A Study of Resiliency in Academically Successful African American Male High School Graduates from At-risk Situations

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D)


Educational Administration

Date of Award

Spring 2022


The educational attainment of African American males attending high-poverty secondary schools has long been researched and explored by educators and those seeking to improve the educational outcomes of this particular group which is at the highest risk of being unsuccessful in high school. Despite educational reforms and other educational modifications, the achievement gap of this group has continued to expand; however, a significant number of students have been successful despite unequal opportunities and unsupportive systems.Countless researchers have discussed factors that contribute to the achievement gap between African American and Caucasian students yet few studies have disproved conceptions of failure relative to at-risk African American males. Nonetheless, many African American males succeed despite at-risk conditions, and many successful African American males have overcome adversities and dire circumstances (Morales & Trotman, 2008; Whiting, 2009); thus, one should highlight aspects that support successful academic achievement among African American males from at-risk situations. This qualitative study explored the following research question: What experiences do academically successful African American high school male graduates living in impoverished communities and attending low-performing schools believe contributed to their academic success? Through in-depth interviews, data were collected directly from six academically successful African American high school male graduates about factors contributing to their resilience and academic success. Masten (2001) defined resilience as a phenomenon in which a person could succeed in the face of severe adversity if adaptation structures were protected and functioned well. A basic qualitative design was used to gather detailed descriptions from participants who have lived through this phenomenon. Analysis of interview data revealed four themes: (a) academic goals were achieved through adaptable striving toward a fixed goal, (b) how positive and negative experiences were interpreted helped them accomplish goals, (c) compensatory support assisted in overcoming major risks, and (d) protective factors were continuously refined by incorporating new experiences and resources. These findings may provide insights for educators and parents to develop or implement strategies or interventions for African American male students (see Williams et al., 2017).


Julia Ballenger

Subject Categories

Education | Educational Administration and Supervision