Unloved, Unwanted, and Unsure: The Counternarratives of Incarcerated Youth
Shiv Desai

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



University of New Mexico

Primary Discipline

Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) seeks to collaborate with young people in order to create community-based projects that are aimed at informing peers, educators, and community members about the most pressing issues they face in their daily lives. This study describes a YPAR project conducted by Leaders Organizing 2 Unite & Decriminalize (LOUD) youth members, which are comprised of allies and formerly incarcerated youth. LOUD investigates and documents how current juvenile justice policies detrimentally impact their peers as well as suggests recommendations to improve the current system. Specifically, I seek to answer the following research questions: 1) How can YPAR be utilized to empower incarcerated youth to challenge and affect current juvenile justice policies? 2) How do young people employ YPAR to improve the quality of life for youth in their communities? 3) How could YPAR potentially impact teacher education practices? This study utilizes the Social Justice Youth Development (SJYD) model as its theoretical framework because it analyzes interrelational power, makes identity central, promotes systemic change, encourages collective action, and embraces youth culture. The educational significance of this project is that it centers marginalized youth voices by allowing them to advocate what they believe to be the key issues and solutions within the Juvenile Justice System. More importantly, it allows youth to present counternarratives as it relates to their incarceration and reveals their pressing educational obstacles and successes.
About Shiv Desai
Dr. Shiv R. Desai is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Teacher Education, Education Leadership, and Policy in the College of Education at the University of New Mexico. He received his Ph.D. in Urban Schooling from the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. Before completing his doctorate, Shiv was a K-12 classroom teacher for more than 10 years. He was a founding English Teacher for Opportunities Unlimited Charter High School. Within the classroom, he utilized Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR), hip hop based education, and culturally sustaining pedagogy. Prior to coming to UNM, he was an Assistant Professor of Education at Thomas More College located in Northern Kentucky. Shiv is currently working with youth in New Mexico Youth Alliance’s Juvenile Justice Council (JJC), where he is helping them conduct a YPAR project that examines the school-to-prison pipeline as well as how YPAR can be utilized to inform new policies to shape a more socially just juvenile justice system. His other research interests include centering and privileging youth voices through spoken word poetry, hip hop and other forms of artistic expression. Shiv also recognizes that indigenous forms of knowledge are essential to reclaiming an education that pushes liberation. His research draws upon critical race theory, critical literacy, and decolonizing methodologies.

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