Is it over yet? More than two years since we first learned the term COVID-19, we’re just starting to see some relief. The stay-at-home orders are over. The mask mandates are almost non-existent. But do we even remember how to socialize? Are we experiencing anxiety about spending extended time with friends?

The New Normal, which launched Tuesday, tells the individual stories of young people in California, through a collaboration between Boyle Heights Beat, VoiceWaves, The kNOw and YR Media that focuses on how they were impacted by the pandemic, what has changed for them and how they are moving forward.

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This California Youth Media Network project was produced by a team of journalists ranging in age from 16 to 24 who hail from Fresno, Los Angeles, Long Beach and Oakland. The 12-part series highlights stories including:

  • “Zero Social Skills After COVID-19”
    Social skills have been obliterated; depression and anxiety is everywhere; people are exhausted hanging out with people after an hour. An 18-year-old high school senior in Fresno talks to his peers trying to regain their ability to connect with each other.
  • “Working in Retail: Miss Me with that Job”
    A 21-year-old college student in San Francisco reports on how she and others became part of the Great Resignation. In the wake of the pandemic and re-examining work, some young adults found the money earned from retail jobs just wasn’t worth sacrificing their mental health.
  • “Long Beach School Safety Officer Presence Leaves Students Feeling Intimidated, Questions ‘Safety’”​​​
    School safety officers aren’t the same as police, but to some students it’s hard to tell the difference. They hope schools take different approaches to addressing safety.
  • VIDEO: Identity Shift: With a lot of time to reflect, folks felt a shift in their identity during COVID shelter-in-place orders — with many exploring different genders and sexualities. As a result, young people had life-changing realizations about being transgender, nonbinary, queer, bisexual and more.

“It’s always awesome to hear, read and see stories from young people,” said Nykeya Woods, YR Media editor, producer and project manager for ‘The New Normal.’ “Our stories document how we continue to move forward and respond to COVID-19 existence and to keep going. All of us at YR Media are thrilled to offer a platform where they feel comfortable enough to share their experiences.”

“YR Media is so grateful for this partnership which allows us to amplify the voices of so many in their teens and twenties from across California,” said Kyra Kyles, CEO of YR Media. “This collaboration between Boyle Heights Beat, VoiceWaves, and The kNOw spotlights a dimension of life under COVID-19 that the mainstream media often bypasses, particularly as it pertains to young people of color or who are LGBTQ+. The powerful storytelling and perspective of ‘The New Normal’ adds so much vital perspective to the narrative landscape.”

“The New Normal” launched on April 26, 2022, at Funding for “The New Normal” was provided by The California Endowment. For more information about YR Media, please visit

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Boyle Heights Beat

Boyle Heights Beat is a bilingual community newspaper produced by its youth "por y para la comunidad". The newspaper and its sister website serve an immigrant neighborhood in East Los Angeles of just under...

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