Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Lea A. Hubbard, PhD; Robert Donmoyer, PhD; Joi Spencer, PhD


academic support setting, adolescents, African Americans, African American Male Initiative--AAMI, attrition, Advancement Via Individual Determination--AVID, confidence, culture, high schools, individual motivation, Leadership studies, men, minority & ethnic groups, retention, qualitative


This dissertation addresses a continuing crisis in our nation's education system. Historically African American students have underperformed academically. This achievement gap is particularly pronounced for African American males. AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination), an academic support program for underachieving students, most recently created the African American Male Initiative (AAMI). The AAMI was designed specifically to respond to the needs of black males. Despite its efforts, the AAMI has had a difficult time attracting and retaining black male participants. The purpose of this study was to better understand why African American high school males are not choosing to participate in the AVID AAMI, or once enrolled, often drop out. This qualitative study examined the high school experiences of AAMI students, the factors that support and challenge their academic progress in general, and the factors that are more specifically influencing their retention in the AAMI program. Through an analysis of two AAMI pilot schools, this study used interviews with students, teachers, and coordinators, along with a survey and observational data of classes and AAMI meetings to construct an analysis of the individual, cultural, and structural factors that influence the educational experiences of these black males. One major finding from the study was that individual motivation and confidence influenced retention rates in the program. With regard to culture, a key finding was that the black males in this particular study did not view academic achievement as being only associated with white students or that trying to achieve academically in school was tantamount to "acting white." In terms of structural arrangements, this study found that conducting pre-interviews with potential participants to gauge their buy-in would serve to bolster retention in the AAMI program. The implications of this research for the AVID AAMI, and for educators and policy makers focused on improving educational outcomes for African American male students in particular, are discussed.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Leadership Studies