Publication Date

Summer 2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Mexican American Studies


Marcosq Pizarro


Education, Low-Income Youth, Violence

Subject Areas

Ethnic studies; Education


The hyper-violence that exists in Oakland, California, has persistently made national headlines. When examining the violence that exists in low-income urban cities, studies usually overemphasize the male experience. The studies that center on female experience usually focus on extreme cases such as gang-involved and incarcerated girls. This study foregrounds the experiences of Latina high school girls from Oakland who are "in the middle," neither gang-involved nor academic high-achievers.

The purpose of this study was to investigate: 1) how the participants make sense of and understand the violence that is present in their communities; 2) how violence impacts their everyday lives and decision making; and, lastly, 3) how violence affects their educational experiences and aspirations. Through qualitative, semi-structured interviews, the author spoke directly with the participants to develop a deeper understanding of the far reaches of violence. The author also used an ethnographic lens to incorporate her experiences and observations of growing up low-income in Oakland.

This study concluded that the hyper-violence that exists in Oakland impacts the girls directly. They live in fear and are driven to live by a code of conduct to prevent victimization. While the girls live in fear, they have accepted violence as a normal aspect of their lives. Ultimately, the narratives of the girls provide implicit connections between the fear they face daily and the fear of not being prepared to attend college. This study demonstrates the importance of re-evaluating how we all make sense of the hyper-violence that is present in low-income urban communities.