Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership



First Reader/Committee Chair

Mahoney, Marita


This qualitative study examined Urban Black high school students’ pathways to academic success, with particular attention to their perspectives about achieving academic success despite stereotype threats and impeding social factors, the support systems they rely upon, and the coping mechanisms they employ when encountering challenges. Study data suggested that the way urban Black high school students achieved academic success despite stereotype threats and impeding social factors is to identify and focus on their goals, circumventing what obstacles they could and cognitively and emotionally coping with what they could not. Students primarily relied upon family members, community members, school staff, and college-bound programs as support mechanisms. In response to challenge, they employed coping mechanisms of cognitive, emotional, and behavioral strategies that enhanced their focus on the goal, reduced their stress, helped them avoid distraction, and promoted their achievement of the goal. These strategies indicated that the students possessed grit and a growth mindset. The relatively few instances of racism and stereotyping identified in this study indicate the need for more study conducted using different methods to reveal the more widespread and insidious instances of racism and stereotyping within school systems. Longitudinal research also may be helpful for revealing the challenges, racism, and stereotypes students experience as they happen, along with the sensemaking, coping strategies, and support mechanisms they employ to persist through to completion.

Keywords: African American, Urban, high school students, racism, stereotype threat, success factors