The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study was to investigate the perceptions of high achieving, at risk African American male students from 3 Southern California urban high school with regards to (a) the factors that make them at-risk for poor academic achievement, (b) the protective factors that contribute to their resilience and academic success, (c) the characteristics that best describe their resiliency, and (d) what can parents, school and school employees, and the community can do to increase the academic achievement of urban at-risk African American males. More specifically, this study examined the environmental risks that confront the Black males participating in this study, evidence of resilience in light of the risk faced, and explanations for the observed adaptation, and implications for educating young African American males. This qualitative study collected data from high achieving, at-risk, urban African-American high school males. A total of 11 9th -12th grade, African-American males participated in semi-structured interviews and a focus group interview. The semi-structured interviews consisted of 19 questions and the focus group interview consisted of 3 questions. Four conclusions were drawn from the findings of this study. First, it takes a network of supportive individuals to promote academic success among at-risk, urban African American males. Second, extracurricular programs were integral in promoting academic resilience for at-risk, urban African-American males. Third, the church was a contributing factor in fostering their academic success. Fourth, the participants possessed a unique set of personality traits, beliefs and temperament that has led to their academic success. Based on the findings of this current study, it is recommended that parents or guardians seek out opportunities to be involved in their child's education, schools focus on ways to improve the learning environment for at-risk African-American males rather than the current practice of focusing on the under achievement of African-American males, schools need to create family-school-community partnerships to increase opportunities for school success for student's, and urban communities provide programs that are academic based and include structured activities that promote social competence, problem solving skills, autonomy, and sense of meaning and purpose.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Educational leadership, administration, and policy; African American young men -- Education (Secondary); African American high school boys -- California; Academic achievement -- Social aspects; Academic achievement -- Psychological aspects

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Purrington, Linda;