Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


Juan Battle

Subject Categories

Counseling | Student Counseling and Personnel Services


Alternative Education Programs, Community College, Grit, Achievement Gap


What are the barriers and conduits to college success for academically vulnerable students? Employing two theoretical frameworks—ecological systems theory and intersectionality—this thesis interrogates two concepts: grit/persistence and support. To do this, data were collected from a group of academically vulnerable students of color from low-income backgrounds via two methodologically different venues: a focus group in 2012 and follow-up one-on-one interviews two years later, in 2014. From the focus group, two themes emerged: discouraging messages and hope. Two years later the follow-up one-on-one interviews produced two additional themes: balancing act and support. Building positive peer relationships was identified as a key strategy to foster their retention and graduation in college. This thesis concludes with recommendations for students, college administrators, and policymakers to build more strategical mechanisms that ensure the success of all academically vulnerable students.



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