What began as a small classroom project has now evolved into an effort to gather stories from students statewide about their experiences as high-schoolers during a global pandemic.

Eventually, a sample of those experiences will be published in a book, and others will be posted online, to act as a living history of the last two years.

Ramapo College has come on board with the memoir project known as The Class of COVID-19, which already has a couple of volumes on the market. Letters have gone out to principals throughout the Garden State, in hopes of getting as many submissions as possible from interested students.

"My promise to the students of New Jersey is that I'm going to be reading every story that comes in," said Shawn Adler, project lead and an adjunct professor at Ramapo. "This is a chance for kids across New Jersey to have their stories shared and their voices known."

Adler started the project with the students of his composition class at Cliffside Park High School, where he still teaches. The project quickly evolved beyond that class and, in June 2020, turned into a published work of pandemic tales from 43 students at the school. Another edition, Second Wave, hit Amazon on Jan. 4, 2021.

"These are stories of students who have gone through tremendous loss, tremendous grief, but also have shown tremendous resilience," Adler said. "Also, this is an opportunity for students, particularly our young people, to heal."

Students interested in being part of the next edition of The Class of COVID-19 can email classofcovid19@ramapo.edu.

"It's insane because we've come such a long way now," Ata Erdal, a senior at Ciffside Park High School, told New Jersey 101.5.

Erdal had a story published in the second volume, about his family's upside-down schedule.

"I felt lost, I didn't know how I should feel, I didn't know what was right," he said.

The plan is to get the next volume published in the summer. Many submissions that aren't accepted for the book will be published online.

Proceeds from book sales will benefit the WeCare program at Ramapo, which provides assistance to college students who are experiencing housing, food or other basic-needs insecurities.

"As a state college, Ramapo is honored to be able to elevate the voices of students across the state through memoir writing," said Susan Hangen, dean of the School of Humanities and Global Studies. "The collection of stories will highlight the experiences of high school students, and Ramapo College students are serving as assistant editors and writing coaches so that the stories are well-prepared for publication."

Dino Flammia is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com

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