Finding success in life: the voices of at-risk youth
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The aim of this dissertation is to rethink and broaden the understanding of success from the perspectives of at-risk youth. Current conceptualizations of success commonly found in criminological literature are based on life course, middle-class standards of success, are problematic and marginalizing in nature, and lack youth voice. This study investigates the need for a more diverse theoretical framework for explaining the complex concept of success with the inclusion of youth perspectives. I attempt to answer how at-risk youth construct and characterize their own success and how SNAP Boys – Youth Leadership Services (a community-based program) helps youth achieve their ideas of success. Using in-depth, qualitative interviews and a visual mapping exercise, I show that youth express subjective, non-traditional ideas and experiences of success that move beyond only traditional, well-accepted ideas and markers of success. Youth in this study expressed a combination of traditional and non-traditional ideas and experiences of success and attributed some of their success to participation in SNAP Boys – Youth Leadership Services. This study contributes to criminological literature by offering a theoretical framework for understanding non-traditional, subjective ideas of success as valuable and important, especially for at-risk youth. Importantly, the significance and further contributions of this research are that it enables youth to express their unbounded ideas and experiences of success, highlights the complexity of the concept of success, and challenges criminologists and other stakeholders to push the conversation of success forward through consideration of alternative, individualized ideas of success that represent complex social identities and contexts.