Sequoia Carrillo

It's that time of year again! Power up your smartphones and build your pillow forts, because we're about to open NPR's Student Podcast Challenge.

Who do you think of when you picture someone with tattoos? The answer is different for everyone.

Julian Fausto and Eric Guadarrama built a whole podcast around the question, deciding to look at the pros and cons of getting tattoos in "Teens and Ink." Julian is a senior at J. Sterling Morton East High School in Cicero, Ill., and Eric is a junior at Steinmetz College Prep in Chicago.

When Makiyah Hicks was young, her uncle, Jamal Hazel, was killed in her District Heights neighborhood in southwest Maryland. Her father lost a brother and her grandmother, Darlene Hazel, lost her youngest son.

Every year since, on her uncle's birthday, Makiyah and her family visit his grave.

Despite the traumatic loss, she says her family and community members mostly avoid conversations about gun violence.

Jamin Crow waited silently for the bull moose to turn and face him. In the cold, the teen stood in an open meadow, his gun resting on a branch. He waited and waited and waited.

Then the moose turned, and his brother started to yell, "Shoot!" If Crow didn't shoot, his brother would. So Crow took a deep breath and pulled the trigger.

"Your ears are ringing after the gunshot. And I look at my brother and he's giving me the happiest look I've ever seen," he says. "Everything is perfect at that moment ...You know you succeeded in what your goal is."

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

"How many people do you think take care of our campus?"

A chorus of young voices shout guesses from the Sayre School's playground in Lexington, Ky.

"15? 50? 20?"

From quarantining in dorms to staring at the screen in online classes — it was a wild year to be a college student. And, it turns out, it was a good year for us to welcome college students for the first time to the NPR Student Podcast Challenge.

Today we're announcing our favorites! From podcasts submitted from college students across the country, we've narrowed the list down to 10 finalists. You can read and listen to the full list here.

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.

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.