“Never Give up:” The Strengths and Strategies Used Among Undocumented College Students From Central America to Access and Persist in U.S. Higher Education
Hernandez, Belkis Pamela
Espino, Michelle M.
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The purpose of this study was to identify the strengths and strategies that undocumented college students from Central America used to access and persist in United States higher education. A multiple-case study design was used to conduct in-depth, semi-structured interviews and document collection from ten persons residing in Illinois, Maryland, Ohio, Texas, and Washington. Yosso’s (2005, 2006) community cultural wealth conceptual framework, an analytical and methodological tool, was used to uncover assets used to navigate the higher education system. The findings revealed that participants activated all forms of capital, with cultural capital being the least activated yet necessary, to access and persist in college. Participants also activated most forms of capital together or consecutively in order to attain financial resources, information and social networks that facilitated college access. Participants successfully persisted because they continued to activate forms of capital, displayed a high sense of agency, and managed to sustain college educational goals despite challenges and other external factors. The relationships among forms of capital and federal, state, and institutional policy contexts, which positively influenced both college access and persistence were not illustrated in Yosso’s (2005, 2006) community cultural wealth framework. Therefore, this study presents a modified community cultural wealth framework, which includes these intersections and contexts. In the spirit of Latina/o critical race theory (LatCrit) and critical race theory (CRT), the participants share with other undocumented students suggestions on how to succeed in college. This study can contribute to the growing research of undocumented college students, and develop higher education policy and practice that intentionally consider undocumented college students’ strengths to successfully navigate the institution.