Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Jonnell Robinson


While youth are active participants in urban and educational spaces, young people’s lived experiences are understudied in geography. In this study, I investigate the ways that youth in Central New York understand, communicate, and navigate their schools and neighborhoods through ethnography and participatory research. Situating the city of Syracuse contextually, this study uncovers the way that youth know and enact the spaces of their daily lives, and the impacts of external reputations and relational systems on how these spaces are navigated. I investigate these themes through two case studies. The first is the Common Ground Dialogue program, a school-based intergroup dialogue program that brings together urban high school students with suburban, rural, or private high school students to discuss race, privilege, and school perception. The second is the Mapping Syracuse Summer Fellows program, a participatory mapping summer program that I designed and led to explore youth perspectives of their schools and neighborhoods, youth research priorities, and to share research and GIS skills with youth participants. Through these two cases, I investigate how the lived experiences of young people shed light on segregation, oppression, and mobility within urban and educational spaces, and position youth as active agents in both resisting and reproducing social inequity. Additionally, I explore the strengths and limitations of these engagements and the possibilities for pushing scholarship further to center action and social change. I bring this work into conversation with geographic scholarship on education, cities, and participatory approaches to bridge these subdisciplines and emphasize the importance of youth participation in bringing essential perspectives to geography and empowering youth to challenge systems of power and hierarchy in their schools and neighborhoods.


Open Access



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