Degree Name

EdD (Doctor of Education)


Educational Leadership

Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Bill Flora

Committee Members

Virginia Foley, John Boyd, Katrina Heil


Adolescent immigrant students face many challenges upon entering public schools for the first time, especially in rural areas where schools may not have the resources and cultural competence to meet their needs. Background factors like culture, previous schooling, and socioeconomic status combine with contextual factors in the learning environment, which further affect their academic outcome. The qualitative tradition of phenomenology was used to explore and describe the experiences and challenges of thirteen Spanish-speaking immigrant or newcomer youth who entered East Tennessee public middle or high schools within the last fifteen school years.

The findings indicated that parents’ perspectives and understanding of American schools and their own academic background affect how they support their children and what they expect of them. In addition, students’ experiences affect their attitude toward the learning environment and their peers, and can cause them language anxiety that hinders English language acquisition. Students who are successful in schools are motivated by personal goals and have parents (primarily mothers) who advise them to do well in school, support them emotionally, and make sacrifices for their child’s benefit. Parent support and personal motivation encourage perseverance. These students succeed in schools where diversity is respected and with patient and understanding teachers who assume they are capable learners despite gaps in knowledge. Personal relationships with teachers and their English-speaking peers are also essential for Hispanic and Latino adolescent newcomers.

Document Type

Dissertation - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.

Included in

Education Commons