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Youth continue to leave school prior to earning a high school diploma, despite focused attention and resources on this population of students (Porche, et al., 2011), leaving unanswered questions as to what support this group of students need. Researchers identified attendance, disciplinary issues, and low grade point average, as prevalent in dropouts, but few have explored the story behind the statistics. This study sought to fill this gap in the literature by exploring the role of trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) in the lives of students at risk for academic failure, by examining their lived experiences. To that end, this study reports the lived experiences of a group of high school students enrolled in an alternative education program in a rural, Pacific Northwest high school. The participants shared the challenges and supports that they believed influenced their academic journey. These challenges and supports were found both at home and in the classroom. Their lived experiences provide compelling rationale for the importance of trauma-informed training for school personnel. By understanding the prevalence of trauma and ACEs, and the connection to academic impact, interventions can be created to support this vulnerable group of learners (Iachini, Petiwala, DeHart, 2016).


Originally published in Northwest Journal of Teacher Education: Vol. 17 : Iss. 2 , Article 4. DOI: at

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