Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2010

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Michele Moses

Second Advisor

Ben Kirshner

Third Advisor

Elizabeth Dutro

Fourth Advisor

John Hoover

Fifth Advisor

Willem van Vliet


This dissertation study, Aspirations, Involvement, and Survival: Immigrant Latino Youth Navigating School and Community, relies on youth voices to examine the structural forces that shape the school and community realities of immigrant Latino youth and the work they are doing to navigate those contexts. Newcomer, 1.5, and 2nd generation immigrant Latino youth participated in a classroom-based digital storytelling project about their school and community experiences. Youth migration profiles, focus group, and interview data were then collected over one academic year.

The findings from this study expose the institutional layers that immigrant Latino youth confront and how family separation, institutional agents, and policy shaped students’ available and perceived opportunities. Age of arrival and documentation status created challenging barriers for young people, and conflicting and confusing policies made it difficult for advocates to support young people. Students’ deep personal knowledge and daily experiences call upon educators, administrators, community providers, and policymakers to both hear their stories and act intentionally and collaboratively to disrupt obstacles that restrict their educational and occupational pathways.