Resiliency of successful high-risk females in an alternative setting

Date of Completion

January 1997


Education, Sociology of|Education, Secondary|Sociology, Individual and Family Studies




A growing portion of today's youth are labeled at-risk: students who, because of socioeconomic factors, are in danger of dropping out of high school (McMillan & Reed, 1993). Alternative programs endeavor to create an opportunity for these students to achieve, but despite such programs, some students succeed and some do not.^ Rather than focusing on academic achievement or intelligence, a primary concern of this study is the resiliency of high-risk females in becoming successful. Using the conceptual framework of a qualitative and quantitative approach, this study examined the intrinsic and extrinsic characteristics of 13 female, high-risk students from an alternative school who have succeeded in defying the odds. Successful students were identified as those who were on the graduation list or who had graduated between 1993 and 1995. The questions which guided the study focused on the perception of high-risk females: (1) What personal characteristics, defined by high-risk females, helped them to graduate? (2) How did relationships with family and friends affect the success of high-risk females? (3) How did high-risk females believe they had been affected by their local community? (4) What school experiences and school personnel were important in the success of high-risk females?^ Questionnaires were administered to potential participants to establish eligibility for the study. Criteria were based on 34 risk factors as set forth by Frymier's Phi Delta Kappa Study (1992), Growing Up is Risky Business and the Schools are not to Blame. Semi-structured interviews were used to gather descriptive data in the participant's own words so that the researcher was able to develop insights on how participants envision themselves (Bogdan & Biklin, 1992). Student records were reviewed to understand the school experience of each participant. A focus group was conducted in the final phase of the data collection to verify results. The factors which were identified by the participants of this study that contributed to their success in school and eventual graduation included positive perceptions of themselves (acceptance of others and themselves, feelings of independence, sense of responsibility, adoption of achievement behaviors, lessons learned, sense of achievement); support of family and friends (maternal influence, paternal influence, family support, peer influence): and the use of the alternative school as a vehicle which fostered the resilient characteristics of the participants (opportunity, choice, environment, influence of staff, student performance). Information gathered may contribute to more successful alternative programs. ^