Beyond conventional wisdom: community cultural wealth and the college knowledge of African American youth in the United States

Nicole Holland, Northeastern Illinois University


African American youth are generally as likely as their peers from other racial and ethnic groups to aspire to earn a college degree; yet, in spite of their aspirations these students remain under-represented in college enrollment and graduation. Part of the disparity between these students’ aspirations and the realization of their goals may lie in their minimal college knowledge and nominal participation in postsecondary preparatory activities that have frequently been caused by the historic, and ongoing, systematic disenfranchisement of African Americans. During interviews, college students reflected on how similarly-aged family members, peers, co-workers, and parishioners assisted with various aspects of college preparation and enrollment. The community cultural wealth framework helps us understand the reason for, and importance of, this ‘lateral mentorship’ in the fulfillment of these students’ college aspirations. Consequently, educators and educational systems are challenged to be more responsive to the college preparatory needs of traditionally under-represented college-going populations.