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The hidden curriculum exposed: How one outreach program bridges cultural capital and cultural wealth for Latina/o community college transfer students


Latinas/os who enter postsecondary education through the community college have high aspirations but low transfer rates. Existing empirical studies that focus on Latina/o transfer issues emphasize academic preparation, financial barriers, and the role of social and cultural capital in successful navigation through postsecondary structures. Most studies associate these factors as deficits related to transfer and degree completion for students of color. Offering an alternative perspective, this dissertation set out to expose an overlooked narrative to those prevalent in educational research, by highlighting the stories of current community college students who participated in the 2013 Summer Intensive Transfer Experience (S.I.T.E.) program. The program focuses on serving low-income, first-generation community college students through a culturally sensitive model and seeks to expose participants to the traditional forms of capital that are valued and exchangeable in higher education, as well as the cultural wealth they posses, in order to better understand how it can be leveraged to navigate the transfer pathway. Two theoretical and conceptual frameworks guided this study: Bourdieu's social and cultural capital, and Yosso's community cultural wealth model. By applying these frameworks, I sought to understand what forms of social and cultural capital participants recognized as useful and exchangeable before, during, and after the S.I.T.E. program. Guided by a participatory action research orientation, a case study method served as the design for this dissertation. An overall sample of eighty-seven participants was represented, with an emphasis on a Latina/o subsample of twelve one-on-one, semi-structured interviews. Findings suggest that participants entered the S.I.T.E. program with a notion that they were deficient in academic preparation and exchangeable capital--reflecting existing narratives that focus on traditional capital. Upon completing the S.I.T.E. program, participants demonstrated an understanding of their community cultural wealth and its role in supporting them through the transfer pathway. The narratives of these Latina/os are not only important, but also critical in providing an alternative and expanded lens of the transfer function for researchers, practitioners, and students alike.

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