Sequoia Carrillo | KUNC

Sequoia Carrillo

The club was supposed to meet once a week. But for many of the members of Men in Color, Wednesday afternoons turned into Monday afternoons and Thursdays too.

"After school, we were always in Mr. C's room," says Jaheim Birch-Gentles, a recent graduate of the High School for Innovation in Advertising and Media in the Canarsie neighborhood of Brooklyn. He's referring to one of the club's advisors, Mischaël Cetoute. The club served as a safe space for students to talk through issues and ideas.

First, the end:

"Please be kind to one another. That's all for today."

So closes the middle-school top-prize winner of NPR's Student Podcast Challenge. World, meet The Dragon Kids.

Among the many losses this school year was the chance for students to shine on stage in the classic end-of-the-year theater production. Yet teachers and students across the country turned misfortune into opportunity, creating memorable plays and performances that will live on — online.

For many student performers, there was that one week, back in March, where everything shifted. One moment everyone was at school, going to class and hanging out with friends ... and then suddenly they were at home, social-distancing and trying to figure out online learning.

Coronavirus, homework, sports, climate change: Working in the midst of a nationwide school shutdown, high school and middle school students around the country took on these and many more topics in this year's NPR Student Podcast Challenge.

After two deadline extensions and a lot of creative solutions to the challenges of recording from their homes, we received more than 2,000 podcasts from 46 states and the District of Columbia.

Spring semester was off to a pretty normal start at Rolling Meadows High School. The school, in a northwest suburb of Chicago, was gearing up for the goodbye rituals of every spring semester: senior prom, end-of-year exams and graduation.

Caitlyn Walsh, the school's music teacher, was looking forward to the big choir concert and the spring musical. "From the fine arts scene we have a lot of end-of-year activities that are very cherished," she says.