Photos: Confronting racism and a pandemic, the Class of 2021 reflects on America

Published on Jun 03, 2021 04:41 PM IST
  • One young woman grew alarmed when she saw Confederate flags pop up around her small town. Another student often quietly knitted to persevere through stress. A Black teenager in the South feared racist violence more than a virus. These students have all faced social and political change over their high school careers. They were freshman when Donald Trump was elected the US president and after a summer of protests over racism and violence they are graduating under the pandemic’s shadow. Reuters captured conversations with members of the Class of 2021 that open a window on where America - from Maine to California - stands now and its future.
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Zoe Isabella Rosales, 18, poses for a portrait in the front hallway of Marysville High School in Marysville, California on May 25. Rosales got a scholarship to Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. She aims to become a physician. The pandemic, Rosales told Reuters, has shown her how privileged she has been to have relatives who see education as a priority - and even to have simple tools like internet access that many students in her old foothill community lacked.(Brittany Hosea-Small / REUTERS) View Photos in a new improved layout
Published on Jun 03, 2021 04:41 PM IST

Zoe Isabella Rosales, 18, poses for a portrait in the front hallway of Marysville High School in Marysville, California on May 25. Rosales got a scholarship to Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. She aims to become a physician. The pandemic, Rosales told Reuters, has shown her how privileged she has been to have relatives who see education as a priority - and even to have simple tools like internet access that many students in her old foothill community lacked.(Brittany Hosea-Small / REUTERS)

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Zoe Isabella Rosales, 18, stands in line outside the Marysville High School gymnasium before receiving her graduation cap and gown in Marysville, California on May 25. "It's made me more grateful and more self-aware of my privileges," Rosales said. "But it's also made me really angry ... seeing other people who have had their whole world changed and their ability to learn completely blocked."(Brittany Hosea-Small / REUTERS) View Photos in a new improved layout
Published on Jun 03, 2021 04:41 PM IST

Zoe Isabella Rosales, 18, stands in line outside the Marysville High School gymnasium before receiving her graduation cap and gown in Marysville, California on May 25. "It's made me more grateful and more self-aware of my privileges," Rosales said. "But it's also made me really angry ... seeing other people who have had their whole world changed and their ability to learn completely blocked."(Brittany Hosea-Small / REUTERS)

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High school senior, Shane Wolf, 18, attends an online class in which Native American students meet regularly with a Lakota elder, Sid Whiting, in Denver, Colorado on March 19. Whiting, a Sican'gu Lakota northern traditional dancer and singer who mentors Native American Denver Public School students, said, young people want to know their heritage. "Their thirst for knowledge, it keeps me going. It keeps me on my toes."(Kevin Mohatt / REUTERS) View Photos in a new improved layout
Published on Jun 03, 2021 04:41 PM IST

High school senior, Shane Wolf, 18, attends an online class in which Native American students meet regularly with a Lakota elder, Sid Whiting, in Denver, Colorado on March 19. Whiting, a Sican'gu Lakota northern traditional dancer and singer who mentors Native American Denver Public School students, said, young people want to know their heritage. "Their thirst for knowledge, it keeps me going. It keeps me on my toes."(Kevin Mohatt / REUTERS)

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Shane Wolf, (C), 18, moves his tassel signifying his official graduation from high school in Denver, Colorado on May 27. Wolf, who was accepted to the University of Denver, said success once meant wealth. "But now I'm really focused on the environment," he said. "Because of my culture, my mom and my grandpa." "I feel like we as young people have this sense of urgency and responsibility," Wolf said. "This generation just has such a responsibility to really save this planet."(Kevin Mohatt / REUTERS) View Photos in a new improved layout
Published on Jun 03, 2021 04:41 PM IST

Shane Wolf, (C), 18, moves his tassel signifying his official graduation from high school in Denver, Colorado on May 27. Wolf, who was accepted to the University of Denver, said success once meant wealth. "But now I'm really focused on the environment," he said. "Because of my culture, my mom and my grandpa." "I feel like we as young people have this sense of urgency and responsibility," Wolf said. "This generation just has such a responsibility to really save this planet."(Kevin Mohatt / REUTERS)

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High school senior Megan Bickford, 17, shows her prom outfit to her family at their home in Paris, Maine on May 15. As a young gay woman who is still exploring her identity, Megan said she watched in horror as the Trump administration took action to strip many LGBTQ Americans of their rights. But, Bickford said, she also felt emboldened to stand up for what she believes in.(Brian Snyder / REUTERS) View Photos in a new improved layout
Published on Jun 03, 2021 04:41 PM IST

High school senior Megan Bickford, 17, shows her prom outfit to her family at their home in Paris, Maine on May 15. As a young gay woman who is still exploring her identity, Megan said she watched in horror as the Trump administration took action to strip many LGBTQ Americans of their rights. But, Bickford said, she also felt emboldened to stand up for what she believes in.(Brian Snyder / REUTERS)

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High school senior Megan Bickford, 17, throws the discus and sets a new school record at a track meet in Paris, Maine on May 13. Then came the pandemic, shutting schools and forcing students into isolation. Bickford, an athlete, worried about the impact of the cancellation of spring sports during her junior year, key for college recruiting. In the end, she earned a place at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania.(Brian Snyder / REUTERS) View Photos in a new improved layout
Published on Jun 03, 2021 04:41 PM IST

High school senior Megan Bickford, 17, throws the discus and sets a new school record at a track meet in Paris, Maine on May 13. Then came the pandemic, shutting schools and forcing students into isolation. Bickford, an athlete, worried about the impact of the cancellation of spring sports during her junior year, key for college recruiting. In the end, she earned a place at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania.(Brian Snyder / REUTERS)

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Jamari Prim, 18, who graduated a semester early and began taking classes at a local community college, talks with his brother in his bedroom in Raleigh, North Carolina on April 4. As a Black teenager living in Raleigh, Prim said he feared what the police might do to him or his friends far more than a virus. Prim said that kids his age felt the urgency of the tumultuous time in which they were raised.(Callaghan O'Hare / REUTERS) View Photos in a new improved layout
Published on Jun 03, 2021 04:41 PM IST

Jamari Prim, 18, who graduated a semester early and began taking classes at a local community college, talks with his brother in his bedroom in Raleigh, North Carolina on April 4. As a Black teenager living in Raleigh, Prim said he feared what the police might do to him or his friends far more than a virus. Prim said that kids his age felt the urgency of the tumultuous time in which they were raised.(Callaghan O'Hare / REUTERS)

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Jamari Prim (2nd R), relaxes with his teammates ahead of their step competition at Sanderson High School in Raleigh, North Carolina on April 3. Prim plans to study sociology and justice, and he wants to one day open a youth community center. For the past two years he has been working as a youth mentor. "It feels like the need to have purpose-driven studies has been forced upon us," Prim said. "I can't not see the injustice that is around me."(Callaghan O'Hare / REUTERS) View Photos in a new improved layout
Published on Jun 03, 2021 04:41 PM IST

Jamari Prim (2nd R), relaxes with his teammates ahead of their step competition at Sanderson High School in Raleigh, North Carolina on April 3. Prim plans to study sociology and justice, and he wants to one day open a youth community center. For the past two years he has been working as a youth mentor. "It feels like the need to have purpose-driven studies has been forced upon us," Prim said. "I can't not see the injustice that is around me."(Callaghan O'Hare / REUTERS)

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Kate Munson, 18, watches as her classmates participate in an improv exercise during a theatre arts class at Shallowater High School in Shallowater, Texas on May 11. Munson is confident her generation will break through the toxic talk of the first decade of social media and find ways to bridge gaps across now-yawning cultural divides. "My generation is just over it - over the division in politics and in the culture," she said. "We want to have movements that lift each other up, not take each other down."(Callaghan O'Hare / REUTERS) View Photos in a new improved layout
Published on Jun 03, 2021 04:41 PM IST

Kate Munson, 18, watches as her classmates participate in an improv exercise during a theatre arts class at Shallowater High School in Shallowater, Texas on May 11. Munson is confident her generation will break through the toxic talk of the first decade of social media and find ways to bridge gaps across now-yawning cultural divides. "My generation is just over it - over the division in politics and in the culture," she said. "We want to have movements that lift each other up, not take each other down."(Callaghan O'Hare / REUTERS)

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Kate Munson, 18, reacts on the ranch which her family owns, after her graduation ceremony at Shallowater High School in Shallowater, Texas on May 21. A seventh-generation rancher on the arid southern Plains, Munson wants to become a voice for rural America by studying agricultural communications and business, and then possibly getting a law degree.(Go Nakamura / REUTERS) View Photos in a new improved layout
Published on Jun 03, 2021 04:41 PM IST

Kate Munson, 18, reacts on the ranch which her family owns, after her graduation ceremony at Shallowater High School in Shallowater, Texas on May 21. A seventh-generation rancher on the arid southern Plains, Munson wants to become a voice for rural America by studying agricultural communications and business, and then possibly getting a law degree.(Go Nakamura / REUTERS)

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