Brazilian Middle School Students' College Aspirations
Research often overlooks students who are of Brazilian origin when considering educational equality and opportunity for different racial and ethnic groups. This qualitative study addresses this gap in the literature by examining the experiences and forces that influence the educational aspirations of Brazilian students and students of Brazilian origin living in the United States during their eighth grade year of middle school. It specifically considers students' educational aspirations including the influence of families, the school, and the community on students' ambitions. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with students, their parents, and educators (i.e., teachers, guidance counselors, a social worker, and a principal) from a middle school in the Northeast. Data showed that many students had developed postsecondary plans by the conclusion of their eighth grade year, including students' thoughts relating to college, careers, and work. Students' ambitions were significantly influenced by family members, especially parents, as well as by experiences with their families as immigrants in the United States. Legal status particularly affected students' intended pathways. Findings from this study suggest the following three areas of need for Brazilian middle school students: (a) educational planning during middle school, (b) emphasis on the role of family connectedness and engagement for Brazilian families, and (c) adaptation to circumstances related to immigration status. One way of comprehending the needs of Brazilian middle school students and students of Brazilian origin in relation to the development of their educational aspirations is through integrating the theories of family and social capital. Family capital emphasizes the role of families in shaping students' educational pathways; social capital highlights the need to develop ties beyond close networks as a means for accessing knowledge and resources that further students' educational opportunities. Therefore, it is hoped that further attention to the family and social capital of Brazilian families in research, policy, and practice will build upon students' ambitions and improve their educational opportunities.