Within this qualitative study, we explored the idea that high school counselors, acting as a form of social capital, could influence the postsecondary opportunities of low socioeconomic students. We used a case study design to analyze freshman academy counselors and their influence in the career pathway selection process within one district to answer two research questions: (1) Using the knowledge available regarding college and career opportunities, how do freshman academy counselors influence low socioeconomic students’ career pathway selections? (2) How do freshman academy counselors’ perceptions of college and career opportunities for low socioeconomic students influence low socioeconomic students’ career pathway selections? We collected data through interviews, archival records, and document analysis, and analyzed the data using initial coding, leading to themes to explain the case. We found that high school counselors’ social capital was influenced by (a) the person behind the position, (b) the importance of context at specific schools, and (c) the access to resources at their school and how those resources meet student needs. We close with a discussion of the findings and the implications for practice and future research.


career academy high school model, case study, high school counselors, low-income students, social capital

Author Bio(s)

Onyejindu “OJ” Oleka, Ph.D. is president of the Association of Independent Kentucky Colleges and Universities in Frankfort, Kentucky. Please direct correspondence to oj.oleka@aikcu.org.

Donald “DJ” Mitchell, Jr., Ph.D., is vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion at Molloy College in Rockville Centre, New York.

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