The goal of this qualitative study was to use archival data from a participatory action research (PAR) project to construct a local, culturally informed model of African American children and adolescents' stressors and reactions to stress specifically representative of an elementary and a secondary school in New Orleans, Louisiana. Low-income urban African American youth face chronic conditions including economic problems, exposure to community violence, racial stereotyping and discrimination rare in the lives of youth of other communities, yet the extent to which extant findings on stress can be generalized to this population is unclear. Focus group data from students from grades K-2 (n = 42) and grades 9-10 (n = 44) in two charter schools in New Orleans were coded deductively to identify stressors and stress reactions in this sample. Themes across the two groups were examined for patterns in the data that explain variations in definitions of stress and reactions to stress due to age and ecological contexts (e.g. family, school, peer group). Understanding stressors and reactions to stress is a first step in working toward planning culturally relevant and culturally acceptable intervention programs to equip the students to effectively deal with stress, provide resources and, create conditions for them to cope adaptively.