Academic journal article Negro Educational Review

Social Capital and College Preparation: Exploring the Role of Counselors in a College Prep School for Black Students

Academic journal article Negro Educational Review

Social Capital and College Preparation: Exploring the Role of Counselors in a College Prep School for Black Students

Article excerpt


Glenn Hills College Preparatory Charter High School (GHCP) fosters college access for Black students who are first generation college-bound and living in poor neighborhoods. To help GHCP students make the transition to college, the school's counselors work to fulfill a variety of targeted roles and responsibilities. This study examines the perceptions of the counseling staff regarding the manner in which they fulfilled their roles and responsibilities. The GHCP counseling staff was interviewed to determine how they provided norms and resources to enhance the viability of college access for their student population. Results of interviews show how counselors imparted an array of academic and social support to meet their students' educational and social backgrounds as well as their college planning needs.


Social capital is an asset, embedded in social relations, which can be used to improve one's life outcomes. It includes norms and information channels, available through relationships with others, referred to as social networks (Coleman, 1988; Lin, 2001). The relationships with others in one's network impose norms and expectations and serve as conduits of needed information and resources (Coleman, 1988; Lin, 2001; Portes, 1998). Norms include the values and standards enforced by network members in order to maintain behaviors related to group goals (Coleman, 1988). Information channels reflect the ability of network members to access other members' resources and expertise, to which they would not ordinarily have access, if not for these social relations within their network (Lin, 2001). Ways and means of identifying efficient avenues to social capital and needed resources are often supported through institutional change agents for students. School counselors are institutional change agents who can share norms and resources about college access. The literature is quite clear that Black students receive disparate amounts of counselors' resources and time, particularly resources and attention devoted to college planning. With that understanding, we concluded that a gap in the literature regarding the range of roles counselors fill in order to help Black students prepare for college exists. Accordingly, then, our intent in this study is to explore the roles and responsibilities of counselors whose aim is to prepare first-generation, college-bound Black students for college.

Social Capital and Inequality

Lin (2000) argues that differences in the compositions of networks foster inequality in access to social capital. He notes that one's access to "resource-rich" networks varies.2 Networks are considered resource-rich if they are composed of diverse members with social advantages who interact in order to share their advantages such as quality resources, an expertise, and social connections (Bourdieu, 1985; Coleman, 1988; Lin, 2001; Putnam, 2000). Lin (2000) notes that historical and structural processes have fostered unequal opportunities among racial, class, and gendered groups, which leaves one's disadvantaged background related to membership in social networks that lack a diversity of members with the expertise, connections, resources and information the advantaged groups possess. Lin further states that "inequality of social capital occurs when a certain group clusters at relatively disadvantaged socioeconomic positions, and the general tendency is for individuals to associate with those of similar group or socioeconomic characteristics" (p. 786).

The urban context is reflective of the kinds of historical actions and structural processes such as segregationist policies and practices that have created racially and socioeconomically homogenous communities (Farmer-Hinton, 2002; Lemann, 1991; Massey & Denton, 1993; Wilson, 1987). Additionally, in many urban communities, social and economic transformations such as deindustrialization have led to high joblessness and concentrated poverty among residents in segregated communities. …

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