Ferguson Class Of 2014 Share Stories On How Michael Brown's Death Forever Changed Their LIves

One year ago, Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old was fatally shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Following Brown's death, outraged protests and conflicting witness and police reports were heavily covered, but there was hardly any light was shed on the lives Brown's death directly affected — those of the classmates he'd graduated with from Normandy High School, a school students say was like "family." Brown's death took place just weeks after his high school graduation. It was a dark event for the black community as a whole, but it was particularly traumatic for former classmates his own age who grew up with him. In a poignant, deeply important project undertaken by The Huffington Post, six of Brown's classmates in the Ferguson class of 2014 tell their stories one year later.

All six have moved on from the haunting events of August 2014. Some are pursuing college educations, others fulfilling careers, but all claimed their perceptions of police and societal values were forever changed. In separate interviews, each of Brown's former classmates opened up about their experiences in high school, what they're doing now, what they aspire to do, and ultimately, how the shooting of Brown affected their outlooks on life.

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Alexa Johnson, 19, now pursuing journalism, told The Huffington Post that Brown's death provided her with new insight about the value of truth. Chaella Jones, 19, shared her renewed sense of the importance of education in fighting for justice. Elyjajuan Huddleston, 19, opened up about his concerns for his own safety and the abuse of police power. Like all youths in America, they grew up trusting police; Brown's death at the hands of police changed their perceptions of society.

This project is among the most culturally significant pieces of journalism this year. Beneath the haunting images of protesters in the streets of Ferguson are real people who were tremendously affected by the death of Brown, and no one more so than the people who grew up with him, the black teenagers who will now always wonder about how neatly they would have fit in Brown's place.

We've heard so many different stories and accounts about Brown — contradictory witness reports, police reports, autopsy reports, court rulings — over the past year. But as his classmate Johnson put it, one year later, it seems really not much has changed. So maybe it's time to listen to the stories of those who knew him best, by those who are alive to tell their own stories about the tragedy. The Huffington Post's project presents us with a rare, authentic portrait of the community Brown grew up in. As we become increasingly desensitized to coverage of police brutality against people of color, the stories of Ferguson's class of 2014 restore humanity to victims and communities torn apart by tragedy.