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’MPower Shows Me Who I Want to Be’: A Qualitative Study of a Youth Purpose Program

, Willow Wood, Madeline Reed, , , , John Perella

Abstract: Studies have documented widespread academic disengagement in middle and high school students. This disengagement has been tied to a myriad of negative outcomes, including failure to graduate from high school and transition into college and meaningful vocations. Supporting adolescents in cultivating a sense of beyond-the-self purpose is one factor that may combat student disengagement. MPower is a program designed to cultivate beyond-the-self purpose in an effort to promote student engagement and completion of high school (Klein et al., 2019). In a recent quantitative study, MPower participants compared to controls demonstrated a higher GPA, BTS purpose, self-efficacy, and decreased performance approach and performance avoidance goal orientations. In the current qualitative descriptive study, 11th and 12th grade (N=25) students in the Northeastern region of the United States, described their experiences in the MPower program. Three themes associated with the transformative aspects of MPower emerged from focus group data: 1) practice in strategic goal planning, 2) engagement in mentoring relationships, and 3) increased social support within a community. Because fostering youth purpose engenders many promotive and protective factors, these findings hold important implications for implementing similar programs more widely.
Keywords: efficacy / youth purpose / disengagement / MPower program / high school / approach and performance

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