2015: Stories of American extremes

(CNN)You've heard of the American Dream. In 2015, CNN brought you tales of American extremes: From the town in Alaska where everyone lives in one building to the Virginia hamlet where cell phones are banned to one of the nation's richest places with children living in poverty. You might say these stories bring new meaning to the phrase "American exceptionalism."

It's home to Facebook and Apple -- and children living in garages and tent camps. CNN Opinion Columnist John D. Sutter journeyed to California to explore the dichotomy of Silicon Valley, where despite enormous wealth, 23% of children live in poverty. He met kids who'd never been to the rich part of the valley and two parents who worked full-time and were still homeless. He also offered four solutions for ending child poverty in America -- and traveled to places where these ideas have worked.
    Los Angeles' Skid Row is the undisputed homeless capital of the United States and just a short stroll from the power chambers of City Hall. It's also Officer Deon Joseph's beat -- and has been for 17 years. Months before the city declared an emergency on homelessness, CNN's Ann O'Neill went on patrol with Joseph to see the place through his eyes -- and meet some of the 2,000 people who call Skid Row home. These are faces you'll never forget.
    Can you imagine living in a town where cell phones and other wireless devices aren't allowed? Welcome to Green Bank, West Virginia. CNN's Wayne Drash and Evelio Contreras traveled to this town out of time, which one resident calls "the place where you can come to get away from the United States." This was part of Great American Stories, an occasional series on the unexpected places and unforgettable characters that help define the country.
    The folks in Whittier, Alaska, know what it means to live in close quarters. All 220 of them call the same building home. CNN's Moni Basu and Evelio Contreras ventured to a place where it snows 22 feet a year (more than 1,000 times the national average) and where the 14-story Begich Towers houses not only everyone in town but the school, hospital, city government, the pharmacy -- you name it. Cozy or claustrophobic? Depends whom you ask.