Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Morgridge College of Education, Higher Education

First Advisor

Judy M. Kiyama, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Michele Hanna, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Laura Sponsler, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Nicholas Cutforth, Ph.D.

Fifth Advisor

Michele Hanna, Ph.D.

Sixth Advisor

Kizzy Jones-Lopez, Ph.D.


Foster care alumni, Foster youth, Funds of knowledge, Participatory action research, Postsecondary attainment, Resilience


Although education continues to be a pathway for social mobility, disparities remain in post-secondary attainment for traditionally marginalized populations such as the half-million youth in foster care (Children's Bureau, 2016). Due to multiple personal, social, and system barriers, only 46% of foster youth will earn a high school or GED diploma, and less than 3% will enroll in postsecondary education (Naccarato, Brophy & Courtney, 2010; Sarubbi, Parker, & Sponsler, 2016). Barriers impacting foster care alumni (FCA) have been widely documented, yet their narratives of resilience receive less attention. This study employs a participatory action research design in which FCA participants become researchers and engage in all aspects of the research process in sharing their stories and the tools they utilized to achieve postsecondary success. Funds of Knowledge serves as the guiding conceptual framework to understand the diverse assets of this population. Study findings demonstrate five key tools FCA employ in their pursuit of education attainment. These findings fall within in two larger emergent categories of (1) Funds of Knowledge as Resiliency Strategies and (2) External Supports Mechanism. Implications of the study offer key strategies for student affairs practitioners, faculty, and policymakers to better support the resiliency and success of these students. This study offers methodological and theoretical significance, as well as embedded benefits for FCA and their advocates through policy and programming.

Publication Statement

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

Rights Holder

Molly Sarubbi


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

301 p.


Higher education