Members of the Generation Next staff recently deliberated on some of the most significant events for teenagers in Santa Fe and across the U.S. in 2021. From Olivia Rodrigo’s debut album to deadly instances of gun violence, here are more than a dozen moments over the last year that Generation Next found most important.
Even as the CIA disproved claims that foreign interference or domestic fraud had rigged the results of the 2020 presidential election won by Joe Biden, many supporters of former President Donald Trump believed the results were illegitimate. Trump perpetuated these allegations for months, culminating Jan. 6, when many supporters gathered in Washington, D.C. Trump’s army of proponents tried to “stop the steal” by entering U.S. Capitol grounds and attempting to halt the certification of Electoral College results by Congress. The violent mob followed the former president’s command to “fight like hell,” breaching police barricades and assaulting officers to get into the Capitol. Five people died in the two-hour siege, and countless others were harmed in the chaos. Congress members were under lockdown because of the danger outside their chambers, but they were able to tally the vote later that day, confirming Biden’s presidency. — Josette Gurulé
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs played at Raymond James Stadium in Florida during the 55th edition of the NFL’s championship game. Tom Brady led the Buccaneers to their second Super Bowl title in a 31-9 win over the Chiefs. Brady won a historic seventh Super Bowl, more than any NFL team, and his fifth Most Valuable Player award. It was the first Super Bowl in which a team played in its home stadium. Due to the pandemic, it was also the least-attended Super Bowl of all time, with only 25,000 fans filling seats. — Ian Hernandez-Rojas
Students all over the country, all over the world, struggled not only personally but academically because of remote learning during the coronavirus pandemic; it was clear students weren’t performing at levels of previous years. So it came as a positive surprise when then-Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Veronica C. García, pictured above, announced the district’s graduation rate reached 86.3 percent during the 2019-20 school year, surpassing New Mexico’s 77 percent average by nine points. It was the second time the district surpassed state averages, according to KRQE. — Valeria Ramirez
Texans and other tourists now have another reason to visit: New Mexico legalized recreational marijuana. Sales of recreational cannabis are set to begin April 1, representing a progressive move in state politics. New Mexico is joining the ranks of other states such as Colorado, Arizona and California. As those states saw economic growth in local industries following legalization, New Mexico is projected to as well. Such change will hopefully allow for a reevaluation of New Mexico’s spiritual nature, too. Perhaps the Land of Enchantment can become a bit more enchanting. — Ben Timm
At a point where about 7 percent of New Mexican teens ages 16-17 were fully vaccinated, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration expanded its emergency-use authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to people ages 12 to 15, making about 105,000 more New Mexicans eligible. Fifty-three thousand registered to get their vaccine within the first week, according to KRQE. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention immunization advisory committee immediately backed up the FDA in its expansion, stating the trials had seen “no serious concerns” and that “the vaccine was efficacious for preventing symptomatic COVID-19.” The trials concluded in April and contained 2,260 consenting Americans between the ages of 12 and 15 (1,131 of whom were given the vaccine). The Pfizer vaccine showed a 97.1 percent efficacy rate among participants. — Emma Meyers
Olivia Rodrigo dropped her debut album, Sour, following her hit single “Driver’s License,” which was released in January. The album is filled with breakup songs and feelings of melancholy, hurt and despair. Sour later debuted No. 1 on Billboard’s Top 200 albums chart, where it remained for five weeks, making it the longest-lasting No. 1 album by a female artist in 2021. With all the very relatable tracks, Sour became the album of the summer. According to the New York Times, it had 295,000 sales in the United States by the end of May, making it the second-highest streaming total this year. Rodrigo’s music was so impactful to teens, she later received the American Artists Award for New Artist of the Year. The 18-year-old pop star is becoming increasingly more recognized, and her fandom is constantly growing. Sour is an album to remember, and for those who have yet to give it a listen, it is definitely a must. — Stephany Zambrano
Tokyo hosted the postponed 2020 Summer Olympics starting July 23. The world watched on television in astonishment as humanity’s best athletes competed, but even more impressively, Tokyo managed to successfully hold a safe Olympic games amid the pandemic. Attempts at preventing COVID-19 included daily testing, mask-wearing aside from competition, social distancing and an extremely limited in-person audience — minimal seats were filled and only domestic spectators were allowed to attend. In such a chaotic, divided world, athletes gathered together under a mantra, “united by emotion,” and proved to the world that togetherness is necessary for human prosperity, especially in a world fractured by COVID-19. — Josette Gurulé
The Public Education Department released an updated “COVID-19 toolkit” ahead of the return to fully in-person learning statewide. The toolkit, which has seen several updates since then, laid out ground rules for students and staff exposed to the virus. It originally exempted vaccinated students and staff in secondary schools from masking requirements, and required that 25 percent of unvaccinated staff members must participate in a weekly testing program on a rotating basis.
The St. Michael’s High School football team took on the Santa Fe High School Demons in their annual matchup at Ivan Head Stadium. The Demons ended a 13-year losing streak to the Horsemen by beating them 19-7. Santa Fe High last beat St. Michael’s in the rivalry in 2008, and the last triumphant home game was in 2004. The Horsemen had the great misfortune of losing their starting quarterback on the ninth play of the opening drive to a season-ending knee injury. The Demons were able to capitalize on this early injury to get a rare win in this historic rivalry. — Ian Hernandez-Rojas
Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins suffered a fatal gunshot wound on the set of the film Rust when a prop gun wielded by star and co-producer Alec Baldwin discharged a live round. She is survived by her parents, husband and son. The tragedy also left director Joel Souza injured and remains under investigation.
The return of live music during the pandemic brought joy to the masses. For artists from Harry Styles to BTS, it was the first time seeing their fans in person in two years. However, with all the celebration also came grief. Travis Scott’s annual Astroworld Festival resulted in tragedy in November. Ten people died and hundreds were injured after the crowd of 50,000 surged toward the stage during the show. The victims ranged from 9 to 27 years old. The singer faced major backlash when he continued to perform even after paramedics showed up and the crowd begged him to stop. — Stephany Zambrano
After 14 years, the conservatorship that controlled Britney Spears’ life, from whom she dated to how she spent her money, ended. Spears’ public battle over her conservatorship sparked many conversations around mental health in celebrities, raising an opportunity for fans and paparazzi alike to loosen their expectations of the stars they so dearly admire. In 2008, Spears was sent to the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation after a series of public struggles such as attacking a paparazzi’s car, mental health concerns and substance abuse. Her father became her primary conservator when she was deemed unable to care for herself and her finances, even though she continued to pursue her career with success. Spears pushed to end the conservatorship for many years, claiming it “had become an oppressive and controlling tool against her,” according to the New York Times. In 2019, she was placed in a mental health facility for a month, reviving the #FreeBritney movement among fans. It regained popularity in 2021 after the conservatorship extended until September of this year. — Fernanda Rodas
Oxford High School sophomore Ethan Crumbley opened fire with a 9 mm semi-automatic pistol at the school in Michigan, killing four students and leaving seven people injured. Crumbley, 15, was charged as an adult on one count of terrorism causing death, four counts of first-degree murder, seven counts of assault with intent to murder and 12 counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. His parents, Jennifer and James Crumbley, were also arrested on four counts each of involuntary manslaughter after prosecutors revealed they allegedly ignored warning signs and failed to intervene after being alerted by school officials of concerning behavior. Prosecutor Karen McDonald’s decision to hold the parents accountable was a rare move that pushed the country to pay more attention to the gun violence epidemic in schools. — Sofia Barker