Culture and the Community: Examining the Educational Experiences of West Indian-American First-Generation College Students

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This research investigated the impact that ancestry had on the educational experiences of West Indian-American, first-generation college students. First-generation (immigrants) and second-generation (children of immigrants) from the West Indies (English and French-speaking) were recruited through chain-sampling techniques. The primary goal was to explore how ancestry (culture and heritage) affected academic achievement and to examine the motivational factors that influenced the educational attainment of this population. This research also explored self-identity and how participants formed a sense of belonging during their college years. The study employed a phenomenological research approach and focused on the participants lived experiences growing up in a West Indian household through their time as a college student and after. A demographic questionnaire and individual interviews were the instruments of data collection. The findings revealed that (a) cultural practices, beliefs, and values influenced by Caribbean ancestry considerably shaped the academic achievement of West Indian-American first-generation college students, (b) influential and motivating factors tied to ancestry significantly influenced the academic success of West Indian-American first-generation college students, and (c) culture and heritage played a significant role in shaping individual identity and sense of belonging of West Indian-American first-generation college students.

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