Class of '17 | KERA News

Class of '17

Ricky Rijos Jr.
Lara Solt / KERA News special contributor

Ricky Rijos finished up high school in January, but he waited until June to get his diploma with his classmates from Flower Mound High School. He's headed to the University of North Texas this fall. Ricky's learned some hard lessons over the last four years, including one that may actually take a lifetime to deal with — the death of his best friend.

Lara Solt / KERA News special contributor

Alex Gutierrez struggled with math — and that kept her from going to her dream school. She just wrapped up her senior year at a Garland charter school where students learn English, Spanish and Chinese. She plans to stay home for a few years going to community college, but she has big plans for the future.

Lara Solt / KERA News special contributor

Going to school in a tough neighborhood has its challenges, even for a high-achiever like Joel Luera. The high school debater is headed to college in the fall, but the road to graduation hasn’t been easy.

Lara Solt / KERA News special contributor

At this time four years ago, Phantasia Chavers of Cedar Hill was struggling with her sister’s departure for college. Today, it’s Phantasia who’s getting ready to pack her bags.

Lara Solt / KERA News

Jerry Harris, 18, is a senior at Plainview High School in Ardmore. After his parents split years ago, he left Texas to live with his dad in Oklahoma. Jerry has gone through high school with a learning disability, but he's graduating on time at the end of May.

Lara Solt / KERA News special contributor

Chance Hawkins, 19, was born with a rare genetic degenerative disease. He’s getting ready to graduate from Fort Worth’s Dunbar High School, concluding a journey that’s been filled with obstacles — and rewards.

ESPN

We’ll turn now to a follow-up of our American Graduate series “What’s Next for The Class Of ’17?” Earlier, we caught up with Ricky Rijos Jr., an 11th grader at Flower Mound High School. He’s a basketball fanatic – but he’s only 5’6”, and after sitting on the bench he says he’s giving up the sport.

Fran Fraschilla can relate. He’s a former college coach, a current announcer for ESPN and the father of two boys who never reached 6 feet tall. Fraschilla, by the way, is all of   5’7”.

Lara Solt / KERA News Special Contributor

Like a lot of high school juniors, Ricky Rijos Jr. of Flower Mound High is facing uncertainty.

Lara Solt

For the past month, you’ve been hearing from North Texas high school juniors. Their stories are part of KERA's American Graduate series, “What’s Next for the Class of ’17?” Alex Gutierrez is a student at the International Leadership of Texas high school, a charter school in Garland. Alex has been struggling with math and as junior year ends, a big test looms.

Mark Birnbaum

Chance Hawkins has all the junior year challenges of his classmates at Fort Worth’s Dunbar High School. His personal challenge is even bigger – he’s battling a degenerative muscle disease. Chance is one of the students KERA has been following for its American Graduate series, “What’s Next for the Class of ’17?” In this latest installment, Chance talks about how this school year has been and what he’d like to do in the future.

Luka Knezevic - Strika / Flickr Creative Commons

Five stories that have North Texas talking: There are tons of fireflies in Texas thanks to last year’s rain; Mark Cuban could play for either team when it comes to the vice presidency; watch two journalists rappel down the Reunion Tower; and more.

Lara Solt / KERA News

Since eighth grade, we’ve been following a group of North Texas students we call KERA’s Class of ’17. 

Lara Solt

The Class of ’17 — a group of North Texas students that KERA began following three years ago — is wrapping up its junior year. And it’s crunch time, which means these students are starting to make decisions about what will come after graduation.

Bill Zeeble / KERA News

For the past few years, KERA’s been checking in with students who are part of the Class of ’17. Ricky Rijos is a junior at Flower Mound High School where he loves basketball and has played every year. Now he’s trying for the varsity team but he faces tall odds. 

Stella M. Chávez / KERA News

For a kid with severe physical disabilities, having an aide at school can make a huge difference. It can affect whether a student stays in school or drops out, whether the student passes or fails. As part of KERA’s American Graduate initiative, Stella Chavez catches up with Class of ’17 student Chance Hawkins, a sophomore at Fort Worth’s Dunbar High School.

Dianna Douglas

Girls’ basketball teams from high schools across Texas are on their way to the state championships in San Antonio. Bryan Adams High School in Dallas earned a spot in the Final Four this year.

Christina Ulsh

Where does the deep mistrust of police in minority communities come from? As part of our new KERA Yearbook project, we asked four black and Latino teenagers to share their perceptions of the police in their neighborhoods and school.

Bill Zeeble / KERA News

Ricky Rijos is ratcheting up his hoop dreams. Ricky, who’s a member of KERA’s Class of ’17, has left one private basketball coach for a new, pricier one – whose clients include NBA and top college players. 

Stella M. Chávez / KERA News

The first day of school is a week and a half away, and 20 new students who just arrived from China are already settling in at International Leadership of Texas. Each kid will be assigned a student mentor at the Garland charter school. One of those mentors is a member of KERA’s Class of ’17 project.

Stella M. Chávez / KERA News

Classes at most North Texas schools begin in a few weeks. When Phantasia Chavers starts 10th grade at Cedar Hill High School, she hopes to be spending time after school on the JV volleyball team. Phantasia’s one of the Class of ’17 students KERA’s been following as part of the American Graduate initiative. For Phantasia, a new school year means a new school and a second chance on the court.

Bill Zeeble / KERA News

Jerry Harris lives two different lives. His parents are divorced, and he spent the past school year with dad in Ardmore, Oklahoma. This summer, he’s with mom and sister in Coppell. We catch up with Jerry, a member of KERA’s Class of ’17.

Caydee Daniel / KERA News

These days, kids are most likely to text each other or communicate with apps like Snapchat. They post photos on Instagram and they tweet what they’re doing throughout the day. As part of KERA’s American Graduate initiative, we talk to some students about how even in this fast-paced digital world, the printed yearbook is still an end-of-the-year highlight for some students.

Shutterstock

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting features KERA’s Class of '17 project in this month’s Station Spotlight. Class of '17 is a five-year effort that follows North Texas students as they transition from middle school to high school and through graduation.

Stella Chavez / KERA News

In today's All Things Considered local block from the KERA newsroom: the state’s largest power company files for bankruptcy. Also, a recap from the home rule proposal debate on Think today. Doualy Xaykaothao visits a Fort Worth animal clinic, where allegations of animal abuse have been made. And as part of our Class of ’17 series, Stella Chavez catches up with Chance Hawkins as he works with a new therapist to improve his motor skills.

Stella M. Chavez / KERA News

Unlike a lot of kids his age, Chance Hawkins needs help with the most basic of needs – getting out of bed, getting dressed and brushing his teeth. That’s common for those diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The disease is almost always fatal before the age of 30. Chance is a member of KERA’s Class of ’17. KERA checked in with him to see how he’s working on gaining some independence.

Western MAJ/Flickr

As part of its American Graduate initiative, KERA is looking for a North Texas high school media class to become a partner on a project called the Class of ’17 Yearbook. The idea is for the students in the class to team with teachers and KERA journalists to write posts on the KERA education blog, record and edit audio and video, and create social media streams with student-generated content.

Bill Zeeble / KERA News

Kelli Bowdy, one of the students we’re following in our Class of '17 series, is almost through her freshman year at Fort Worth’s O.D. Wyatt High School. She’s even thinking about graduating early. Nationwide, only 3 percent of high school kids manage that.  

Stella M. Chávez / KERA News

One in 10 adolescents suffers from depression by age 18. It’s something that one of the members of KERA's Class of '17 is wrestling with. The series is part of a nationwide public broadcasting initiative called American Graduate. This week, we check back in with Cedar Hill ninth grader Phantasia Chavers.

Bill Zeeble / KERA News

For decades, it’s been a rite of passage for American teens. Now it’s Ricky Rijos’ turn. The Flower Mound freshman is learning to drive.

Ricky is a member of KERA's Class of '17, a group of North Texas kids we’re following from eighth grade through graduation.

Stella M. Chavez / KERA News

Ninth-grader Joel Luera is a smart kid in a tough neighborhood. Sometimes other kids don’t get why he’s so studious. He loves to read – so much that he’s in a book club at W.W. Samuell High School in Dallas. Joel is the latest kid to join KERA’s series Class of ’17 – a five-year project following a group of North Texas students from eighth grade to graduation. It’s part of the national public media initiative American Graduate.

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