Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Urban Education


Wendy Luttrell

Committee Members

David Chapin

Terrie Epstein

Subject Categories

Curriculum and Social Inquiry | Education | Educational Methods | Humane Education | Social and Behavioral Sciences


figured worlds, critical sociocultural theory, visual research, multimodal methods, participatory video, marginalized youth


“Dropouts” Drop In aims to challenge conventional views of both “dropping out” and “dropouts.” When young people “drop out” of high school, they open themselves up to a world of negative assumptions and blame, which are directed at them from the outside and are also deeply internalized. Young people are constantly messaged that “dropping out,” or being a “dropout” is at best a bad choice and at worst something akin to being a criminal. Lost in this messaging is that in reality “dropping out” of high school is often a positive move out of untenable social and educational situations and a first step toward a more meaningful and fruitful social and educational path—a path that often leads back to formal education. This project is the culmination of several years of thinking about, exploring, and experimenting with multiple modes of visual communication and research. It is also an attempt to marry those explorations with lessons learned from the young people I have had the honor to teach and get to know for over a decade. From 2003 to 2013 I worked in a college preparation program for 16 to 18 year-old out-of-school youth in the Bronx. The students’ journeys from out-of-school to and through college in some ways mirror my own. Having left high school on my 16th birthday, I slowly and circuitously made my way back to formal education. Watching my former students navigate similar waters I am reminded that this voyage is complex and little understood, whether attempting an associate’s degree or striving for graduate school. The lack of understanding is demonstrated by the linear structures and finite timelines dictated by many programs theoretically created to support young people through the process. These young peoples’ lives, however, are anything but linear and instead require room for improvisation unconstrained by predetermined time restrictions. It is my hope that this project, which is my dissertation and is manifested as a website, will provide safe harbor for young people setting sail on similar journeys and create a forum for dialog with fellow travelers. It is also intended to expand the walls of the academy and serve as a portal for teachers, counselors, parents/guardians, and other supporters, as well as researchers and policy-makers, leading them to a deeper understanding of what it actually takes— physically, emotionally, and materially—to embark on such an adventure.

silva-webarchive-all-20160517181321.warc (153199 kB)
Archived website as a WARC file, created using webrecorder.io - web archive player available at http://github.com/ikreymer/webarchiveplayer