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The College Graduating Class of 2024:

From 9/11 to the 2024 Presidential Election

The college graduating class of 2024 has faced one of the most challenging and unconventional college experiences in modern history, marked by a series of disruptive events that have shaped their lives. However, this dissimilar route didn’t begin in college, it’s been happening their entire lives.

Graduation Cap And Diploma On Table With Books

Source: Malik Evren / Getty

From the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the Sandy Hook shootings, to the chaos of COVID-19, and politically charged protests, these students have weathered numerous storms on their path to graduation. Time and time again, these young adults have demonstrated their resilience and flexibility.

September 11, 2001:

Remembrance

Source: AbraCG / Getty

Their journey began amidst the aggression of September 11, 2001. These terrorist attacks cast a shadow of uncertainty over the nation and was a pivotal moment of the trajectory of their upbringing. This group was born in direct proximity to September 11th with some sharing their birthday with that fateful day. The War on Terror began as they were making an entrance into the world.

Operation Enduring Freedom:

US-ATTACKS-RUMSFELD-ENDURING FREEDOM

Source: LUKE FRAZZA / Getty

As these children were taking their first steps, in 2002, the world was still reeling from the events of 9/11. Under President George W. Bush, The United States launched the invasion of Afghanistan. The global geopolitical landscape shifted dramatically, with ongoing conflicts and heightened security measures impacting daily life around the world. For the class of 2024, these early toddler years were marked by a sense of unease and uncertainty about the future. The search for weapons of mass destruction along with “shock and awe” continued.

Social Media:

EN CONTEXTO CON LUIS NAVARRO

Source: STATION PROVIDED, LUIS NAVARRO / Station Provided, Luis Navarro

Before this set reached kindergarten, two turning points happened which forever changed the way people connect. The launch of Facebook in 2004 and YouTube in 2005 occurred. The class of 2024 grew in a world where digital connectivity became increasingly ubiquitous, shaping their interactions and worldview from an early age. Social media would frame their perceptions and relationships in ways previous generations never experienced.

Smart phones:

Hands using financial system apps

Source: GabrielPevide / Getty

2006 marked the beginning of a new era in communication. The iPhone was introduced and has always been an option for them. Smart phones impact extended beyond their technological capabilities, influencing culture, commerce, and connection. They revolutionized how people interact with each other. Also, as these grade-schoolers were meeting their first teacher, Twitter was launched. It forever changed the way people share information. News delivery has evolved quickly for this group.

The Great Recession:

Economic crisis concept, Businessman hand holding economic crisis icon on virtual screen.

Source: Maxxa_Satori / Getty

In 2008, as they were show-and-telling their way through elementary school, the global financial crisis rocked the economy, leading to widespread job losses and financial hardship for many families. The effects of the great recession lingered throughout their teenage years, steering their understanding of economic instability.

Government Spending:

HCFA1500 Health Insurance Claim form with gavel and block on slate desktop

Source: Jertography / Getty

A notable event of 2010 was the passage of the Affordable Care Act. Obamacare had a significant impact on government spending and by 2020, it had cost taxpayers an estimated $1.8 trillion, according to a report by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. This act, which took place when they were nine years old, sent the US on an unsustainable government spending spree that has not slowed and effects every aspect of their future.

Sandy Hook School shooting:

Albany Times Union

Source: Albany Times Union/Hearst Newspapers / Getty

Tragedy struck in 2012 with the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, sending shockwaves through communities across the nation and prompting conversations about second amendment rights and school safety. Active shooter drills became a regular part of their middle school itinerary. This event served as a backdrop to their adolescence reinforcing the importance of adaptability in an ever-changing world. “Run, Hide, Fight!” Six years later as teen-agers, the conversation returned to the forefront in the wake of the Parkland school shooting.

Social Unrest:

U.S. Cities Clean Up Damage As Riots Continue Across The Country

Source: Michael B. Thomas / Getty

In 2014, the world witnessed a series of significant events that left a lasting impact. The United States grappled with social unrest following the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. This incident sparked nationwide protests and exacerbated tensions between law enforcement and the communities they serve. It was also a precursor of what would come 6 years later.

2016 Presidential Election:

Albany Times Union

Source: Albany Times Union/Hearst Newspapers / Getty

As they entered high school, the United States faced an antagonistic presidential election marked by intense polarization in 2016. The prominence of social media further fueled divisions among their peers and exposed them to a barrage of political rhetoric.

Covid-19 Pandemic:

Empty classroom with desks and chairs

Source: baona / Getty

In 2020, when they were about to graduate high school as the first post-9/11 class, the COVID-19 pandemic struck, halting life as they knew it. As lockdowns were implemented, they did not know at the time that they would never return to high school. Traditional rites of passage for high school seniors, such as proms and graduations, were canceled or dramatically altered. Instead of celebratory occasions, they experienced masked and distanced commencements, or none.

Purdue University Campus

Source: Geoff Eccles / Getty

Starting college in the Fall of 2020 meant many students began their freshman year remotely. After mandated vaccinations, when they arrived on campus, they had to adhere to more pandemic guidelines. They didn’t experience gatherings, sporting events, group projects, seminars, and other traditional college experiences. Some, like at Purdue University, became the example of the re-opening process nationwide.

Protests:

US-ISRAEL-PALESTINIAN-CONLICT-PROTEST

Source: ROBERTO SCHMIDT / Getty

As the cloud of Covid-19 continues to pass and they approach college graduation, these students face another set of challenges: the eruption of protests on campuses and in cities in response to the Israel-Hamas war. These demonstrations are disrupting yet another graduation. Universities like the University of Southern California and Columbia have canceled their commencements altogether, while others, like the University of Michigan, have seen protests interrupt their ceremonies.

Inflation:

Economic Downturn

Source: DNY59 / Getty

Unlike graduates in previous years who entered a sizzling job market, these students may encounter greater challenges in securing employment. Plus, the economy and inflation are top concerns. They will enter the workforce right as the country experiences one of the most contentious elections in our history with government spending at an all-time high. What has been resonating with many of the class of 2024 has been the constant history-making experiences.

In conclusion:

North Carolina Central Spring 2024 Graduate and Professional Ceremony

Source: North Carolina Central University / Getty

Despite the trials they’ve faced, the college graduating class of 2024 emerges resilient and determined to navigate the call ahead. Notice the counter protestors on campuses who are resolute to keep their country strong. Their journey has equipped them with the skills needed to face whatever comes next.

Lastly, in a rapid-paced world that has become more and more complicated, they want stability. Will they get it? Artificial intelligence is not on the horizon, it’s here. Chances are this group will master the new frontier as if “it’s always been this way” because for them, it has. These young adults have proven time and again that they have the tenacity, adaptability and perseverance to overcome obstacles. They have continued to participate and have earned some recognition. For the graduating college class of 2024, showing up really has been half the battle.

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The College Graduating Class of 2024: From 9/11 to the 2024 Presidential Election  was originally published on wibc.com