Degree Date


Document Type

Dissertation - Public Access

Degree Name

Ed.D. Doctor of Education

Academic Discipline

Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Tema Okun


What happens to young people that leave or are put out of their high school before they earn their diploma? Some of them attempt to re-enter school and earn their diploma. This study identifies factors that help students re-engage in their educational journeys. Two research questions guide this work:

  • What factors prohibit high school drop outs from earning their diploma and working towards a post-high school goal?
  • What can schools do to promote the factors that help students graduate and work towards a post-high school goal?

Relevant literature offers information about the dropout epidemic in the United States, what other studies have found causes students to dropout, and what helps students be successful. The study uses portraiture to describe four, African-American, male students that attend or attended Austin Career Education Center, a second chance school on the westside of Chicago. Two of the students are defined as “successful,” meaning they graduate with relative ease and work towards the post high school goal of a college education. Two of the students “struggle,” meaning attendance is erratic, credit is not earned, and one eventually drops out of school again. An analysis of their interviews reveals that the successful students have two factors that contribute to their success. First, they have a moment of connection with someone that motivates them to keep going. Second, they take responsibility for their actions, success and failures that have had.