth participatory action research (YPAR) approach, the theoretical underpinnings for the study included Yosso’s (2005) community cultural wealth model and Perna’s (2006) college access and choice model. Yosso’s (2005) model offers a racial analysis while Perna’s (2006) model offers a spatial analysis to understand rural Black students’ college-going culture experiences within their broader community. The research questions for the study are: (1) How do rural Black students interpret the notion of college-going culture and what aspects of their lives and their communities are supportive for college access? (2) In what ways does using youth participatory action research (YPAR) as a practice support rural Black students’ access to higher education? Guided by YPAR as a methodology, this study involved a total of eight co-collaborators, including seven student co-collaborators and me as the adult co-collaborator.

Centering the student co-collaborators’ voices, the findings are presented as podcast episodes using a mixture of the students’ perspectives shared throughout our study and the art of counterstorytelling. The findings reveal how rural Black students make sense of their YPAR experiences to shape their access to higher education given the support of their broader
community. Within our study, the broader rural community encompassed the high school, families, friends, community members, and resources such as local organizations that aid in
increasing Black students’ access to higher education. While the study took place within the Resourceful County School District, specifically at Montpelier High School, the implications within our study may be applicable to communities situated within similar rural contexts. Rural Black students, both domestically and internationally, could potentially benefit from engaging in YPAR as a practice to challenge structures of domination such as anti-Black racism, elitism, and classism, to shape their access to higher education. Such an approach allows rural Black students to shift their narratives in the literature to blame the systems of oppression at play rather than place the onus on this student population.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Willis, Jenayjew149@pitt.eduJEW149
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairMeans,
Committee MemberKinloch,
Committee MemberMcCambly,
Committee MemberWang,
Date: 21 September 2023
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 9 May 2023
Approval Date: 21 September 2023
Submission Date: 8 August 2023
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 210
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Education > Administrative and Policy Studies
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: rural Black students, broader rural community, youth participatory action research, community-driven research, Black, families, communities, community members, rural high schools, rural communities, rurality
Date Deposited: 21 Sep 2023 20:56
Last Modified: 21 Sep 2023 20:56


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