Combining the elements of a yearbook

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Peoples editor senior Taylor Hyppolite creates computer labels for each staffer. Since each staffer has what he or she needs for the page saved on a different desktop, each computer is essentially designated to a specific person. (Photo/Paula Mitre)

A yearbook is more than a compilation of high school memories; it’s a keepsake and a history book. Deep into the future, a yearbook serves as the only window into a year’s high school memories. Although the average student might not remember this, the yearbook staff keeps all this in mind when creating every page.

This year, the yearbook spans across 412 pages. However, to get from mere ideas to completed spreads, the staff begins brainstorming theme ideas as early as March of the preceding year. Headed by the current Spotlight yearbook editors-in-chief, seniors Dalya Ackerman and Emily Irigoyen, in correlation with the assistant editor-in-chief, senior Olivia Lloyd, the 2018-2019 staff worked together to bring the theme of “elements” to life.

After deciding on a theme and staff positions for the following year, the editors make a ladder — a list of the contents of each page — and begin assigning certain spreads and pages to each staffer.

After receiving the corresponding information for the varsity basketball page, sports editor senior Alex Becker tries to finish laying out a sports page. Before staffers can lay out pages, they must wait for students to respond to their questions and be prepared to insert the information quickly. (Photo/Paula Mitre)

Junior Erin Bryan, the current reference editor and one of next year’s editors-in-chief, joined the yearbook staff last year. Bryan did the entirety of this year’s club reference section, which includes every club and sports team roster, game scores and group photos.

“The yearbook isn’t just filling in photos and captions,” Bryan said. “There’s an underlying theme behind it, and the editors in chief care so much about it and so much about relating the book to the people in it. They’re truly the soul behind it, and I wish people know not just how much work went into putting it together, but also the heart and thought and emotion.”

As the staff celebrates completing their last deadline, senior Dalya Ackerman reflects back on the year and the challenges the staff overcame to combine the “elements” necessary for a yearbook. (Photo/Paula Mitre)

Each page conveys a different story. Whether it requires acquiring student photos, going out to take photos of student life, interviewing students, writing captions or adding creative layout elements, every staffer collects information from a different aspect of student life. Junior Paula Mitre joined yearbook her sophomore year after taking journalism freshman year, and currently acts as photo editor and index editor. She will be co-editor-in-chief alongside Bryan next year.

“Being in yearbook has taught me how to talk to people. I’ve never been shy, but being in yearbook has definitely pushed me to lose that fear of talking to people,” Mitre said. “I used to get kind of embarrassed to go and take pictures or ask for quotes in places where I wasn’t super comfortable, but now, I’ve kind of lost that mentality, and it’s become a lot easier.”

Other than the given fifth period class time, Ackerman said that as an editor, she spent at least 10 to 15 hours working on the yearbook over the last month of summer, as well as about three hours a week.

When she joined the yearbook staff freshman year, Ackerman strived for Spotlight to win a Gold Crown award, one of the highest achievements a high school yearbook can earn, but now she quantifies the success of the yearbook in other ways.

“I guess since I’m a senior, it’s become really important to me that everyone likes the yearbook. Right now, my goal is to get as few complaints from the senior class as possible,” Ackerman said. “That’s what drives me in yearbook. In newspaper, everybody sees your work [after] every month, and it’s immediate, but 50 years from now somebody can be sitting with their kids looking at their yearbook, and that’ll be my work and my product, and I want people to have a strong memory of high school.”

Beyond the goal of creating a final physical product, the yearbook staff also has a unique family-like bond.

“I love my staff so much. I can’t even begin to describe how much I love my staff. This year was a breeze just because they were so amazing,” Ackerman said. “Everyone brought something to the table.”

New staffer freshman Elizabeth Zhu has always wanted to join yearbook, but, after a discouraging experience in middle school, lost faith in the publication until coming to Heritage. “Being in yearbook has helped me overcome my fears of being shy, because even though I’m outgoing around my friend group, I’m really shy when it comes to talking to people I don’t know,” Zhu said. (Photo/Paula Mitre)

For Valentine’s Day, Ackerman, Irigoyen and Lloyd handed out roses to each staffer and told them why they were grateful for them.

“I walked in expecting to hate [yearbook] and just get through it by sheer willpower, but [the staff] all proved me wrong by showing me so much love and compassion and how fulfilling journalism can be,” Bryan said. “It’s cliché, but I know they’ll always be there for me.”

The family bond comes in handy when deadline rolls around. In order to have the yearbook before the seniors’ last day, the staff has to meet a total of five major deadlines, and each staffer has to complete anywhere from one to eight spreads per deadline. Before these pages are sent to the publisher, however, they must go through the editors-in-chief, section editors, advisers and an outside editor.

“When you’re working all the time, and you’re eating lunch in there and you’re coming down to deadline, everybody sees each other at their worst, but also at their best,” Ackerman said. “It definitely is a lot of work, and everybody, not just the editors, is putting in a lot of work and a lot of time, but you get so much out of it. Ms. Adams is like a second mother to all of us, and we got close to Mrs. Hendricks and Ms. Molina, our other advisers, as well.”

Rather than flipping through all the yearbook pages you aren’t on this year, try to take a few seconds to genuinely read through and appreciate all the hard work the 16 yearbook staffers dedicated much of their high school lives to. Or, as Ackerman encouraged, join yearbook next year.

Junior Erin Bryan pauses from working on her spread to think about what else she has to finish before the next deadline. (Photo/Paula Mitre)

Joanne is a junior at American Heritage School in Plantation, Fla. Although this is only her second year on the newspaper staff, her passion for journalism is a crucial part of her life. In addition to constantly advertising iPatriot, Joanne is also a member of Quill and Scroll and Key Club and serves as treasurer of the English Honor Society, secretary of the Chinese Honor Society and secretary and historian for the Mu Alpha Theta math team. While she does consider herself quite the math nerd, in her free time she enjoys listening to music or learning how to improve her photography.

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