Education Doctorate

Year Approved


First Advisor

Tracy Reimer

Second Reader

Erica Hering

Third Reader

Christopher Kamrath


Students enter their respective school buildings with unknown past physical, emotional, or mental traumas due to dynamics within their family, community, or school (Izard & National, 2016). Experiencing trauma in childhood can lead to a myriad of educational challenges, such as lower grades, more suspensions and expulsions, increased use of mental health services, and increased involvement with child welfare and juvenile justice systems (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2016). The prevalence of childhood traumas, neighborhood problems, discrimination, chronic strains, adverse life events, and daily hassles are also associated with severe mental illness (Adams et al., 2015). The purpose of this study was to identify which risk and protective factors in students’ homes, communities, and school environments influence students’ academic achievement and social behaviors in a high school setting. This study’s data collection included interviewing 10 high school seniors attending an alternative high school setting. The intent was to understand which perceived risk factors were barriers to academic success and which protective factors supported students’ academic and social success in high school. The findings of the study identified factors experienced within the home, community, and school environment that directly impacted students’ academic and social success. These factors are on a continuum of risk to protective and included: family relationships, verbal messages from the home that impacted students’ self-efficacy, norms and support from the community to do well in school, school cultures that elicit relationships and belonging, and culturally relevant curriculum and engaging instruction.

Degree Name

Education Doctorate

Document Type

Doctoral dissertation