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Letter sent on Jun 17, 2015

What’s it really like to be 18 in America right now?

This spring, Matter worked with a class of high school seniors in the San Francisco Bay Area to find the answer to that question. Through a series of projects — some written, others visual— the students told their own stories and captured a vibrant portrait of their lives. Here is the result: A raw, raucous and very real of depiction of what it’s like to be an American teen today.

Below, you’ll find a selection of essays, interviews, responses, and group projects. Read the rest in their publication, 18 in the Bay.

Can you use “J-cat” and “Fu Fu” in a sentence? Students teach us their language in their Urban Dictionary.

Seniors advise against overdosing in school, among other words of wisdom in their Survival Guide to High School.

Some wrote about their inspiration, others wrote about traumatic events or life-changing moments. A few chose to write a poem or rap.

We actually got seniors to talk to their parents — about being a single mother, about immigrating to America— and they learned that it was rough being 18back then too.

Students used Snapchat and Instagram to document a day in their lives. They illustrated what they think about, how they feel, and what they do in their free time. And everyone snapped a picture at the same time on a Tuesday afternoon.

Then we gave them a tumblr and let them go wild.

Help us paint an even bigger picture of what it’s like to be 18 in America right now. Join the conversation by responding to this post or any one of the assignment pages with your own thoughts, essays, interviews, graphs, or photos.