At the end of last year through spring of this year, I worked on this project for Topic about what young folks care about. Even before the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School turned their tragedy into a national movement, giving young people a platform like they’ve never had before, I’d been wondering what sorts of issues were on adolescent minds. Teaching middle schoolers piqued my curiosity—it's pretty damn sobering to hear how 11 and 12 year olds interpret the issues plaguing our society today.
Tori Jessie, 15 (at the time), lives in Florissant, Mo. and attends a private Christian high school. One thing she discussed with me was her struggle in deciding whether to kneel during the national anthem as a form of protest in her predominantly white school and the repercussions it might bring. She also talked about the perception of her neighborhood according to her classmates and her younger sister’s teacher. Florissant is a suburb in St. Louis that shares a border with Ferguson.