State championships. Class quotes. That snapshot of you and your best friend that takes you back to a time you’ll never forget. A school yearbook is a timeless link to those special and fleeting moments. A yearbook is something most of us keep forever. Thumbing through them is like opening a time capsule. But, have you ever stopped to think about how the yearbook is created?
In a second floor classroom in Perkins Hall, a group of nine students pours their hearts and souls into creating a 300-page account of the 2019-2020 Episcopal experience. (Only nine students!) Yearbook advisor Dianne Madden’s room has everything you’d expect from a creative space – low lighting, ideas and photos pinned to the walls, art and design books, and students huddled in front of computers expertly manipulating Photoshop. The vibe in the space is surprisingly relaxed given the work being done inside. There is a sense of focus and enthusiasm. The room is abuzz with creativity.
This year’s editors, Grace Cullens and Emily Culler, are at ease discussing the creative process.The two are confident and have clearly found their Episcopal niche. “I love designing,” says Cullens. “I love Photoshop and taking photos.” “I like to get involved with school,” says Culler. “I have a passion for photography.”
Like an athletic team, yearbook staffers huddle every Monday morning to plan for the upcoming week. The group goes over events and photo assignments to ensure that each Episcopal memory is captured. In addition, each student has a story to tell, whether it’s a spread featuring the soccer team or an update on Middle School robotics. The group divides the assignments based on interest and then they go to work. While the yearbook spreads are presented from nine different perspectives, the students work together to meld their stories into an overall theme. In the end, the memento is cohesive and celebrates the Episcopal spirit at that moment in time.
Yearbook staffers eat, sleep and breathe the yearbook. They meet three times a week, during lunch and even on the weekends if necessary. In June, the students are on campus daily to complete this massive undertaking. Cullens remembers her mom calling to ask when she was coming home. Next year’s editor, Zoe Marceaux, remembers another specific moment. “On June 17th at 1 in the morning, Mason called and said it’s finished,” she recalls of the exact time that last year’s book was ready for print. Mason LaFerney ’19, who won the top individual award in the graphics/artwork category for the 2018/2019 yearbook design at the JEA/Tom Bell Silver Scribe Yearbook Contest, left his mark on this team. They are still inspired by the creativity he shared and they remain in touch with him even as he studies at Boston College.
Madden, the yearbook advisor, is like the proud mother of this yearbook family. As students generate ideas, she seeks to guide them through the process. She is there to ensure that the ideas and themes are relevant to the overall Episcopal community now and even 10 years from now. Madden sees the yearbook experience as one that affords students a range of life lessons. For example, as students work on senior spreads they must communicate with "clients" regarding the information. Students must also work as a team and they must "forage" for information such as quotes, facts and photos. There is an emphasis on practicing ethical journalism standards. All of these are real world skills that will be an asset to students long after graduation.
For those who love creating and sharing, the rewards of yearbook life are plentiful. There are the friendships that are created as a result of spending countless hours together. There are even impromptu dance parties to break up the stress of the long hours. “I love orientation day when people laugh and enjoy what we’ve created,” says Cullens. Culler says she enjoys knowing that today’s students may one day show their own children what the staff designed. For Madden, there is a great reward in seeing a student grow. She also enjoys introducing them to new concepts that can positively impact their design. “I want them to have an informed way of creating through exposure to art history and culture.”
If the editors could share one thing with their classmates, it would be – please stop saying it’s easy. In fact, creating this archive of Episcopal life is a tremendous task requiring commitment and discipline. “I would want people to know how much they’re really doing for the school,” says Madden. “I would want them to know what a service the students are providing.” Madden also encourages students to respond to yearbook staffers if they receive a request for information so that staff can meet the publisher's deadlines. The yearbook staff appreciate feedback from their classmates. Cullens and Culler encourage students to talk to them about their ideas and to let them know if they want to be included.
The next time you reach for your yearbook or think back to the good ole’ days, remember that there is a team of dedicated, passionate students who are working overtime to tell the tale of the Episcopal experience.
Thank you to the 2019/2020 yearbook staff:
Grace Cullens - editor
Emily Culler - editor
Zoe Marceaux - 2020/2021 editor
Callie Hardy (first semester)
Tanya Mencer (first semester)
KC Shimada - photographer
Savannah York - volunteer contributor