Mueller, Tracy G.

Committee Member

Pierce, Corey

Committee Member

Peterson, Lori


Special Education


University of Northern Colorado

Type of Resources


Place of Publication

Greeley, (Colo.)


University of Northern Colorado

Date Created





225 pages

Digital Origin

Born digital


This study was a multiple-case study analysis of two men’s journey through life. From a young age, the participants were faced with multiple risk factors: racial discrimination or injustice, poverty, disability, mental health diagnoses, conflict (personal or external), exposure to violence and drugs, living in a neighborhood with high crime rates, constant relocation of homes and schools, involvement within the judicial system, lack of parental support and family cohesion, physical abuse, teacher abuse and neglect, lack of academic support, and family secrecy. Despite the risk factors each participant faced, they were resilient individuals who combatted the odds and are considered to be successful citizens in society. This study defined post-secondary success as: (a) employment: actively employed at the time of the research study; (b) completed postsecondary training: attended post-secondary education/training program(s); (c) independent living: lives independently during the time of the study; and (d) community participation: includes awareness of legal rights and laws, participates as an active citizen (obeys laws, respects the environment, registered to vote, votes, volunteers, respects other’s property); locates suitable and available community services, programs, and/or resources; and obtains financial assistance from a state/federal agency. The purpose of this study was to examine resilient and protective factors that may have contributed to the phenomenon of resiliency and self-determination in two adults who were identified with multiple (four or more) risk factors when growing up. Simply put, the intent of this research was to identify participants’ risk factors and personal resiliency factors that may have contributed to their post-secondary success. This study used multiple-case study analysis. Multiple data sources were used to determine the resiliency factors that contributed to the participants’ success and high quality of life. A demographic survey, interviews, observation, researcher journal, artifacts, and qualitative documents were used for analysis. The results of the multiple case study revealed seven resiliency factors cited by the participants that lead to their success and high quality of life: (a) exposure to art and beauty; (b) support and belief from a caring adult; (c) making connections; (d) completing post-secondary education; (e) belief in a higher power; (f) acceptance of self; and (g) self-determination. The participants also defined self-determination skills that aided in their ability to be successful: self-regulatory behaviors (gathering skills to perform tasks, set goals, and advocate for self or others); behavior autonomy; psychological empowerment (internal locus of control); self-realization and evaluation; and a refusal to give up. The participants went on to reveal a call to action for school personnel, program developers, policy makers, and parents: (a) provide opportunities for children and youth at risk to experience art and beautiful things of this world; (b) quit making assumptions about children and youth at risk; (c) provide abundance of opportunities for children and youth at risk to make a situation right or improve the outcome; and (d) create meaningful and positive experiences outside the home. This study adds to the very limited number of research studies associated with risk and resiliency, including the extension of investigation of multiple risk and resiliency factors. The results of the study provide rich text data that will benefit the lives of children and youth at risk. Suggestions for future research and implications for practice were also presented at the conclusion of the study.

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