AP’s Regina Garcia Cano took a deep dive into the “squeegee kids” – a fixture at intersections across Baltimore – as a lens to examine the complicated issues of race, inequality, poverty and crime in the city post-Freddie Gray.

Reporter Regina Garcia Cano saw Baltimore’s “squeegee kids” at intersections all over the city - predominantly black young men who wash windshields for tips as an way to make money instead of turning to drugs, crime and gangs. 

She used data as one entry into the story, reviewing the figures related to reports on the practice – which is technically illegal though widely practiced. Through her reporting, she found one squeegee kid in particular who was willing to open up about the daily grind at the intersections and how it helped him support his family. Working with her Baltimore colleague, photographer Julio Cortez, she used that young man, Nathaniel Silas, to tell the story - and the risks the kids face as they race the stoplight’s clock. 

Garcia Cano took what could have been a dense, pro forma story on complaints about the squeegee kids and turned it into a layered piece about inequality in post-Freddie Gray Baltimore. The timing was perfect, as a way for AP to mark the end of 2020’s Black History Month. 

The story won wide play around the internet on sites including U.S. NewsYahooThe Seattle Times, (Minneapolis) Star TribuneHouston Chronicle and ABC. Newspapers ranging from Akron to Salt Lake City used it in print editions – impressive considering that the Democratic presidential primary was dominating the headlines.

For her keen eye, and a deft hand, on a complicated topic that would have most likely gone overlooked, Garcia Cano wins this week’s Best of the States award.