Date of Award

2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

First Advisor

Kathy Revis

Abstract

This dissertation was designed as a phenomenological qualitative study grounded in Contact Theory to investigate Early College high school students’ perceptions of a multi-year mentoring program. The Early College students were paired with elementary students with varying special needs in a self-contained classroom throughout 3 years in various settings, including community-based therapeutic horseback riding and a school-based sensory program. The study attempted to garner how the mentoring experience affected the Early College high school students personally, as well as their attitudes, feelings, and beliefs in relationship to their tolerance toward people with disabilities as reported by the participants through individual interviews. An analysis of the data through coding and the use of the ATLAS.ti software program revealed commonalities between Early College high school students’ perceptions of being involved in the program and its effects outside of the program, notably in the areas of tolerance, relationships, and personal effects, including future careers and skills. Following this study, the findings offer insight into how mentoring may affect high school and college students working with students with special needs and how this intentional pairing contributes to the literature of Contact Theory. This will provide opportunities for future research in specific areas within the identified themes. Following this research, it can be concluded that a similar mentoring program would continue to be valuable in this setting and may be considered beneficial in other settings, both in the school and community. There is a need for continued research in this area so data can be compared and findings further validated.

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