Date of Award

Spring 5-14-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Policy Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Kristen Buras

Second Advisor

Dr. Janice Fournillier

Third Advisor

Dr. Richard Lakes

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Deron Boyles


This is a critical discourse analysis of discourses that are present within an opportunity youth initiative in Atlanta, Georgia that disproportionately serves Black youth. Historically, job training policies and the stakeholders who influence the formation and implementation of programs and services do so in the context of neoliberalism, which fails to direct explicit attention to systemic barriers that Black youth face when navigating education and employment. To that end, there are concerns that the race-neutral orientation of job training policies and programs, their associated discourses, and the actors that deploy those discourses may negatively construct Black youth and advance neoliberal ideology. To address these concerns, this study asks the following question: How are youth constructed by discourses in the opportunity youth initiative?

Policy documents and media associated with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and Atlanta’s opportunity youth initiative were analyzed using critical discourse analysis methods to understand the linkage between power, policy and discourse. Critical policy studies and critiques of neoliberal ideology informed the analysis. The findings suggest that although the opportunity youth initiative is framed as a positive intervention, actors in the discursive web utilize the mechanisms of neoliberal governmentality to uphold negative “truths” about Black youth. Flaws in the discourse are examined. This study lays groundwork for a new critical framework that rejects negative social constructions of Black youth and invites a critical pedagogy of racial capitalism.


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