Pacific Islander high school students in the state of Utah specifically, but across the United States generally, face significant challenges such as high levels of high school dropout and low levels of academic attainment. The purpose of this study was to examine if components of an achieved ethnic identity (exploration and commitment) are positively related to high levels of school belonging among Pacific Islander high school students in Utah. I further investigated whether self-esteem was a mediating factor in any observed relationship between ethnic identity and school belonging. Participants in this study were Pacific Islander youth between the ages of 13-19 years old and attending high school in the state of Utah. The Multigroup Ethnic Identity Measure—Revised, Rosenberg Self-Esteem Inventory, Simple School Belonging Scale, and demographic questions were combined in a survey and taken by 111 participants. Results indicate a significantly positive relationship between school belonging and self-esteem (r = .39, p < .001). However, no relationship was observed between ethnic identity and school belonging. Results also suggests that self-esteem is not a mediating factor, nor is it related to ethnic identity individually for these students. Another purpose of this study was to better understand Pacific Islander students in our public education system, and especially in the state of Utah. Results revealed that ethnic identity may not operate in the same way for students in this study as has been suggested in the literature for other ethnic minorities. Specifically, ethnic identity, as measured by the MEIM-R may not represent the same construct, which leads to questions about how this sample was different than other national samples. The context of Utah may have been a determining factor and may play a role in the formation of ethnic identity for Pacific Islander students who live in Utah, especially for those who are also Latter-day Saint. Future research should look closely at the relationship between religiosity and ethnic identity for Pacific Islander students in Utah schools. The findings from this study also highlight the role of self-esteem in school belonging. They suggest a need to move beyond generalizations of this group of students as "minorities" to understanding how to increase their self-esteem in hopes of boosting their sense of belonging in our schools, thus leading to greater high school retention and academic achievement for this population.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Teacher Education



Date Submitted


Document Type





Pacific Islander students, ethnic identity, self-esteem, school belonging