The Postsecondary Experiences of Latinas from a Low-Income, Single-Sex Urban Catholic High School in Los Angeles, California
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The Postsecondary Experiences of Latinas from a Low-Income, Single-Sex Urban Catholic High School in Los Angeles, California


Historically, low-income Catholic secondary schools have provided opportunities for underrepresented students to receive quality education and matriculate to community college and four-year universities. This trend continues today, yet for schools like one in this study who identify as college preparatory schools, what happens to students once they graduate is mostly a mystery. Adding to the mystery, large graduation data within systems, such as the University of California and the California Community Colleges, does not provide disaggregated data for “private school” students. However, if available, graduation data alone would not capture the range of experiences that mostly first-generation Students of Color from schools, such as the one in this study, experience in postsecondary education. As such, this study uses qualitative methods to capture the lived experiences of participants. To do so, this study utilized a Community Cultural Wealth (CCW) framework that emphasized the various forms of cultural capital Students of Color possess. To understand this phenomenon with greater depth this study focused on one specific school site in Los Angeles, California that has a long history of serving Students of Color who come from low-income families. To narrow the focus of this study and to fit the demographic of the site, this study focused specifically on the lived experiences of Latinas. For this qualitative study, fourteen participants were assembled to participate in three focus groups, which was followed by four interviews with select participants from the focus groups. The findings of this study confirm that of other CCW research who identify linguistic, aspirational, social, navigational, resistance, spiritual, and familial capital as essential assets that help Latinas navigate higher education. The study identifies the school site itself as a place of rich social and navigational capital transfer for and that participants gained significantly from positive relationships with adults on campus. Similarly, the familia established at the school site promoted aspirational, familial, and navigational capital for students who once in college sought out other Latinas on campus, clubs, adult mentors of Color, and multicultural groups and institutions to a large extent. Similarly, the spiritual formation of the school provided another form of capital, spiritual capital, that played an important role in helping participants overcome the challenges they experienced in college which ranged from culture shock and racial isolation to academic under preparedness in math and science and difficulty making friends with non-Latinas at mostly white college campuses.

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