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College Dreams, Corporate Work Study, Brotherhood and Belonging: How urban Catholic high schools structure opportunity for low-income Latino and African American male youth


The alarming rates of educational failure of minority youth, where middle class white and Asian students repeatedly outperform their low-income Latino and African American peers, require educational programs or policies that will improve the life outcomes of minority students (G�ndara & Contreras, 2009; J. Lee, 2006; Thernstrom & Therstrom, 2003). A college going culture and the development of social capital in school settings has been found to improve academic outcomes for underrepresented minority students (Allen, Kimura-Walsh, & Griffin, 2009a; Gibson, Gandara, & Koyama, 2004; Stanton-Salazar, 2010). Research has also demonstrated how school-based employment programs for low-income minority students can benefit students if and only it is complemented with a rigorous academic curriculum (Oakes & Saunders, 2008). The research on Catholic schools shows their ability to produce successful outcomes for African American and Latino students (Bryk, Lee, & Holland, 1993) .

This study examines two urban Catholic high schools and how they construct opportunities for their low income Latino and African American male students. The project also determines if one school in particular, (which only accepts students from low income backgrounds) can develop critical forms of social and cultural capital through their unique corporate work study experience. Employing a mixed methods approach, the year-long study includes the following data: 1) ethnographic field notes; 2) interviews with students, school staff and alumni; 3) a student and alumni survey and 4) student data. The study uses ethnographic research methods to understand how each school facilitates a college going culture, and particularly a college-going discourse. Survey data and observations suggest that both schools develop social capital for students through a sense of family and/or multistranded relationships to mitigate the boundaries between student and institutional agents. Extracurricular activities and religious activities serve as important school structures that develop peer social capital through a sense of brotherhood. Interview data demonstrates students develop social capital and obtain access to dominant forms of cultural capital through their work study experience, but some students experience cultural dissonance with dominant cultural capital. Urban Catholic schools are encouraged to utilize the non-dominant culture to best serve low income underrepresented minority youth.

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