This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

An Examination of Transitioning and Relationship Building among High School Students and Mentors: A Strength-Based High School Completion Program




Bell, Frankie

Type of Degree



Education Foundation, Leadership, and Technology


High school dropout rates in the United States have a negative impact on society at large. Dropping out of high school has been shown to have a positive correlation to increased crime rates (America’s Promise Alliance, 2013; Bjerk, 2011). Generally, dropping out of school is not a single act that results from a single cause; it is a gradual process stemming from a variety of experiences and barriers. It is noted that a number of strategies can be very helpful in reducing the dropout rate, especially among those youth most at risk. Many of these strategies are aimed at the 9th grade transitional stage (Christenson, et al., 2012; Hammond, et al., 2007). The similarities among effective dropout prevention programs for 9th grade students include a focus on building students’ sense of belonging to school so that they are connected to and engaged with the school and the school environment. One such program, Truman Pierce Institute’s Building Individual Capacity for Success (BICS) at Auburn University, Alabama, is a strengths-based dropout prevention program created to work with 200 students transitioning into high school in both rural and urban schools in Alabama. The purpose of this research was to investigate whether students’ sense of belongingness improved when they participated in the BICS program. The study also examined the degree to which there were differences in the academic performance and the number of discipline referrals and absences for students who engaged in the BICS program when compared to students with similar characteristics that did not participate in BICS. The results in this study confirmed that students that participation in the BICS program was associated with, decreased student absences, lower rates of discipline referrals, higher student GPAs and an increased sense of student belonging. There is strong evidence that the implementation of BICS program facilitated student transition into high school and ultimately generated academic success.