By SARA ARTHURS
When area high school students get their yearbooks this fall, they’ll be seeing a year’s worth of work by many of their classmates.
Most schools’ yearbooks are produced by students who enroll in a class to learn how it’s done. Area students say they learn design and time-management skills, and enjoy getting to be a part of making a keepsake that their classmates will treasure in the long term.
Lisa Musselman, this year’s yearbook editor at Liberty-Benton High School, said she likes feeling like she is contributing to something people will use to look back at their high school career.
“You are triggering their memory,” she said.
She said the yearbook is very much designed and edited by students, who get to make the decisions.
Van Buren High School student Brooke Klausing, in her first year on yearbook staff, said she thought it would be fun to create something students would have forever.
“I learned how to become more creative,” she said.
Paige Schmelzer, also in her first year on yearbook at Van Buren, wants to pursue an art career such as interior design or graphic design, and she thought being on yearbook staff would be good for her resume. She said it’s been fun although the computer program can be “frustrating.”
Alexis Youngpeter said taking pictures was a lot of work but a lot of fun, and a “really good experience.”
Musselman joined Liberty-Benton’s yearbook staff as a junior, in part because she liked working with computers. She said it’s been enjoyable although there are challenges, such as when yearbooks are printed only to realize there’s an error. But she particularly likes the time when yearbooks are distributed and students are looking through them and getting excited. Yearbook adviser Rich LaFontaine said the feedback is always positive.
LaFontaine said he has seen how technology has changed the way yearbooks are designed in his 14 years as a yearbook adviser. When he started, the staff used computers but mailed the finished pages to a company in Tennessee to be printed. The yearbook was black and white until 2007, when Liberty-Benton had its first color yearbook.
Findlay High School’s yearbook is edited entirely digitally, said adviser Ruth Rinker. Occasionally seniors will turn in photographs but they are encouraged to send them digitally as otherwise it is “very time-consuming,” Rinker said. The yearbooks are designed with an online program so students can log into it from home.
Since Findlay High School is in its 50th year at its current location, the yearbook staff is creating a special 50-year edition, Rinker said.
Morgan Hinshaw, the yearbook’s editor, said she enjoys that she gets to have an influence on the school “and what we remember,” as well as having the opportunity to see many activities and take pictures.
Rinker said the goal is to make sure all students are included and the philosophy is that “it’s a historical piece, not a scrapbook.”
Rinker selects staff in the spring. The yearbook class has a curriculum like any other and students receive a grade. Findlay High School offers yearbook classes at the 100, 200 and 300 levels, and students can take all three years.
Rinker said this year’s final exam involved critiquing the current year’s book. Before school ended, the students were working on the theme for next year.
Students meet in the summer for a yearbook workshop where they discuss soliciting ads. The ads, Rinker said, help keep the cost of the book down. But selling them can be a challenge since, although there are many businesses in Findlay, there are a lot of organizations competing for their support.
Student Katie Hyre is the business editor for Liberty-Benton’s yearbook. The job involved contacting every business the yearbook had sold ads to in the past at the beginning of the school year, and keeping track of all the information on an Excel spreadsheet.
“It’s a challenge at first but it pays off in the end,” Hyre said.
Students change what is featured in the yearbook from year to year. Musselman said after looking at past years they decided to add a fine arts page this year.
LaFontaine said mostly students take the photographs although a Liberty-Benton parent who is a photographer shares her pictures of sports events.
Liberty-Benton High School principal Brenda Frankart, herself on yearbook staff when she was a high school student, said it is “such a tradition” to capture school life.
One challenge yearbook staffs find is that they need to get pictures of every event at the school. LaFontaine said sometimes students will realize there’s an event that they didn’t photograph.
At Van Buren High School, student Jennifer Irving said the hardest part has been to remember to get information right away so she knows what is going on in a particular picture.
This year’s Van Buren yearbook staff was comprised entirely of juniors. Adviser Brian Bratt said the class starts with learning the basics but he feels the best way to learn is by doing. The first pages “weren’t perfect” when it came to design but students learned from them.
“I definitely see improvement in the writing,” Bratt said.
He said a particular problem is that students will editorialize and insert their own opinions. He’ll tell them to just give the facts.
Not every student who wants to be on the yearbook staff gets in. At Liberty-Benton, LaFontaine said each February students apply and he chooses staff members based on teacher recommendations of student reliability as well as experience with PhotoShop or “an eye for design.” This year’s staff numbered 17, mostly seniors, but LaFontaine said usually it’s about a two-to-one ratio of seniors to juniors. He only occasionally has sophomores in yearbook but will have some next year.
Musselman said the yearbook is “really a team effort,” relying on a variety of skills and abilities.
“Everyone contributes,” she said.
LaFontaine said the students are dedicated. Before the end of the school year, seniors who had already finished their exams, with nothing left to do at school but graduate, came in on their own time to make sure pages were finished, he said.
Findlay High School students also are busy on their own time, touching base with Rinker in the summer before being expected to “hit the floor running” in the fall. There’s also the opportunity to attend a summer yearbook camp in Tiffin, or a half-day workshop in September where students learn about photography and design.
Rinker sees her students learn a lot over the course of the year, including how to budget their time.
She said they also gain artistic and design skills and learn to improve their spelling and grammar. Students also learn business sense with selling ads and try to get the yearbook to come out in the black.
Most pictures are submitted in December for Findlay’s book, which is 256 pages. These pictures include all fall sports, student and staff portraits, academic and organization pictures. The staff tries to have winter sports and more academic and organization photos done by March 15, with spring sports, prom, awards and scholarships, musicals and graduation photos later in the year.
Rinker said the goal is to have the book done by the end of the school year but it generally carries over into June.
“We’re never really done,” she said.
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