A Role For Pre-College Programs: Cultural Capital And School Outcomes For Black Students Seeking Higher Education
Brown-McKenzie, Charlene Brown
Racial and ethnic minority groups face extraordinary challenges in access to and success in higher education due to the complicated history of racism in the US educational system and society. This thesis focuses on past and current practices that affect educational equity, college completion, and post-undergraduate success for Black first-generation college students attending predominantly white institutions (PWI). The intersection of K-12 and higher education is explored, including the role pre-college programs can play in efforts to encourage students from underrepresented backgrounds to pursue and succeed in postsecondary education. Pre-college programs, whether federal, community-based, or university-affiliated, are one intervention that guides and prepares students for the cultural norms, skills, and behaviors of postsecondary education through the lens of cultural capital—skills, knowledge, abilities, and behaviors obtained through educational attainment and deemed valuable by society. Through interviews with a sample of students who participated in pre-college programs, their experiences before college and in college may offer some insight into their educational outcomes. This study seeks to break new ground by addressing the unexplored role of pre-college programs as an influence on the social and cultural norms of college and offer a deeper understanding of how colleges and universities can engage and support students from marginalized identities who enter college with unique pre-college experiences.As such, this study identifies and examines the individual and collective strengths that influence cultural capital, from Pierre Bourdieu’s (1986) early description to Tara J. Yosso’s (2005) definition of “community cultural wealth.” The latter is a proposed model that can transform education by empowering students of color to utilize the assets already abundant in themselves and their communities. This thesis argues that scholars of education should move beyond a deficit model to an asset model of cultural capital when addressing the success of first-generation, low-income Black students who seek to matriculate to predominantly white collegiate and university institutions. Success in predominantly white institutions requires very different skills for Black students than White students because these institutions were not built or structured with the former in mind. Therefore, it is timely to examine the cultural capital of such communities through interdisciplinary study and research to theorize how first-generation, low-income students of color who participate in pre-college programs gain skills and knowledge that improve their college transitions and success in postsecondary education.
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