Educational Leadership


Is there a place for me? Role models and achievement among White students and students of color

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Teachers College, Columbia University


Role models have long been thought to play an important role in young peoples’ development. The present study explores the ways that race- and gender-matched role models can provide young people with a greater sense of the opportunities available to them in the world. A longitudinal study of young adolescents (N = 80) revealed that students who reported having at least one race- and gender-matched role model at the beginning of the study performed better academically up to 24 months later, reported more achievement-oriented goals, enjoyed achievement-relevant activities to a greater degree, thought more about their futures, and looked up to adults rather than peers more often than did students without a race- and gender-matched role model. These effects held only for race- and gender-matched role models—not for non-matched role models. Finally, the results held irrespective of the educational achievements of the specific role model. Data are discussed in terms of their implications for our understanding of the ways that young people become invested in academic pursuits and the means by which we might be able to assist goal development among young people.