Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Pinkie Gordon Lane Graduate School

Document Type



The United States needs many diverse, skilled professionals from a wide range of fields to remain competitive with other countries. Moreover, there continues to be a large gap in completion for students from low-income communities and students who identify as Hispanic, Latino, Latina, Latino/a, Latin@, Latine, or Latinx and African American/Black (National Center for Education Statistics [NCES], 2022).

Community-based organizations (CBOs) are public or private nonprofit organizations engaged in addressing the social and economic needs of individuals and groups in a defined geographic area, usually no larger than a county. Community-based organizations have several attributes that put them in a strong position to help students get ready for college and succeed (Yohalem et al., 2010). They focus on creating new pathways to education and employment and help fill gaps for career guidance and navigation for institutions with limited capacity (Lumina Foundation, 2019).

For this study, I focused on CBOs, specifically staff of these organizations who support students of color from low-income communities through retention and completion. The study is grounded in Yosso’s community culture of wealth theoretical framework which comprises at least six forms of capital: aspirational, linguistic, social, navigational, familial, and resistant.

This study is a qualitative phenomenological study focused on the lived experiences of 16 participants from various organizations. This study adds to the literature on students of color from low-income communities and, specifically, what is needed to ensure completion, through the lens of CBO support staff. Through semistructured interviews, I learned about the lived experiences of CBO staff supporting these students. More specifically, I focused on understanding resources and strategies needed to be successful in supporting these students through their postsecondary journey. Moreover, I identified the forms of cultural wealth that contribute to supporting this population, through both highlights and challenges and barriers that exist during students’ journeys. Finally, I uncovered what participants believed the “secret sauce” of postsecondary completion was for this population, along with the training and professional development they needed from to support them. The study contains insight and potential resources for institutional and CBO leaders, and students of color from underserved communities.



Committee Chair

Dean Roland Mitchell

Available for download on Thursday, April 01, 2027