Unaccompanied Youth in Public Schools and the Opportunity to Lead for Emancipatory Practices
Yvette Lapayese, Ph.D.
Unaccompanied youth are migrant children who travel by themselves to the United States, mostly from Central America and Mexico. Since 2014, more than 200,000 unaccompanied youth have entered our country, with approximately 28,000 residing in Los Angeles, California (CBP 2018; CBP, 2019; CBP, 2020; CBP, 2021a; CBP, 2021b). Hundreds of these young migrants have enrolled in public schools (Pierce, 2016). Schools are seeking adequate and effective ways to support these students’ complex needs and aspirations. There is a significant absence of the voices of unaccompanied youth within the research process which results in limited knowledge and uninformed school policy responses. This study employed Critical Race Theory (CRT) as a theoretical framework to inform counter-narratives that accurately depict the school experiences of unaccompanied youth who find themselves at the intersection of race, gender, immigration status, migration, and class. The aim of the study was to foreground youth agency through a Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) design, complimented by CRT. YPAR is built on the idea that young people have the capacity to conduct research, generate new knowledge, and create transformational social change. The questions guiding this study were: How do unaccompanied youth, in the role of youth co-researchers describe, experience, and make meaning of educación at a justice-focused high school in Los Angeles? and (b) How can the epistemology of unaccompanied youth inform practices and policies, to ensure a socially-just education, against the backdrop of an anti-immigrant climate? This study built on the epistemology of unaccompanied youth to inform and generate affirming and emancipatory educational practices. With youth as agents of knowledge creation, this study provides the field with first-hand information that can be shared in the educational community.
Garcia, Leyda W., "Unaccompanied Youth in Public Schools and the Opportunity to Lead for Emancipatory Practices" (2021). May 3, 2021 - 2021 Doctoral Research. 5.