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The Class of 2020: Stories of resilience amid crises

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Harvard-bound Abia Khan, the valedictorian of her Class of 2020 at North High School, poses for pictures in her cap and gown in Laveen, Ariz., on May 5, 2020. Khan addressed her class in a virtual graduation speech during the coronavirus pandemic. The daughter of immigrants from Bangladesh, she says her parents taught her the importance of a college education, especially when her father was laid off in the Great Recession. When asked for her dream for herself, it was pretty simple: “Stability.” – AP Photo / Ross D. Franklin

Chicago-based multiformat journalist Martha Irvine produced in text and video a compelling look at members of America’s high school Class of 2020, focusing on eventful lives shaped by a series of crises.

Irvine, collaborating with Stephanie Mullen, deputy director of storytelling based in San Francisco, set out to tell the story of a generation born in the aftermath of Sept. 11 that has faced a number of challenges – from the loss of a parent to wildfires and hurricanes, the Great Recession and, most recently, a pandemic and civil unrest over police brutality.

Finding the right subjects, including a young man who lost his father in 9/11 before he was even born, took some time. The result – well worth the effort — was a multiformat package with stunning portraits and a print story that took the reader through the graduates’ stories in order of the events that have impacted them. Irvine also produced a video that featured several photos interspersed with self-shot video of three of the graduates.

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Medina High School graduate Gavin Walters poses for a photo near his home in Medina, Texas, May 26, 2020. Gavin’s father, Gary Walters Jr., a corporal in the Army, died in Iraq in 2005 when Gavin was just three years old. Gavin is heading to basic training for the Navy. Despite the crises his generation has faced – starting with their births in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks – he remains optimistic: “I think our generation will be the ones to surprise the world.” – AP Photo / Eric Gay

AP photojournalists who contributed photos included Ross D. Franklin,Eric Gay,Elaine Thompson,David Phillip,Charles Rex Arbogast,Rich Pedroncelli,Gregory Bull,Seth Wenig,Lynne Sladky,Eric Risberg and Ted Warren.

Use of the package,posted on news sites across the country,was strong, and the story was shared widely on social media.

One reader responded to the story posted on AP’s Facebook page: “Resilience will have to become their legacy. The kids didn’t make the world but have every reason to change it for good.”

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