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This paper highlights the perspectives of first-generation students of color in their first year of college, and the ways in which they exercised agency in their writing. Framed by definitions of agency as mediated action that creates meaning, the paper reports on qualitative data collected from a summer writing program for first-generation students and students of color, and from writing samples and follow-up interviews with six students who participated in the summer program. Findings suggest that students in their first year of college leveraged their social and discoursal identities to offer new ways of understanding an issue. They also wrote using a translingual approach, integrating different discourses and forms of knowledge, and challenging views of academic writing as monolithic. The findings also suggest the link between awareness and action, meaning that what and how students wrote were informed by their awareness of writing and awareness of themselves as writers and cultural beings. The study’s findings have implications for advancing more nuanced views of agency and academic literacies, and redesigning writing instruction at the high school and college level. Copyright © 2023 by the National Council of Teachers of English. All Rights Reserved.

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Research in the Teaching of English

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