First generation Hispanic high school students going to college: experiences that support decisions and college going pathways
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In this study I examined the question: How do first generation Hispanic high school students decide to attend college? To understand how the students made college decisions and what supported their pursuit of college aspirations, I interviewed six Hispanic high school students from five different high schools in a south Texas-Mexico border town. Student participants were the first generation in their immediate family to graduate from high school and to consider going to college. I conducted qualitative open-ended interviews with each of the participants and used inductive multilayered analyses to identify how students made decisions to attend college and how they were able to continue their college aspirations with the supports from families, schools, and community. I used the funds of knowledge and social capital theoretical frameworks to make visible the ways students utilized different resources and people’s support to ensure the continuation of the college-going process. Findings indicated that students’ decision to go to college was a process and not a moment in time. Students’ college-going thoughts were kept alive by students creating networks with families, school personnel and members of the community. Despite the challenges students faced throughout their schooling experiences, they were able to learn from the difficulties and utilize resources available to construct funds of knowledge and social capital for school and college success. Families supported students through talks about life experiences and the consequences of not attending college. Community members provided supports by listening and sharing professional or personal knowledge. Schools and school personnel promoted student college aspirations by talking to students and providing information about college. When students can draw on the actions and supports of different members of society, they can envision and pursue college as a realistic option. In demonstrating the availability and the importance of multiple supports, this study calls for active college awareness and promotion on the part of all members of society. The more supports are available for first generation Hispanic high school students, the more likely they are to succeed in school and enter college, thus minimizing the “silent epidemic” of dropouts and minority underrepresentation in higher education.