Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor


Second Advisor

Copyright © 2014 Sophia Rodriguez

Third Advisor

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


This dissertation explores how Latino immigrant youth make sense out of their educational experience, identity, and sense of belonging in an urban, public high school. This critical ethnography examines their social interactions. The youth live in a segregated neighborhood that is largely abandoned by policy-makers and recently impacted by massive school closures by the district. The youth, within the context of a community-school partnership, advocate for immigrant rights, march in solidarity with their teachers, and engage in organizing to transcend their immigration status and/or achievement status. The central question is: How do Latino immigrant youth in a community-school experience identity formation in relation to community belonging? Across a traveling field, I interviewed youth to deepen the understanding of their identity formation as they encounter the community-school partnership. The chapters of this dissertation reveal the multiple ways in which youth identity forms. The analysis here builds upon previous sociological studies of racial/ethnic identity and its interaction with student achievement and moves away from cultural-deficit models as explanations of racial/ethnic minority under-achievement. In addition, the analysis here highlights the positive social identities that emerge for students involved in the community-school programs. This is a key contribution as it emphasizes the role of community-school partnerships on social identity production. In this study youth position themselves as

agents of social change. Youth interpret community as a set of social relations across spaces, e.g. a protest at the Board of Education headquarters and an act of civil disobedience in an intersection. This study asserts that youth from low-income communities can transcend the labels from their immigration or racial/ethnic status, or their perceived propensity for failure. By highlighting moments of youth organizing and their articulations of justice, it is evident they engage in critical thinking beyond what their achievement data reveals. The data lead us to consider how schools often fail to reward social identities and alternative pedagogic spaces--provided through community-school partnerships--such as a protest or a service trip, but there exists cultural and symbolic value when asserting a particular social identity. The research offers insight into the disconnection between how institutional forces and policies situate youth and then abandon or intervene through false assumptions. I suggest we build on youth's knowledge and assets.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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