Date of Award

Spring 2024

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Counseling & Human Services



Committee Director

Emily Goodman-Scott

Committee Member

Stephanie Smith-Durkin

Committee Member

Collette Dollarhide


School counselors serve students’ academic, career, and social/emotional needs through a comprehensive school counseling program, and center their work on concepts of equity, advocacy, social justice, and systemic change, to remove barriers and increase opportunities for all PK-12 students. Charter schools are also unique public school settings as they offer flexibility, innovation, and autonomy to staff to create individualized experiences for their students. Held in common by these two educational services is the commitment to serving the needs of historically marginalized populations (Black, Indigenous, People of Color [BIPOC] and those from low socioeconomic backgrounds) and the opportunity to advocate for more socially just access to quality education (American School Counselor Association [ASCA], 2022; National Alliance for Public Charter Schools [NAPCS], n.d.). However limited literature exists on how school counselors advocate for social justice within charter school educational settings. The purpose of this study was to explore the lived experiences of school counselors advocating for social justice in urban PK-12 charter schools. This study utilized a critical phenomenological methodology and semi-structured interviews with school counselors (N = 11) working in urban PK-12 charter schools serving historically marginalized populations. This study resulted in five themes: (a) responding to a complex setting; (b) experiences reflect identity; (c) breathing life into social justice advocacy; (d) enhanced sense of community; and (e) adverse emotional toll.


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