Coping with COVID-19 in Kentucky

Youth Examine Their Learning Lives


  • Daniela K. DiGiacomo University of Kentucky
  • Ellen L. Usher University of Kentucky
  • Sanaa M. Kahloon Kentucky Student Voice Team
  • Caiti Griffiths University of Kentucky
  • Connor Flick Kentucky Student Voice Team
  • Beth Goldstein University of Kentucky
  • Sadie Bograd Kentucky Student Voice Team
  • Spandana Pavuluri Kentucky Student Voice Team
  • Sofie Farmer Kentucky Student Voice Team
  • Emmanuelle Sippy Kentucky Student Voice Team


learning from home, student voice, youth experience, educational inequity, youth participatory action research


This article presents a youth-driven study to understand Kentucky students’ learning-from-home experiences in the wake of COVID-19 statewide school closures. Grounded in a sociocultural perspective on human development and guided by a youth participatory action research approach to inquiry, this study employed a sequential mixed-methods design to examine how the pandemic shaped students’ learning lives. Data sources include a statewide student survey (N = 9,475) and peer-to-peer interviews (N = 32) administered in 2020. Descriptive and inductive analysis of results demonstrate the importance of socio-economic status as a mediator of educational experience, and social relations for learning.

Author Biography

Daniela K. DiGiacomo, University of Kentucky

Daniela K. DiGiacomo is an Assistant Professor at the University of Kentucky. Her research interests include youth development and civic engagement, and her scholarly agenda centers on the design of informal learning environments for justice and equity.

About the student authors: The Kentucky Student Voice Team supports students as research, advocacy, and policy partners to improve Kentucky schools. Our work centers the least heard students, as the student voice isn’t meaningful when it’s only an opportunity afforded to students who get certain grades and come from certain zip codes. We envision a Commonwealth where all school staff—be it cafeteria staff, counselors, or custodians—are equipped to support students. We envision a Commonwealth where legislators co-design policies with young people. We envision a Commonwealth where research is democratized, informing action for justice. We envision a more just and equitable world.





Research Articles