Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ded)


Professional Studies in Education

First Advisor

Crystal Machado, Ed.D.

Second Advisor

Valeri R. Helterbran, Ed.D.

Third Advisor

Monte Tidwell, Ph.D.


Although in recent decades many of the outer Appalachian counties have stabilized economically, the central region of Appalachia continues to have the highest concentration of distressed and at-risk counties in the country. The geographic isolation and cultural characteristics of Appalachian communities have limited their ability to achieve economic and educational equity. Through the lens of life course theory, this qualitative study analyzed the life stories of five first-generation college students from Appalachia in order to identify the experiences that encouraged them to attend and persist to college graduation. The data were collected through semi-structured interviews and were analyzed through the use of restorying and typological codes. The study identified family, school, and community experiences that Appalachian youth considered to be influential in their decision to pursue postsecondary study. The research also found that technology played a role in their decision to attend and then stay at a postsecondary institution.