"I'm no angel but that doesn't mean that I can't fly"
Liljestrom, Anna Maria Viktoria
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This study aimed at outlining the constructions of identities of a group of adolescent girls placed at a center for “at-risk” girls in the southern U.S. Utilizing an ethnomethodologically and ethnographically inspired research methodology, the study focused on how the girls perceived possibilities as well as restrictions for producing their identities within the context of the youth center. The findings show how the construction of “at-riskness” employed at the center centered on constructions of femininity that placed characteristics associated with White, middle class norms as the ideal, and while the “at-risk” identity was attributed individuals its’ classed and raced origins were not acknowledged. This complicated the rehabilitation strategies in several ways. The participating girls’ reasoning round acceptable feminine identities differed considerably from those of the staff and other local authorities, marginalizing the hegemonic discourses to which they were expected to conform. Sensing an alienation from the values and constructions of femininity perpetuated in the formal educational programs offered by the volunteers at the center the girls resisted the activities and their positioning in various ways. Furthermore, the establishment of membership among the other girls at the youth center required a conduct that was incompatible with the favored “preppy,” “lady-like” positioning, and this work, often, took precedence over other objectives and affected the relationships and rehabilitation strategies of the program. The opposing perspectives and objectives magnified the girls’ “problems” in that they generated daily conflicts between the girls’ and staff and volunteers which obscured other important objectives related to the girls’ present and future social, educational and/or career situation. Devising the coolness and toughness that constituted central aspects of the core competence in an acceptable membership among their peers complicated the girls’ ability to perform satisfactory in all aspects of the therapeutic plan at the youth center as well as other educational contexts. The findings contribute to the on-going discussions on equity and education and especially questions regarding the diverse needs of adolescent girls and the most productive focus in the construction of educational contexts.