Strategies for Improving Self-Efficacy: A Qualitative Analysis of Detroit’s Downtown Boxing Gym

Amanda Sommerfeld Case, N. Keita Christophe


Structural inequalities present throughout U.S. public schools are known to contribute to the significant achievement gaps that persist between lower-income students of color and their more financially secure, White peers. Because of this, community programs have been identified as places where typically underserved students can receive the support required for positive development and academic achievement. The current study used qualitative methods to explore how one community program, Detroit’s Downtown Boxing Gym, fosters self-efficacy in school-aged youth from Detroit Public Schools. Focus group participants reported they are indeed experiencing increases in self-efficacy as a result of the mastery experiences, vicarious experiences, and verbal persuasion they receive at the gym. Specific recommendations for how other programs might foster self-efficacy, including establishing a program climate where students feel cared for, ensuring program staff truly believe students can be successful, identifying opportunities for students to have mastery experiences, and utilizing peer modeling, are discussed.


community youth development; self-efficacy; lower-income youth of color; qualitative research

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