Over 2.5 million youth remain disconnected from education or the workforce well into their adult lives. Nearly one-third of youth who remain disconnected are Black, Indigenous Persons of Color (BIPOC) from low-income communities. The purpose of this research study was to gain an understanding of what systems and processes support re-engagement for formerly disconnected, and subsequently re-engaged, BIPOC students from alternative high school programs in the State of California. The following research questions guided this qualitative narrative study: How do former disconnected youth ages 19-26 years of age describe their experience in traditional public schools compared to that of alternative public schools? What factors led formerly disconnected youth 19-26 years of age to successfully reengage and complete alternative education programs at various entry and exit points throughout their journey to program completion? The theoretical framework that underpinned this study was comprised of Critical Race Theory (CRT) and the conceptual framework is Self-Determination theory (SDT). This study used the storytelling tenet of CRT and narrative inquiry to share perceptions of BIPOC youths’ alternative education journey. An a priori coding scheme was used to identify initial primary themes for this study. Additional themes were identified through an iterative analysis of the interview data for descriptors that emerged throughout the narratives and that aligned with the CRT in K-12 education, literature on alternative education and disconnected youth, and self-determination theory.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Minority high school students -- California, Southern -- Attitudes; Alternative schools -- California, Southern -- Evaluation; Critical race theory -- Education (Secondary)

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Barbara A. Mather