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‘It’s Creating a New Normal’: A Navajo School District and Its Students Fight to Overcome Amid COVID-19

Anthony J. Wallace and Megan Marples
Cronkite News at Arizona State University


About the Entry

Even before the pandemic, Native youth had the highest dropout rates and lowest rates of high school graduation in the U.S. Then came COVID-19, which has hit Indian Country especially hard. Anthony J. Wallace and Megan Marples tell the story of the struggle facing Navajo schools and students as well as the innovative efforts of one small school district to help its students “succeed and soar.”   

Comments from the Judges

“Excellent multi-media storytelling that went behind the expected pandemic story to detail the lengths to which Navajo children and their teachers were going to help them continue learning. Kudos to the reporters for their deep reporting at a time when families are understandably having to keep their distance.”

“This important look at Covid-19’s impact on Navajo schools would have been impressive even if were the work of seasoned pros rather than students. The fact that this is from students and that they told the story in both a written and audio format with compelling visuals makes it all the more impressive.”


The Broken Promise of Alexander v. Holmes
Bracey Harris
The Hechinger Report

Comment from the judges: “The writing is sharp, particularly the lede on the first story, which packs a powerful punch and highlights someone with the important perspective of teaching at the school she attended. When Covid hit, the project pivoted to cover that and brought needed attention to a part of the country that doesn’t get enough. “

Traveling to the African Diaspora to Prepare Black Students for College
Casey Parks
The Hechinger Report

Comment from the judges: “This story masterfully took a simple thing like a trip abroad and skillfully used it as a vehicle to tell a much larger story about race and education, weaving in the stories of the principal and a student and a city and the vision to change it with charter schools. It ends with a perfect almost poetic kicker.”