Understanding Latina/o Identity and Community in a White and Well-Resourced Chicagoland Suburban High School
Gabriel Rodriguez

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Primary Discipline

Latina/os are changing the landscape of suburban schools. Yet, the dominant paradigm in studying Latina/o youth is through an urban lens. This research reconsiders this approach by distinguishing between urban and suburban. By recognizing the distinction, there is an opportunity to present a more accurate and nuanced understanding of what Latina/o students experience, think, and how they respond to their schooling. Moreover, this research decenters traditional deficit approaches of understanding Latina/o youth by focusing on the sociocultural issues impacting their lives, allowing for a more comprehensive analysis of how these factors (e.g. racism) impact young people in school. Student participants attend a suburban high school in Chicagoland that is predominately white and well resourced. There is no denying that schools with more means such as some suburban communities can provide more resources for their students (Goyette & Lareau, 2014), but just because there are ample resources does not mean that all students experience them equitably (Lewis-McCoy, 2014). Latina/o students experience their schooling differently. Latina/o youth traverse different academic and social terrains that challenge their identity performances. This dissertation is anchored by two main research questions; 1.) How do Latina/o youth negotiate and perform their identities (e.g., racial/ethnic, classed, gendered, and linguistic) in school; and 2.) What are the ways in which Latina/o youth build and maintain community? Through an ethnographic approach, my work documents and analyzes the experiences of 19 students. This study consists of observations, interviews, and artifacts that were collected over two academic years. Data will describe how Latina/o youth navigate academic and social spaces through their performances of identity.
About Gabriel Rodriguez
Gabriel Rodriguez is a PhD Candidate in Education Policy, Organization and Leadership at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His research focuses on topics at the intersection of Latina/o education and critical youth studies. In particular, Gabriel’s dissertation studies how Latina/o youth navigate their schooling by examining their enactments of identity and efforts to forge community in a predominately white suburban high school. This past year, he was a Visiting Predoctoral Scholar in the Latina & Latino Studies Program at Northwestern University. Gabriel is the recipient of a Diversifying Faculty in Illinois Fellowship and was recognized as an American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education Fellow. He holds a B.A. in Political Science and Speech Communication from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an M.A. in Political Science with a concentration in civic leadership from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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