(MAHWAH, NJ) -- Fear. Loneliness. Racism. Confusion. Depression. Anxiety. For many, these were the very real, secondary effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, suffered by none more so than vulnerable young people who struggled to make sense of their lives while the presence of the virus fundamentally changed their daily routines and even their understanding of the world. Their heartfelt stories of grief and resilience are memorialized in a transformative writing project, The Class of COVID-19: Unmasked, which will be published digitally and in paperback through Amazon.
The primary purpose of the project, which was led by Ramapo College adjunct instructor Shawn Adler, was to collect narratives from high school students across the state that document the many different ways the pandemic impacted them over the past two-plus years. Students from more than 300 New Jersey high schools were invited to write about their experiences and submit their narratives to Ramapo College for publication. From the initial outbreak in the region to the arrival of the vaccines, these stories chronicled the living history since early 2020 as conveyed through some of the state’s most vulnerable voices.
“By inviting students to publish their stories, Ramapo College has told an entire generation of students that they are listening, that through narrative we can all be the heroes of our own stories, even and especially when things seem most out of control,” said Adler. “These stories are the stories of New Jersey — its pain and, ultimately, its strength.”
A total of 48 stories will be published as part of the project, including the primary collection of 30 that will be available for purchase on Amazon in paperback ($10.95) and Kindle ($3.95) format. An additional 18 stories will be published on the College’s website (see ramapo.edu/theclassofcovid19/). All profits will donated to the Ramapo We Care Program, which is available to Ramapo College students who are experiencing food insecurity or need assistance addressing financial challenges or other basic needs. We Care Program resources include the campus Food Pantry, Clothing Closet, and Student Relief Fund.
The Class of COVID-19: Unmasked memoir project organized by Ramapo College is an extension of two previous high school-specific volumes of COVID memoirs, which were published in 2020 and 2021. These collections were featured on NBC News, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, The Star Ledger, NJ 101.5, People Magazine and others, while being celebrated at every level of government from Governor Phil Murphy, to Congress, to President Joe Biden.