Life Stories of Troubled Youth: Meanings for a Mentor and a Scholarly Stranger

  • Jane Eagan
  • Avril Thorne
Part of the Advancing Responsible Adolescent Development book series (ARAD)


Not long ago, a teacher of troubled youth grew weary of the school district’s failure to understand why it was difficult for her students to come to school. She asked her students to “tell truth to power” by sending the school superintendent a booklet of their personally crafted life stories. In the 5 years she has taught at Penny Lane, Jane has come to connect with many of her students and feel the weight of young lives laced with homelessness, violence, and drug abuse. When school authorities ask, “Why don’t these kids come to school?” Jane responds, “How can these kids possibly show up every day considering the problems they face?” She wanted the authorities to provide economic and political support for the work she was trying to do. As she explained the writing assignment the students grew silent and their eyes drifted up to the ceiling as they considered her proposition.


Life Story Good Path School Authority Parental Incarceration Small Thing 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We are deeply grateful to Jane’s students for entrusting us with their stories and to Avril’s research group for their comments on a prior draft of this chapter. We would especially like to acknowledge feedback from two anonymous reviewers and from Paul A. Nelson, Lauren Shapiro, Steve Bearman, and Barrie Thorne.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Nova ProgramLos GatosUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of CaliforniaSanta CruzUSA

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