Date of Award

Fall 12-2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Human Capital Development


Interdisciplinary Studies and Professional Development

Committee Chair

Cyndi H. Gaudet

Committee Chair Department

Human Capital Development

Committee Member 2

Heather M. Annulis

Committee Member 2 Department

Human Capital Development

Committee Member 3

Quincy Brown

Committee Member 3 Department

Human Capital Development

Committee Member 4

Dale L. Lunsford

Committee Member 4 Department

Human Capital Development

Committee Member 5

Patti P. Phillips

Committee Member 5 Department

Human Capital Development


Black male youth in the United States drop out of high school at a rate consistently higher than their White counterparts. A lack of academic persistence contributes to lower workforce participation rates among Black Americans, which leads to lower national productivity and unrealized personal prosperity. Youth development research has developed an extensive body of knowledge regarding possible causes and contributing factors of minority high school dropout. Literature shows youth experience higher dropout rates when they grow up in adversity. Adversity risks such as dysfunctional families, cultural discontinuity between home and school, dysfunctional neighborhoods, or low-expectations from teachers contribute to graduation failure. Interventions that positively influence youth who grow up with adversity may improve high school persistence and related workforce outcomes.

Youth development literature details numerous intervention elements to enable coping with adversity and influencing positive outcomes. Long-term, meaningful relationships with adults and peers, challenging tasks with high expectations for performance, meaningful opportunities for skill development and personal growth are frequently cited as effective youth program elements. Scholars call for programs to apply these elements to improve intervention effectiveness.

This research examines the influence of a theoretical comprehensive youth development program (CYDP) on adversity risk as perceived by program participants. The Boy Scouts of America serves as a proxy for a CYDP containing numerous program elements described in literature. Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) methodology guided the examination of personal experiences of six Eagle Scouts who graduated high school to determine CYDP influence on their decision to graduate.

The study reveals a CYDP can be an effective intervention for youth facing adversity risk during high school. Study participants described adult leaders and youth peers as having strong, positive influence on character development and academic achievement. They emphasized their CYDP experiences built confidence, taught teamwork and leadership, instilled empathy, and enabled personal growth. Every participant described actual program influences aligned with theoretical influences as described by scholars. Results indicate youth interventions should include as large a mix of theoretical youth development program elements as possible to improve effectiveness for youth facing adversity risk.