One young woman grew alarmed when she saw Confederate flags pop up around her small town. Another student often quietly knitted to persevere through stress. A Black teenager in the South feared racist violence more than a virus.
These students have all faced social and political change over their high school careers. They were freshman when Donald Trump was elected president and after a summer of protests over racism and violence they are graduating under the pandemic’s shadow.
Conversations with members of the Class of 2021 open a window on where America - from Maine to California - stands now and its future.
The pandemic came after other difficulties. Turmoil in their family caused her mother to move to an impoverished community in the Sierra Nevada foothills and some family members have struggled with drug addiction and homelessness.
Rosales has the example of her mother, Michelle, who went to school later in life and graduated last year with a degree in social work, and her sister, Maya, who is graduating this year from the University of California at Berkeley.
The girls' grandmother also went back to school, to complete a nursing degree.
The pandemic, Rosales said, has shown her how privileged she has been to have relatives who see education as a priority - and even to have simple tools like internet access that many students in her old foothill community lacked, making it difficult for them to attend online classes or submit their homework.
"It's made me more grateful and more self-aware of my privileges," she said. "But it's also made me really angry ... seeing other people who have had their whole world changed and their ability to learn completely blocked."