Leadership Studies Ed.D. Dissertations


Contributing Factors In The Academic Success Of African American Girls: A Phenomenological Examination

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


Leadership Studies

First Advisor

Chris Willis (Committee Chair)

Second Advisor

Judy Jackson May (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Sheila Austin (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Paul Johnson (Committee Member)

Fifth Advisor

Laura Stafford (Committee Member)


This phenomenological study examines African American female student perceptions of the factors in a youth leadership program that contributed to their academic success, personal growth, and future aspirations. Literature continues to reflect that African American females lag behind their white peers academically and are less likely to be successful in secondary school. Current research speaks to programs that address the achievement of African American females, but often lacks the voices of the students most impacted. I conducted extensive interviews with twelve African American females, currently enrolled in college, who had previously completed the I'm A STAR Leadership Development Program. From the analysis of the in-depth qualitative interviews, five major themes emerged from which four subthemes were generated. The emergent themes include (a) Leadership transformation, (b) Leadership is service to humankind, (c) My voice can change the world, (d) Growing through empowerment, and (e) Significance of Shared Language and Symbols. The subthemes include (a) Vocabulary development, (b) Insight into college, (c) Speak life into students (they believe what you say about who they are and what they can become).The study findings offer educators knowledge of the participants lived experiences to gain a deeper understanding of the female students needs for academic success within leadership development programs and educational institutions. It is imperative that educators and policymakers be aware of the factors in youth leadership programs that aid in academic success. The work of the IASLDP demonstrated that the factors of this program play a pivotal role in the lives of African American female students. These factors are essential to the lives of the African American female students served and to stakeholders who champion their success.