From the Job Site to the College Classroom: Exploring the Life Histories of Low-Income Latinx Students
The impact of employment on academic achievement and college-going is readily evaluated within the literature, primarily through a quantitative lens. In such studies, youth employment is commonly found to negatively affect high school grades, persistence, and the likelihood of attending college. This qualitative study responds to the dominant understanding of youth employment by illustrating the narratives of five low-income Latinx students who worked at high intensities (15+ hours weekly) during high school. Data were collected through three indepth, semi-structured life history interviews with each participant. Guided by a critical epistemology, this study explores participants' individual and environmental resiliencies in navigating employment and academic pursuits. It further explores the meaning participants find in work. Findings showed that, for participants, like many low-income students, employment came at an early age, driven by their families' socio-economic hardships and a personal desire to assist their parents. The analysis further revealed the varied practices participants use to navigate a wounded school system to manage work obligations. This navigation included the skillful use of time management in worksite study practices, course scheduling, and the use of class time. Additionally, it called upon students' insights in recognizing varying instructional requirements and negotiating study and course assignment priorities. Participants also heavily relied on the relationships within their lives, including parents, peers, educators, and employers, for motivation, support, and direction in their work and academic journeys. Youth employment, for participants, is meaningful as an educational resource and a vehicle for stress reduction.