Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Dillon Mahoney, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Roberta Baer, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Heide Castaneda, Ph.D.


Applied Anthropology, Education Policy, Refugee Resettlement, ESOL


Since 2016, refugees from the Congo Wars (RFCWs) have been one of the largestpopulations of refugees resettled in the United States. High-school aged RFCW students are, however, dropping out of Florida public high schools are alarmingly high rates. This study uses ethnographic methods such as interviews and participant observation to investigate educational challenges experienced by RFCW youth. This study has three objectives: to learn more about refugees with discontinuous education and the barriers to graduating from public high schools after resettlement; to better understand Tampa bay area programs that serve culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) students; and to use ethnographic participatory action and interview-based methods to evaluate programs’ abilities to meet the special needs and overcome challenges of English learning students. This thesis identifies factors that impede student success, including cuts to school programs, trends in educational policy, cuts to services reserved for refugee youth, pervasive school and community bullying, and most recently, changes brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. This research can serve as a model to guide other schools dealing with similar issues, especially those in an underfunded environment.