Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Urban Education


Colette Daiute

Subject Categories

Education | Education Policy


College Counseling; Ethnography; Narrative Inquiry; Policy Analysis; Urban Education; Youth Development


In New York City, there exists an uneven landscape of college guidance among high schools, creating a college "guidance gap". While some schools offer robust counseling that helps students contextualize college admissions information toward making relevant college decisions, other schools have elevated student-to-counselor rates and do not have access to other educational resources necessary to effectively support students. Using ethnographic research and survey data, anchored by dynamic narrative inquiry, this dissertation explores how young people enrolled in under-resourced schools can act as agents of change in the lives of their peers within the context of college planning. Youth Leadership for College Access is a program in New York City that positions students to become paid college access coordinators in their schools (called Youth Leaders), with intensive training and ongoing technical support. Through deep analysis of both their summer training as well as the everyday work that they do with peers during the school year, this dissertation argues that Youth Leaders reimagine college planning as a meaningful, student-centered, relevant experience. They do this by grounding their work by the lives of their peers, and strategically use their unique position inside schools -- as both student and college access professional -- to help their peers resolve problems they may face when planning for college. This dissertation will show how college access interventions can work effectively when we position young people at the center of school change.