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Rosemary Henze

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Little Sisters: An Exploration of Agency, Borderlands, and Institutional Constraints in the Lives of Two Teenage Girls

This article explores the development of agency in an intercultural, interracial, economically diverse setting that lies along the borders of three female lives. The author, a mentor of two teenage girls through the Big Brothers and Big Sisters Program, begins by asking why, given equally oppressive histories and multiple risk factors, these two young women experienced opposite trends in their school success. She proposes that a possible explanation lies in a vast difference in opportunities for agency, as well as differences in the intensity of cultural and social borders each has to negotiate. Although the concept of agency traditionally implies individual choice and action, this article asks whether educational institutions could play a larger role in promoting a positive sense of agency, along with a focus on helping youth navigate complex cultural borderlands. This type of support, she argues, is particularly critical for young people in child protective custody.

teenage girls, mentoring, school success

Citation: Social Justice Vol. 32, No. 3 (2005): 41-55.

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