Examining Factors Contributing to the Resiliency of Unaccompanied Immigrant Students in High School



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The purpose of this qualitative study was to analyze the resiliency factors that influence academic achievement in unaccompanied alien children in high school. To determine factors that motivate unaccompanied alien children (UAC) from Central America to have academic success, data from three student participants in a Texas high school, their parents, and several educators were collected and triangulated through interviews, observations, and photo-elicitation. Resiliency contributing to the student participants’ success in school was analyzed in two parts, internal and external protective factors. Overall, the internal factors derived from the individual character traits were similar for the three student participants to include: a high internal locus of control, personal competence, and religiosity and spirituality. The external factors in the study examined environmental and socio-cultural factors implemented by the school to engage and support UAC academically. Institutional structures that facilitated learning included curriculum and instruction, as well as a cohesive team of educators. The school culture and climate reinforced clear learning goals by setting high, yet reachable expectations for students while developing trusting and caring relationships. Specific teaching strategies, such as cooperative learning, encouraged students to socialize, facilitated acculturation, and supported both the student participants and the school’s goals for learning. Findings from the study indicated that the student participants experienced high academic achievement due to their personal character traits and the educational structures in place at their school that promoted resiliency.