Date of Award

Spring 5-16-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

PHD - Doctor of Philosophy


Doctoral Program

First Advisor

Mary Ann Cappiello

Second Advisor

Robert Riordan

Third Advisor

Grace Enriquez


Secondary Career and Technical Education (CTE) provides students with a full education in academic areas as well as a career area of interest, allowing students to apply their school-based learning in the real world through work-based learning. At the same time, urban CTE adolescents have historically been marginalized and placed in a deficit model. The purpose of this qualitative study was to uncover the ways in which student agency is co-created in an urban, transdisciplinary CTE high school program, as well as to identify the institutional systems and structures that support or hinder the development of student agency.

Eight students participated in the entirety of the data collection process consisting of individual interviews and focus groups; photographs, videos, and any other artifacts that the participants selected; and, the researcher’s own observations of students during their normal activities at school (audio, video, and/or observational notes). The Photovoice approach was utilized to give power to the voices of youth who are traditionally marginalized and to encourage patterns in the data to emerge through their lens and voice. The data analysis was guided by Charmaz’s (2016) constructivist grounded theory approach, through which the following interpretive theory was created: The development of student agency in integrated academic/technical Career and Technical Education occurs through ongoing, meaningful experiences and relationships that are connected, integrated, and impact the students’ sense of self in relation to the world. The mindset of collective bootstrapping is a secondary interpretive theory that supports the students’ perseverance and resilience in the face of challenges, both in and out of school, and contributes to their drive to carry themselves and others toward the dream of success in their lives. In contrast with the American individualist ideal of ‘pulling yourself up by your bootstraps,’ and the critical viewpoint that it is impossible for marginalized populations to do so due to oppressive overarching systems and structures, the collective bootstrapping mindset is one that describes the remarkable resilience and drive that empower marginalized adolescents to pull themselves and others up with the ongoing support of a community of peers and adults.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.






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