Capturing junior year: A Detroit student finds joy in her friends and family

Through photos, Detroit student London Hill documented the highs and lows of her year at Renaissance High School.

ABOUT THIS PROJECT: Chalkbeat partnered with Capturing Belief, a Detroit nonprofit that teaches students to use photography and prose to share their lives and tell stories within their communities, to showcase two photo projects. Detroit students London Hill and Rahmyza Muhammad spent a year working with mentors from Capturing Belief to document their lives. London is heading into her senior year at Renaissance High School, and Rahmyza will be a freshman at the College for Creative Studies.

There’s at least one big dividing line that splits London Hill’s past year: time focused on friends, and other times. 

Some things went well for London, 17, who is heading into her senior year at Renaissance High School. She made a new group of friends, and her social life overall was much different and better than three years ago, when COVID closed Detroit schools and shut her off from other people. She liked school events because they meant she got to spend time with those friends. She enjoyed birthday parties, restaurants, and other activities when she got to go out without thinking about the pandemic.

But she also said that her junior year was her worst year of high school so far, particularly with respect to academics. As with many students across the country, COVID disrupted her focus on class and post-high school plans, and her days of being strictly an A student faded away. “I used to be like, ‘Dang, I got a B on this test. That’s terrible.’ Now I’m like, ‘As soon as I get a C, I’m good,’ ” she said. “I feel like I’ve started settling for less.” 

She also felt the pressure of the SAT and other milestones marking the transition from high school to adult life. Her grandmother’s health was another cause of stress — at one point, her grandmother was hospitalized, and London spent a lot of time worrying about her. 

For her senior year, London’s looking forward to “walking the stage and feeling accomplished” at graduation, and she wants her parents to be proud of her. She’s not sure where she wants to go to college or what she wants to study. She is sure of one thing, though. “I want to be able to go somewhere new and meet new people, people who don’t know me,” London said. “So they’re like, ‘Oh, this is someone new.’”