Factors contributing to academic resilience of former homeless high school students: A phenomenological study



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Homelessness is an increasing epidemic afflicting the United States. Of the millions of homeless in the United States, over two million are children (National Alliance to End Homelessness, 2009; Slesnick, Dashora, Letcher, Erden, & Serocivh, 2009). It is reported that over 1.2 million of homeless students are enrolled in public schools (National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, 2014). Researchers have demonstrated that homeless students score significantly lower than normally housed students (Buckner, 2008; Hendricks & Barkley, 2011, & Obradović, et al., 2009), and homeless students are at risk of developmental delays at a rate of four times their peers (Holgersson-Shorter, 2010). Despite the overwhelming odds against them, some homeless students are personally resilient and thrive in the face of adversity, achieving academic excellence, resulting in academic resilience. Theoretical framework for my phenomenological study included the self-efficay (Bandura, 1977, 1987, & 1989) and self-determination theories. Participants in my study were identified as homeless while attending high school, achieved academic resilience, and they are all currently attending universities. My study focused on motivating factors contributing to academic resilience in my participants. Interviews and sandtray therapy sessions were conducted, resulting in five emerging themes from the transcripts and photos of the processed sandtrays; (a) isolation, (b) confusion, (c) faith, (d) determination, and (e) academic achievement. Although the homeless population faces many challenges, homeless youth face additionally challenges, including poor academic achievement (Toro, Dworksky, & Fowler, 2007; Hardy, 2009). The participants in my study overcame the obstacles due to the emerging resiliency and motivating factors. Vast research conducted on homelessness was concerning challenges and low academic achievement among the population. The lack of research concerning high achieving homeless students limited the ability to provide a deeper understanding of the phenomenon. Each of my participants went unidentified as homeless until their senior year of high school. It is imperative that school officials; including teachers, school counselors, administrators, and district personnel be more efficient in identifying homeless students. An in-depth study of homeless high school students may reveal necessary implications for school officials regarding the needs and identification factors of homeless students.



Academic resilience, Homeless students, Sandtray, Sam Houston State University, Texas