Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Education (MAE)



First Advisor

Susan O'Connor

Second Advisor

Rachel Lloyd


TRIO Educational Talent Search (ETS) is an educational opportunity program serving middle - high school students. It is meant to increase student admittance, enrollment, retention and graduation from post-secondary degree programs. TRIO staff must meet these goals through voluntary enrichment activities for youth in their programs. Each program must identify the best practices that will motivate and prepare students to meet and reach difficult educational goals. This research study identifies best practices in fostering belonging and scholar identity in a qualitative case study of TRIO pre-college students. The data from this qualitative study shows separate but related results about student relationships in their middle school environment as well as characteristics of student scholar identities. The findings suggest that students seek out a sense of belonging at school, but that seeking this belonging can have negative repercussions. Furthermore, participant responses suggested that there are ways for educators to encourage student motivation to work on academics through concrete learning and choice. These findings lead to two significant and possible implications. Educators must address student sense of belonging at school before creating a learning environment that fosters student motivation for academic learning. They can use tools such as experiential learning, choice and real world outcomes to foster student motivation for academic learning. If educators and programs work to address student sense of belonging and creating learning environments that foster student motivation for academic learning, students will be better poised to develop a scholar identity.


SC 11.MAE.2017.Church.CC