Despite those findings, the young women I interviewed all had high aspirations — they wanted to become a novelist, an animal scientist and a basketball player. One, Ana Shepherd, 18, had decided to pursue politics as a direct result of what she saw the last four years. She was born in Mexico and felt she could help give immigrants a voice in policy.
Their thoughts had been molded by the racial justice protests, by Trump administration policies, by Hillary Clinton’s loss and those of other women in the 2020 Democratic primaries. They spoke eloquently about the importance of representation in government and giving voice to people who had been marginalized. In high school, they had named role models like Beyoncé, the Kardashians and their school principal. Now they mentioned Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Vice President Kamala Harris.
Jordan Barrett, 19, was a supporter of Donald Trump in 2016 and the sole student from Moro who agreed to talk. The last four years, she said, have made her learn about perspectives other than those she grew up with, and think about issues like refugee policy and access to health care. She voted for Joe Biden.
I partnered with Ruth Fremson, a Times photographer, on this project, and she shot portraits of the girls in 2016 and this year. The photographs reflected the changes in their awareness, ambitions and sense of identity that I observed in my interviews. In the more recent set of photos, the young women are more mature and composed but still bright-eyed.
Returning to the group also brought up new topics I hadn’t expected to explore in my reporting, most notably about race. Every one of them mentioned race in their discussions about leadership and sexism — they saw these issues as interlinked.
The young women, even the more conservative ones, had progressive views about diversity — something that young people of both parties share, surveys show. They demand that leadership reflects the people leaders represent. Whether it’s in politics, their jobs or their daily lives, they are going to bring these values to the forefront.
Maybe I’ll try to catch up with them again in 2024.