This case presents an analysis of the main methodological issues underlying the research presented in an article on citizenship education published in the journal Theory and Research in Education. The article presented a retrospective analysis of the impact of being in residential care at a Roman Catholic home for boys in Malta and was based on interviews and focus groups with them, later in their lives, as young adults. It analyses, in particular, whether they saw the citizenship education that they received while ‘in care’ as empowering – as boys, adolescents and eventually as young adults. In so doing, it also explores the meaning that they attributed to the cooperative activities that were organised for them by the staff so as to enable them to learn about one another, share responsibilities and develop feelings of group solidarity among themselves. The study shows that meaningful citizenship education, particularly with vulnerable, at-risk children and young people, transcends formal identification with a country or nation via the flag, or national anthem, since it is also based on such factors as having skills and opportunities to share personal stories and events with one another, and, consequently, to support each other's growth. The case study aims to give the cohort of study participants a voice in describing reality as they see, understand and live it. This participant-centred aspect of the research gives it an underlying phenomenological orientation. The study focuses on different factors that influence the life-course decisions the participants make, including how they act out different aspects of their masculinity, how they get over past hurts (and thereby express resilience) and how they cope in Malta's overall bilingual context, where both Maltese and English are widely used.