Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation in Practice

Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Morgridge College of Education, Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

First Advisor

Lolita A. Tabron, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Kristina Hesbol, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Tara C. Raines, Ph.D., N.C.S.P.


Social justice, School-to-prison pipeline, Opportunity gap, Student voice, Critical race theory, Youth participatory action research


The school-to-prison pipeline (STPP) metaphor encapsulates and describes a set of legislative policies and educational practices that systematically funnel African American, Indigenous, and Latinx students from the classroom into the juvenile and criminal justice system at disparate rates. An emerging solution to address high school pushout and the STPP has been to develop Alternative Education Campuses (AECs). However, there is a current gap in the research that amplifies the counter narratives of students currently enrolled at an AEC, through their own words, using Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR). Studies conducted with students who have been labeled “high-risk” are especially lacking. Using a YPAR methodology, the goal of this study was to add to a growing body of literature on the STPP and AECs by contributing findings, analysis, and recommendations co-designed and constructed with voices from within the STPP. By using YPAR methods, the youth co-researchers (YCRs) collectively designed the research and maintained agency throughout each stage of the process. In total, two focus groups, eight interviews, and a photovoice project were completed. In this study, the YCRs and I demonstrated that African American, Indigenous, and Latinx students who have been labeled as “high risk” hold an innate ability to conduct educational research, critically analyze findings, and offer informed recommendations for bridging the opportunity gap and creating a more equitable education system through improving the programming at AECs. I also offer recommendations for decolonizing AECs and explore implications and future research.

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 International License.

Publication Statement

Copyright held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.