Natalie Seger


Summer 2023


Capstone Project

Degree Name



Julianne Scullen

Content Expert

Kristine Kelly


The nation’s population of opportunity youth, those aged 16–24 and disconnected from school and work, has increased since the pandemic. Many of these young people lack a high school diploma or GED. Due to past school experiences, many opportunity youth have not had the same instruction and time necessary to develop their literacy skills when compared to peers with uninterrupted education. This project addresses the research question: How can a high school equivalency curriculum based in critical literacy and independent learning strategies engage opportunity youth and empower them as self-directed learners? Building a classroom curriculum utilizing critical literacy and developing students’ independent learning skills increases learner engagement and sense of themselves as critical readers. This project was guided by Freire’s foundational theory of critical literacy, and McLaughlin and DeVoogds’ adaptations of his theory for modern classrooms. Critical Literacy is a collaborative process, in which students ask questions of and seek alternative perspectives to the dominant point of view in a text. This curriculum project provides adult educators with the tools to integrate critical literacy in the classroom, while supporting students to develop self-directed learning skills through explicit instruction, guided practice and independent practice. The multi-week literacy unit is designed to prepare students for a high school equivalency test, like the GED or HiSET. Students learn and practice two critical literacy skills: problem posing and alternative perspectives throughout the unit, culminating in a collaborative and flexible social action project. It utilizes authentic youth-focused materials, like advertisements, stand-up comedy and more, connecting U.S. history to current events with the focus on the 14th Amendment. The main goals of this project were to increase national attention to the needs and strengths of opportunity youth, to provide adult educators with a curriculum made specifically for this population, and to support youth to increase their academic competence and confidence so that they may reclaim their high school education.

Project Type



Adult Education, At-risk Students, Curriculum, Critical Literacy








School of Education Student Capstone Projects

Included in

Education Commons