"Making Our Lives": The Contributions of Urban High School Cultures to the Future Selves of Black and Latino Adolescent Boys

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This dissertation sought to answer the following research question: How, if at all, are Black and Latino adolescent boys' conceptions of their future selves shaped by school culture within an urban high school context? To answer this question, this study drew from various theoretical concepts of individuals' futures (see Kao & Tienda, 1998; Markus & Nurius, 1986; Nurmi, 1991; 2005), to utilize the term "future selves" to consider participants' goals for post secondary education, employment, and life conditions - summed up in college, career, and condition or the "Three C's." Findings centered on cultural power as operationalized within the school culture, utilizing an intersectional framework (Collins, 2009).

This ethnographic case study, which foregrounded the voices of 3 Black and 2 Latino (Salvadoran) teenaged boy participants, was conducted in one urban charter school in the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. over the course of eight months. Qualitative methodological approaches were used to understand the relationship between participants' future selves and salient facets of the school's college-going culture.

Themes from the school culture included how the participants' experiences with self-segregation, differential treatment along racial lines by teachers, and the lack of teacher diversity, proved a diversity dilemma at the school. Getting good grades, showing effort, and avoiding trouble were hallmarks of success, and potential for leadership and college. Lastly, college going was valued more than any other life outcome.

Within the college domain of future selves, participants reported varied experiences with the school's college-going culture. Selective support from teachers and administrators, college major interests, their own self-doubts, and race were key factors in participants' college choice processes. Given the career and life condition domains, participants were judicious, held realistic conceptions of their future life conditions, and wanted careers that afforded them the ability to take care of themselves and their family.

Theoretical, research, and practice implications for this study include, among others, the importance of greater equity in school cultures, and the need for broadening college-going cultures to consider not only the college or post secondary goals but also future career and presumable life conditions for Black and Latino boys.