Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Social Welfare


Deborah Tolman

Committee Members

Roderick Watts

Harriet Goodman

Subject Categories

Social Work


overage under-credited students, high school, adult/student relationships, school social work


High school models that provide alternative ways for students who are overage and under-credited and have dropped out or disengaged from school to re-engage and graduate with a high school diploma have grown in New York City in the past ten years. The school model in this study conceives “Building Healthy Relationships” as one of five essential elements of the model and central to the re-engagement and success of students in school. Students in this model are paired with an advocate counselor who supports them while in school and towards graduation from high school. In this study, I interviewed thirteen former students who graduated from Brooklyn High School, a transfer school based on the Good Shepherd Services transfer school model, to understand the meaning of the relationship between a student and an advocate counselor from the perspective of the student. Using a grounded theory approach informed by a youth development framework (Benson, 2002; Benson & Saito, 2001; Damon, 2004), care in schools (Noddings, 2005), and relational theory (Brown & Gilligan, 1993; Gilligan, 1982; Miller, 1976; Ragins & Fletcher, 2007), I analyzed interviews to develop a theory about what was happening in the relationship (Charmaz, 2006). Findings suggest that there are three elements in the relationship between an advocate counselor and student—being known, feeling cared for, and caring about myself—that are essential to a meaningful relationship. Those three elements and possible relationships between them as they contribute to a meaningful relationship between an advocate counselor and student are discussed. Implications for practice in schools, the field of social work, and further research are presented.

Included in

Social Work Commons