Youth-Led “Behind Our Masks” Multimedia Project Shines a Bright Light on How COVID-19 is Affecting Young People’s Lives, Education and Employment

11-Part Series Amplifies Voices Too Often Unheard, Launches on February 9, 2021

OAKLAND, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–#BehindOurMasks–The effects of COVID-19 have been far-reaching across the country. Thousands of families have lost loved ones, millions have lost their jobs, and countless others are struggling emotionally with stay-at-home orders. But how has this pandemic affected the younger generation, specifically young people of color? In rural areas and cities alike, young people are struggling with education or to even stay in school, with some having to balance learning with supplementing their families’ income.

“Behind Our Masks,” launching on February 9, 2021, will help tell the individual stories of young people in California, through a collaboration between Boyle Heights Beat, Coachella Unincorporated, The kNOw and YR Media.

This California Youth Media Network project was produced by a team of young journalists from Coachella, Fresno, Los Angeles, and Oakland, and will launch with four stories from the 11-part series, including:

  • “Pandemic Took Young People’s Jobs, and Maybe Their Lifespans Too:” YR Media’s Lucy Barnum follows two 20-something women as they navigate their newfound place in California’s 9% unemployment rate.
  • “No Easy Choices: Stay in School or Pay the Rent:” After a COVID-19 student survey in California found more than 70% reported a decrease in income due to the pandemic, and a national survey reported a 22% drop in freshman enrollment, the team follows a young man faced with a decision: what’s best for his family, and for himself?
  • “On the Front Lines: Reality of a Young Essential Worker:” When the pandemic hit, getting a job as an essential worker was a risk Ivan Manriquez knew he had to take. Manriquez is one of the thousands of teenagers and young adults across California who are on the front lines working at grocery stores, fast food restaurants and big-box retailers. The work is demanding, but there’s also the worry that the job puts them at greater risk of contracting the virus.
  • VIDEO: Balancing School, Farm Work in Coachella Valley: The pandemic has forced many young adults to pick up a job while juggling online college classes. What that looks like for Eduardo Jaime: working part-time in the fields while navigating his third year at Cal State San Bernardino. Throughout the pandemic, he’s had to balance working part-time and adjusting to his family being impacted by COVID-19.

“`Behind Our Masks’ exemplifies the power of the California Youth Media Network and its ability to help amplify our young content creators’ voices and perspectives on critical issues like the current pandemic – locally and nationally,” said Kyra Kyles, CEO, YR Media. “We are proud of our team of young journalists, the collaboration as a whole, and the stories the campaign will profile as we too often hear about how social issues impact young people, but not nearly enough from the young people themselves.”

“The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are far-reaching for young Californians,” said Nancy DeVille, a YR Media producer and the project manager for “Behind Our Masks.” “We highlight a diversity of experiences, from those who are working on the front lines as essential workers to students coping with the uncertainty of delayed athletic seasons. By collaborating with Boyle Heights Beat, Coachella Unincorporated, and The kNOw, we can deeply explore the overarching effects the pandemic is having on education, health care, and our economy.”

“Behind Our Masks” will launch on February 9, 2021 at Funding for “Behind Our Masks was provided by The California Endowment. For more information about YR Media, please visit

About YR Media

YR Media, formerly Youth Radio, is an award-winning national network of diverse young journalists and artists from underrepresented communities who create content for this generation. Headquartered in downtown Oakland, California, our non-profit has spent 25 years helping future generations build crucial skills in journalism, arts and media. We produce journalism, music, graphic design, podcasts and documentaries that disrupt and shape the mainstream narrative.

About The California Youth Media Network

The California Youth Media Network is a robust network, built over almost a decade, of youth-driven community journalism hubs around the state of California. Network groups work together to build youth skills and leadership, raise the visibility of youth voice statewide, bring more voices into high-profile media outlets that can influence policy, convene regularly to share best practices in media production, and build coalitions and impact.


Heath Meyer


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