Experiences of Women of Color in an Elite US Public School

Catherine Simpson Bueker ’92


March 2017

This study explores the experiences of women of color who attended an elite, predominantly white public high school in the Northeastern United States through one of three points of entry: as town residents attending their local high school, or as commuter or boarding students via two distinct voluntary racial desegregation programs. Women in all three groups experience feelings of marginalization and stigma. At the same time, many also discuss the benefits of having lived in or attended school in this environment. Women developed strong internal bonds within and across their respective groups, some were able to racially diversify social networks and increase access to new forms of social capital through both their own initiatives and efforts on the part of adults in the school and community, and many also discuss the acquisition of elite forms of cultural capital that have served them into adulthood. Even with these general trends, point of access clearly mediates the experience, with geographic and symbolic boundaries varying by group.

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