Am I another statistic?: A phenomenological study of border region at-risk Latina/o youth

Virginia Martinez, University of Texas at El Paso


As diversity continues to increase in the United States, schools are facing an enormous challenge of educating youth to function effectively in our democracy. With the growing Latina/o population, it is essential that schools accommodate to the needs of what will be the largest ethnic or race minority. The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study was to analyze and study past at-risk students’ unique predicament and determine two factors of failure; encouragement by failure and discouragement by failure. The study focused on understanding the role of failure as a main contributor in the decision making of Latina/o at-risk students dropping out without their high school diploma. This was accomplished through ten written anecdotes and fifteen individual unstructured in-depth interviews as five participants shared personal narratives of their encounter with the phenomenon of failure. Analysis of the data resulted in fourteen essence descriptors as they unfolded within the dichotomy of failure as interpreted from the shared narratives. Conclusions are presented in the form of a conceptual framework to depict the interconnectedness of essence descriptors in the step-by-step linkage diagrams as the at-risk Latina/o youth encounter failure and their conative disposition responds within each construct of failure. Altogether 350 actions were marked for causal coding as they were taken from all scripted meanings units and significant statements within the essence descriptors for the meta-inference. The study found that one student graduated from high school, another has obtained the GED (General Education Development), two are still pursuing their high school diploma, whereas one is a dropout. This would imply that as students are facing failure and are at the junction of Dichotomy of Failure, only one student was encouraged and four were discouraged. Most telling was the one graduated student followed the conceptual framework of Encouragement – Self-Regulated Learning. Sadly, another student has remained in the Discouragement – Learned Helplessness conceptual framework diagram. And three of the participants acquired self-regulated learning, Discouragement – Learned Helplessness – Self-Regulated Learning. The experiences expressed by the participants indicated that for the most part at-risk Latina/o students are discouraged by failure. Although this study suggests that as the participants shared of their encounters with failure, their perception ultimately changed. As noted by John Dewey (1939), “we do not learn from our experiences; we learn by reflecting on our experiences.” Post-hoc analysis suggests that due to reflective practices during the study, most participants’ conative disposition had shifted toward encouraged by failure.

Subject Area

Multicultural Education|School counseling|Hispanic American studies

Recommended Citation

Martinez, Virginia, "Am I another statistic?: A phenomenological study of border region at-risk Latina/o youth" (2016). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI10118198.