Talking 'bout 'My Generation': Where is Class of 2000 now?

September 22, 2010 | By Sharon Jayson

The decade after high school graduation is filled with lots of dreams. Then real life sets in — and sometimes turns those plans upside down.

Such is the premise of the new ABC series My Generation, which revisits a group of classmates from Austin 10 years after their high school graduation in 2000. The documentary-style show imagines that a filmmaker who followed them just prior to graduation and recorded their hopes for the future is now back in their lives to see how things worked out.

"In some ways, what's good about revisiting these characters is it's the first real moment of adulthood," says My Generation writer/creator Noah Hawley, 42.

In the show, these 28-year-olds' plans for school, marriage, kids or life in general didn't quite happen the way they had envisioned.

And for real-life 28-year-olds, the same is often true. In one Baltimore-area Class of 2000, which was followed for 13 years by USA TODAY, two students got pregnant. One is almost $300,000 in debt from school. One moved back home for almost a year. One is a caregiver for an ill parent.

These Millennials (considered the oldest year of the generation sometimes called Generation Y) do exhibit a significant characteristic of their generation: an optimism for the future and ambition to make it happen, suggests historian and demographer Neil Howe, whose books on this age group include the most recent Millennials in the Workplace, published this year.

"Despite what the recession has done to them — and this is striking — they still have not given up. They have ambitious lifetime goals," he says.

"This generation remains strikingly optimistic long-term, and they believe in staying on a path with long-term goals, despite very high unemployment and a tough economy."

In 1987, USA TODAY began following 17 students in a kindergarten class at Swansfield Elementary School in Columbia, Md., who would be the Class of 2000 when they graduated from high school. Of the original 17, just eight were still in the area when we wrote about them in 2000. Now, we check back in with those we were able to contact to see what their lives are like at age 28:

Ashkan Dorri

He moved to California in third grade and lived in L.A. until last year. After a year in AmeriCorps and an MBA, he got a government job in information technology but was laid off last year. Then his dad had a stroke, and he moved to Reston, Va., to help out. "Sometimes things in life throw you on a different tangent. Those give you more character, and you learn from it. I'm optimistic something will happen."

Chanelle Matthews

She still wants to teach, but a degenerative eye disorder forced her to quit community college for a corneal transplant. She has a 2-year-old son and has worked full time for the past decade as a telecom coordinator in Columbia, Md. She also takes a full-time load of classes online. "I have the same expectations I had," she says. "I thought I'd go on to a four-year university. I had minor setbacks, but I'm still trying."

Chad Jensen

After graduating from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, he planned to be a pediatrician, then a pilot, but 9/11 changed that. He'll finish dental school in May 2012. "I'll be over $300,000 in debt," he says. He got married in 2006 and lives in Pittsburgh with his wife and 4-month-old son. "I wish I was a little bit further along in my schooling, but life is a journey."

Marissa Schwartz

She studied psychology at High Point (N.C.) University but got pregnant sophomore year and put school on hold. She lives in Plantation, Fla., near the father of her two daughters, 8 and 6. She'll finish studies in August to be a dental hygienist and is working on a bachelor's. "I thought life was going to be different, but I'm more mature because I had to grow up."

Dave Earley

A psychology grad from Salisbury University, he moved back with his parents from November 2004 to October 2005. He lives in Essex, Md., and started his current job in clinical research in 2005. He's getting married Saturday. "In a lot of ways, I am definitely where I thought I would be at 28," he says.

Matt McCathorine

A graduate of the University of Maryland in College Park, he is now an engineer, as planned. Five years ago, he bought a house in Owings Mills, Md. "I'm kind of in a position where I feel like I have all these grown-up responsibilities at work and I own a home, and still I'm a single guy in between the being-married-with-kids life and the college life," he says. "When you're young, you think 28 is old. But once you get to 28, you realize you're not old. You're young," he says.

Where are you?

Class of 2000 members Lorrie Crizer and Paul Sutusky could not be reached for an update.


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