Are You In Or Out? Group Formation and Success within a Homeless Youth Program

The goal of this research was to understand the social interactional processes that lead some youth to succeed in homeless youth programs while others struggle. The homeless youth program where I spent my time in was a school in Downtown San Diego that provides the youth with basic needs such as healthcare, food, clothing, as well as an accredited education through the San Diego County Office of Education. My research focused on the students who were in Ms. Harvey's seventh/eighth grade class at Sunset. Through observations and informal conversations I began to notice that an insider group existed among students and that it was linked to being successful at the school. Students who were excluded from the insider group were less connected to the staff and teachers, other students, and the program as whole. The findings highlight examples of ways that staff did include all students with some exceptions and also show how important the students are in negotiating insider/outsider group formation. It also shows that even within programs that appear to be including all youth, group formation does happen, and to those students who are excluded it bears an extra burden. This research is significant because it can help youth workers eliminate exclusion through group formation which will increase success among youth who are participating in the program.