Resistance Capital: Cultural Activism as a Gateway to College Persistence for Minority and First-Generation Students

Kornbluh et al. / Journal of Adolescent Research / April 2021

diverse group sitting on grass

This study provides a novel contribution by connecting two sets of literature, school engagement and multicultural university centers, in relation to late adolescent development. The aims of this mixed-method study were to: quantitatively explore the relationship between student perceived cultural leadership experience and support within a multicultural center in relation to school engagement and qualitatively address additional facilitators and barriers. Participants consisted of 134 college students, predominantly identifying as Latino/Hispanic (35.1%), Black/African American (34.3%), or Asian-Pacific Islander (23.9%), and first-generation (60.4%). Qualitative focus groups and a photovoice project engaged a subset of participants. Regression analysis indicated youth voice, supportive staff relationships, and peer support were significant positive predictors of students’ perceived engagement within the multicultural center, however, some but not all of these predictors transferred toward sentiments of school engagement. Qualitative sources elucidated additional factors bolstering student engagement. Social, cultural, and resistance capitals were identified as key protective factors in relation to student perseverance. Findings also indicated institutional barriers against student engagement including a lack of cultural and ethnic representation throughout multiple levels of the university. Implications for expanding conceptions of social capital within late adolescent identity development theory are discussed.