Honors College

Document Type

Honors Thesis


Secondary Education


Susan Gardner

Committee Members

Rebecca Buchanan, Elizabeth Hufnagel, Tammy Mills, Jennie Woodard

Graduation Year

May 2021

Publication Date

Fall 12-2020


Research has found that youth involvement in activism can benefit sense of self and belief in one’s abilities to make positive change for those involved through unique communication with people who are passionate about the same issue, a sense of personal empowerment, and a deepened sociopolitical consciousness to understand the complexities of social-justice issues.

This qualitative study provided greater understanding of how youth perceive their involvement in a feminist organization related to their academic self-concept in middle- high school. Six alumnae of the Girls Advisory Board (G.A.B.) of Hardy Girls Healthy Women, a Maine-based nonprofit that focuses on the empowerment of young women, were interviewed. Participants were asked to reflect on their experiences and perceptions of themselves in activist organizations, specifically in GAB, and academic situations. Findings indicated that alumnae recalled community-oriented affordances of activism, a high work ethic, increased personal understanding and empowerment via activism, and a multi-faceted academic self-concept that incorporates their own and others’ perceptions as related to their involvement in activism during middle-high school.

Suggestions for youth looking to be involved in activist organizations and schools aiming to increase students’ academic self-concept are drawn from this study’s findings. For instance, youth hoping to increase their sense of importance and community should be encouraged to join or participate in efforts sponsored by youth-led activist organizations. Schools may also work toward increasing self-driven learning opportunities for students and offer an array of activism-based practices for students to engage in, such as service-learning-based efforts. Implications for further research are also discussed.