It’s the week before finals, and the only thing left on your mind is finishing the school year. As you’re walking through the foyer, you see people grabbing copies of the latest Islander, so you excitedly make your way towards the table in front of the office and get your own copy.
You might skim the pages looking for pictures of yourself or read a few of the sidebars in your grade section. When you get home that day, you might spend 45 minutes or an hour reading through the interesting parts of the book and then put it away on a shelf for a few years. But have you ever thought about how much work goes into making the nearly 500 page book?
According to this year’s editors Erika Dinsmore and Shreya Suresh, the first step in making an award-winning yearbook is having a good team. That doesn’t happen instantly. From the first day of school, 21 strangers walk into a classroom and are asked to put together an entire publication. This takes collaboration to a whole new level.
The first month is dedicated to getting to know each other and bonding as a staff that’s really more like a family. The group has several long-lived traditions – the first is sleepovers. For several years, the Islander has set up an overnight work session in the media lab. The staffers order food, play music and get work done before the sun comes up. They also have simpler traditions, like asking an attendance question every day before starting work. People really get to know each other through answers to questions such as: “Would you rather have a dragon or be a dragon?”
“Yearbook is like this huge family that is always there for you,” co-editor in chief Shreya Suresh said. “And it’s amazing to have a place where you can be 100% yourself, and everyone will embrace your quirks and feel up when you’re up and be there for you when you’re down. I never feel alone because I have my Islanders by my side.”
But it’s not all fun and games. There’s a lot of work to do as a new staffer on the Islander. The class holds several mini lessons throughout the year on things like photography, Photoshop, InDesign, yearbook layout basics and more. Joining the yearbook requires you to learn a new language of computer shortcuts and applications.
“At first it was really scary, seeing all the past yearbooks, how professional they looked, and knowing that I was expected to meet those standards freaked me out,” new staffer Emma Wirt commented. “But now, thanks to all the help and guidance I’ve got from all the old staffers, I feel more comfortable with my work and know that I can always ask for help when I need it.”
Once the newbies get the hang of it, the yearbook train picks up speed.
“We basically start making the book from day one,” said senior Mark Schoen, the Islander’s Photo and Design Editor. “Right away we’re designing the book’s dimensions, margins, gutters, and layouts. We have the theme of the book picked out by the second week of school.”
The pace of work only picks up from there. Yearbook is a class – an hour and a half two to three times a week – and it still isn’t enough time. Some of the students can spend nearly five extra hours a week before and after school working on the yearbook.
“First semester I spent most of my extra time in that class,” Sports Editor Kirsten Reinhart said. “If I had to guess, probably around three to four hours every other day, plus all my flex time. For the first three months all I did was yearbook.”
Some students go to extreme lengths to get work done on time.
“One Monday after school I remember all of us had stayed after from 3 p.m.-7 p.m. and I still had a bunch of work to do. So I asked Ms. Worley if I could come in the next morning super early. She called security and told them I would be in at 4:00 a.m. The next day the security guards walked me into the dark media lab and I sat down and worked till 8:30 a.m. on a Tuesday morning. Second semester hasn’t really gone into full gear yet and I have already spent nine hours on one day.”
In fact, on Saturday, Jan. 16, all 21 of this year’s staff members came back to finish the work from first semester. The media lab was open from 9 a.m to midnight, and every staff member stayed for at least eight hours.
In case it’s not already clear, making a yearbook is not an easy feat. It involves a lot of collaboration with students, faculty, and staff – sometimes with people who are not easy to collaborate with. When staffers write a publication that needs quotes, pictures, and stories, it’s necessary to have people who are willing to cooperate. But yearbook students say most emails go unanswered, surveys go without responses, and photos become subjectless.
Despite the hard work and struggles that they face, the staffers keep coming back for more. Between the 2013-14 year and the 2014-15 year, there was a 100% return rate of the Islanders who stayed enrolled in the class if they were still at SAS. The Islander continues to win numerous awards and accolades. Last year’s book, “Degrees,” won the All-American, which is the highest title a yearbook can achieve from the National Scholastic Press Association.
“It’s not about winning awards, although the awards are nice,” yearbook adviser Robin Worley said. “It’s about putting together the best possible book to record the story of the year.”