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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Political Science

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Jesse Rhodes

Second Advisor

Tatishe M. Nteta

Third Advisor

Kathryn A. McDermott

Subject Categories

American Politics | Curriculum and Social Inquiry | Education Policy | Models and Methods | Secondary Education | Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education | Sports Studies


Political scientists have long recognized educational attainment as a strong predictor of voter turnout, but the mechanisms through which educational experiences lead voters to the polls remain under-explored. This research begins the process of opening the proverbial black box of education to understand the specific types of scholastic experiences that encourage voting. Grounded in previous findings by scholars of policy feedback and political socialization, I use a mix of qualitative and quantitative data analyses to reveal that nonacademic high school experiences can have powerful and lasting interpretive effects. Results show that participants in performance and service-based extracurricular activities are commonly recognized for their efforts and connected to their communities, leading to interpretations of dignity and efficacy. As a result, these young people tend to embrace attitudes of active citizenship and are more likely than their peers to vote in early adulthood. Further analyses uncover important variances in these effects based on socioeconomic status, race, gender and later educational attainment; overall, interpretive educational experiences have more profound impacts on the voting behaviors of young citizens who may lack opportunities for positive political socialization in their homes and communities. Unfortunately, those young Americans whose participatory behaviors could be most impacted by uplifting extracurricular experiences are also least likely to have access to and participate in these programs.