Engaged African Refugee Youth Negotiating Schooling in America: An Inquiry into the Influence of Culture and Social Structure

Vincent M Mugisha


This article explores how six ethnically diverse African refugee youth transcended constraining social structural forces and maintained high levels of academic engagement at a high school in a small Northeastern city. Using ethnographically contextualized case study methodology, this article examines the refugee youths’ processes of acculturation and adaptation to American schooling. The article particularly examines the role of pre-resettlement social circumstances in refugee camps, home cultural influences, and parental scholastic expectations in shaping the participants’ scholastic engagement. The findings suggest that the participants’ resilience and optimism about the promise of American schooling in tandem with local community-wide support produced agency with which they transcended countervailing forces in schooling. This phenomenon is conceptualized in this article as agentic scholastic engagement.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5296/ije.v7i1.6807

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