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Open Access Publications from the University of California

“We Leave School Because of Jobs:” The Role of Work in the Paths to Success of Students in an Alternative Education Program

  • Author(s): Corral, Monique
  • Advisor(s): Su�rez-Orozco, Carola
  • et al.

This multiphase qualitative study provides a glimpse into everyday realities not always considered to contribute to student outcomes—students’ lives outside of school. The study involves young adults, predominantly Latinx from working-class backgrounds who are pursuing their secondary education in an alternative program. Based on the centrality of the need to work that emerged, the study examines the unique and multifaceted role of work for students. Based on multiple sources of information (i.e., participant observation, interviews, surveys), most students in the study who worked were compelled to do so because of difficult economic realities. Further, in contrast to common perceptions that focus solely on the negative outcomes for students facing multiple commitments, the findings indicate that there are both costs and benefits to working and juggling such commitments. I discuss the study’s implications for practice and future research, including the value of high return nontraditional and alternative education paths that consider students’ everyday realities, particularly commitments centered on work and family. Further, I discuss the value of career development initiatives and supports in schools to guide students while considering their financial circumstances.

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