Research Library


The statistics are all too familiar, all too depressing, and their consistency creates what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., called a mountain of despair. We are referring to statistics repeatedly showing racial/ethnic-minority and low-income students in the United States underperforming in school and earning fewer degrees than others (Oyserman & Lewis, 2017). More troubling, without intervention, these patterns are projected to continue in the future (Beck & Muschkin, 2012; Hedges & Nowell, 1999; Oyserman & Lewis, 2017), leaving members of these groups behind. It is increasingly necessary to attain higher levels of education to live comfortably in modern life (DiPrete & Buchmann, 2006; Levin, Belfield, Muennig, & Rouse, 2007; Vilorio, 2016). Yet students from disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to attain academic credentials, in part because of their misfortune of being born into families, neighborhoods, and broader social contexts that limit their access to the material and social capital necessary to compete in academic arenas (DavisKean, 2005; Frank, 2017; Oyserman & Lewis, 2017). We find this deeply troubling and thus spend considerable amounts of time studying processes that contribute to this depressing reality and developing interventions to try and, as King (1963) described, “hew out of a mountain of despair, a stone of hope.” This article describes an intervention program we worked on and its effects on students at the University of Michigan.