In summary

CalMatters members, major donors and foundations make such unique partnerships possible.

The impact of COVID on our health, lives and communities has been chronicled by journalists across the world. A unique partnership puts students in the storytelling role.

The four-part photo series gives students in three different California school districts an opportunity to tell their stories of a year in elementary school and high school and during the pandemic.

The project was made possible through collaboration between CalMatters and CatchLight Local, with the Salinas Californian collaborating on one of the stories. CalMatters members, major donors and foundations make such unique partnerships possible.

“With COVID and schools, we often hear from parents, teachers and administrators, but rarely from the children themselves,” says CalMatters photo editor Miguel Guttierrez, Jr. “This project gives us an opportunity to hear from the students about what they’ve experienced over these last few years.”

As part of the “Student Reflections: Looking Back on School during COVID” series, students in each community were given disposable cameras to document their own experiences in one of the four stories. They photographed their friends, classrooms, changing mask mandates, recess, after-school activities and senior prom.

The student-photographed story shows the stark contrast of using disposable cameras in a digital world where photographers go without filters, previews and a limited number of exposures.

“This reporting project exemplifies CatchLight Local’s goal to advance visual representation in California and was rooted in a spirit of collaboration–not only between CalMatters, CatchLight and three photojournalists, but with the students themselves–together using photography to share personal and nuanced reflections on student life during the pandemic,” said Jenny Stratton, director of CatchLight Local.

This photo collaboration uniquely represents the junction of CalMatters’ mission to improve California’s democracy through accountability-focused and informative journalism, and  CatchLight’s mission to inform, connect and transform communities.

This project was produced by CalMatters and CatchLight as part of the CatchLight Local CA Visual Desk. Contributors include Joe Hong, Miguel Gutierrez Jr. and Martin do Nascimento of CalMatters, as well as Mabel Jimenez and Jenny Jacklin-Stratton of CatchLight. The San Antonio Elementary School component of the project was produced through additional collaboration with the Salinas Californian.

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Sonya builds bridges between the community and CalMatters as director of membership and engagement. Previously she managed engagement, fundraising, marketing, digital storytelling and UX at Voice of OC,...