Adolescents Living in Rural Poverty
This study asked low-income adolescents from rural communities directly how they define success, resilience, and progress. More specifically, it assessed the ways in which rural youth and their families are resilient and identifies the main obstacles they face. This study used the participatory method of Interpretive Focus Groups (IFGs). Together with the researcher, participants examined photographs taken in a previous study (Pratt-Ronco & Coley, 2006), along with transcripts of previous interviews. The data analysis was directed at gaining a better understanding of what resilience and social mobility mean to the adolescents in the sample and identifying the barriers that beset adolescents living in rural poverty. This methodology is a good fit for these questions because the answers lie in the adolescents' perspectives of their worlds. All too often, adults (academics, teachers, families, and the government) decide what it means to be successful, socially mobile, or resilient. This study asked adolescents to define these terms and thereby gives insight to the complexity of working with these youth. In addition to the Interpretive Focus Groups, thirteen educators were interviewed. The purpose of the educator interviews was to gain a better understanding of how school personnel perceived the problem of rural poverty. This information allowed for triangulation of the data, as well as a way to look for disconnects between teachers and students. The findings of this study shed light on an understudied population. There are two overarching themes which categorize the data collected: pervasive poverty and hope and resilience. The adolescents at the center of this research were surrounded by want and deprivation. They were isolated from resources, opportunities, and wealth. The reality of just how much adversity rural poor youth face on a daily basis is disconcerting. However, they showed great resilience, hope, and a "grittiness" that came from their rural poor existence.