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Archive for Thursday, May 15, 2014

Class of 2014’s life and times recorded by student journalists

May 15, 2014

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Student journalists and graduating high school seniors clockwise from front left, Ashley Hocking, Lawrence High, Bret Watson, Free State, Hannah Moran, Free State, and Gage Nelson, Lawrence High, are pictured on Wednesday, May 14, 2014 at South Park.

Student journalists and graduating high school seniors clockwise from front left, Ashley Hocking, Lawrence High, Bret Watson, Free State, Hannah Moran, Free State, and Gage Nelson, Lawrence High, are pictured on Wednesday, May 14, 2014 at South Park.

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If you ask anyone over age 30 to name the top stories or trends of the last few years, they might mention the resignation of a pope, revolutions in the Middle East, or the sudden explosion in popularity of social media like Twitter and Facebook.

But if you ask people from the high school Class of 2014, they would likely tell you that Facebook and Twitter are passe and the place to be online is now Snapchat or Vine. They might also talk about "twerking," or the coach who was fired, if only briefly, or the student who got suspended for posting an offensive tweet.

High school students are the products of the times and the culture in which they grow up. But high school is also a time when children become young adults and start inventing their own culture, starting with the unique experiences they share and the personal bonds they form among themselves.

When they were in kindergarten ...

How much has the world changed, or not changed, since this year’s class of graduating seniors started school? You be the judge. Most of the students who will pick up diplomas this week began kindergarten in 2001. So with the exception of their first few weeks, their entire educational life has occurred in the post 9/11 world. And they probably have conscious memories only of two presidents: George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Here’s a look back at some of the other significant news and cultural events that happened their kindergarten year:

• In sports, the Arizona Diamondbacks defeated the New York Yankees to win the 97th World Series. Tom Brady led the New England Patriots to victory over the St. Louis Rams to win Super Bowl XXXVIII. And Maryland beat Indiana to win the NCAA basketball crown after beating Kansas University in the semifinals. The Winter Olympics opened Feb. 8 in Salt Lake City, managed by business tycoon Mitt Romney.

• “A Beautiful Mind” won the Oscar for best picture, but “Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” was the top box office draw, followed by “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” Denzel Washington and Halle Barry won the best actor and actress honors, marking the first time both top acting awards went to African Americans.

• In business, Enron filed for bankruptcy on Dec. 2 amid a financial accounting scandal, marking one of the largest corporate failures in U.S. history.

• In other international news, the U.S. granted the People’s Republic of China permanent normal trade relations status on Dec. 27, 2001.

• In music, the top hit of 2001 was “Hanging By a Moment,” by Lifehouse, followed by “Fallin” by Alicia Keys; and “All for You” by Janet Jackson. On Jan. 9, 2002, Michael Jackson received the “Artist of the Century” award at the American Music Awards. He would die eight years later.

• In the UK, the Queen Mother Elizabeth, mother of Elizabeth II, died on March 30. More than a million people lined the streets of London for her funeral procession on April 9.

• East Timor became an independent nation on May 20, ending 23 years of Indonesian rule.

Four student journalists who chronicled those experiences for their school newspapers and yearbooks took time this week to reflect on what made their time in school special, and what specific things they and their classmates are most likely to remember in years to come.

"In the future, I will always look back on my years at Lawrence High fondly," said Ashley Hocking, co-editor in chief of The Budget, LHS's student paper.

Asked about the big stories she remembers the paper covering, Hocking immediately recalled a feature in October about "twerking" — that provocative dance form made famous, or infamous, by Miley Cyrus during the Video Music Awards.

"One of our opinion writers noticed that our pom squad, or the dance team at one time had been twerking as well, and that made it newsworthy," she said. "And the pom squad was not too happy with that article being written."

Hocking also recalled a February story about the growing use of electronic cigarettes among teenagers, and a discussion about why LHS's unique mascot, the "Chesty Lions," has never been trademarked.

But Gage Nelson, design editor for the LHS yearbook who also contributed to the Budget, said the biggest news story of the year, by far, was the firing of boys basketball coach Mike Lewis.

"That was a huge deal," he said of the coach, who was eventually reinstated after scores of students and parents packed into a Lawrence school board meeting to protest the decision.

At Free State High School, Free Press editor Hannah Moran said one of the biggest stories of the year was that of a student who was suspended after posting a photograph of one of the school's vice principals on Twitter.

That incident came on the heels of several students being ejected from a basketball game for rowdiness, Moran said. And it might also help explain why "old school" social media like Twitter and Facebook began falling out of favor among teenagers.

"Snapchat was bigger than ever," Moran said, referring to the new photo messaging system in which the photos are deleted off of the servers after a specified period of time.

Bret Watson, who edited the Free State yearbook, said she was struck by the growing intensity of the rivalry between Free State and Lawrence High.

"I think it got particularly heated this year," she said.

Beyond the daily news and events that shaped their experience, the Class of 2014 also had its own set of music and fashion trends.

Moran noted that in addition to twerking, "the Harlem Shake" will be remembered as one of the more interesting dance crazes.

And Nelson from LHS said students may look back on these years as the time when web-based services like Pandora replaced FM radio as the dominant medium through which young people learn about and experience new music.

"Anywhere people go, they have Pandora playing on their phone or their computer," Nelson said.

But Watson said the thing she'll remember most is the personal bonds formed among her classmates.

"We were all sort of surprised at the number of friends we made outside our friend group," she said. "It was like the whole senior class was kind of one big friend group."

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