Campus Immersion: Supporting Youth Agency and Aspirations for Higher Education

Joanna A. Tzenis

Abstract


Encouraging aspirations for higher education among young people who are marginalized is a common youth program strategy for addressing educational and social disparities. However, data on educational attainment suggests that these aspirations often go unfulfilled and that there is a need for a different approach—one that more deeply considers the ways in which social context influences youth agency. Within this paper, I show that while marginalized youth have aspirations for higher education, they have fewer opportunities to take action to achieve them. Conceptually, this paper draws from Bourdieu’s concept of “habitus” and Sen’s capability approach in order to understand the aspirations for higher education among marginalized youth and how they can be supported through youth programs. A case from an overnight, campus-based youth program highlights how youth programs can support youths’ agentic abilities to achieve their aspirations. The findings from this study suggest that both future-planning activities and emulating student life prepared youth to navigate socio-cultural barriers to aspiration achievement. The presented findings offer insight into the nature of aspiring and have implications for how youth programs can be designed to effectively support agency and aspiration development among youth who have been marginalized.


Keywords


agency; youth program outcomes; higher education; capability approach; positive youth development

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References


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5195/jyd.2018.576

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