Date of Award

Spring 6-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)



First Advisor

Karen Monkman, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Ronald Chennault, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Horace Hall, Ph.D.


Schooling can often function as a mechanism of oppression specifically for low-income and minority youth. This study is an exploration of how a social justice education impacts adolescent empowerment. It is an attempt to gain a deeper knowledge into the ways participants were influenced by this form of schooling, a pedagogy derived in response to silenced youth to be agents of social change. In an attempt to gain a deeper understanding of the relationship between social justice education and empowerment, and to investigate their lived experiences during high school and the ways in which empowerment emerged in their lives, I conducted a narrative inquiry research study with five participants who were alumni of a social justice high school. In this study these participants shared their stories of lived experiences before, during and post high school. This study also focused on the impact of the surrounding school community, participants' neighborhoods, and community organizations on their empowerment during the time participants attended high school. This theoretical lens, social reconstructionism, enabled an examination of empowerment. The findings were analyzed for commonality and five themes emerged from the data including: personal strength, social connectedness, critical consciousness, action, and hope. The results of this study suggest a more cohesive and multidimensional definition of youth empowerment. Additionally, this study also shows how the unique social justice education experienced by the five participants and the lived experiences in their surrounding community together empowered them and enabled participants to transform their lives and re-envision their identities. The relationship between the individual, community, and the school was integral. In addition, this research makes it clear that empowerment happens simultaneously and synergistically with individuals and in collective units such as communities (including school communities); empowerment in this sense is overlapping and synergistically linked, a contrast to US based empowerment literature which posits more linear, unidirectional models.

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