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Giving Back

A go

This season of “giving" is the perfect opportunity to highlight the school’s unique generosity. Focus a series of page spreads on how individuals, groups of friends, organizations and school systems give back to the school and its community. On any given day, campuses across the country host food drives and peer mentoring programs. The hearts of students are quite large, and they respond with generosity. Documenting their giving nature is vital as it reflects their increasing maturity and the value of their efforts. As a bonus, community service hours are accomplished, and student volunteerism surges.

The high school where I worked as the Yearbook Adviser had the typical community service program. It began in freshman year and continued to graduation, with levels of opportunity to serve the community building as the students immersed themselves in their community. Service hours were required at each grade level, but cultivating a richer investment beyond the minimum was encouraged. Our school’s annual student awards and scholarship program highlighted students who created a profound individual expression of giving back. Our school’s culture was steeped in the ideal of doing for others. Our yearbook team learned how to transfer that dedication to the pages of the book. 

It took thoughtful class conversations about what and how to spotlight this attitude of giving back. Full spreads continued to be devoted to the traditional school-wide and community partnerships. The student body had a house system that supported specific families and their Christmas lists per house. The gift-wrapping sessions and packing up of the vans made for amazing photo opportunities. It also provided an opportunity to collect quotes from individual students who personally supported the work. The Spring carnival festivities were an annual event which paired freshmen volunteers with a local facility that served families with children who had special needs. This was another example of a tradition that deserved its own spread with photos, quotes and body copy that retold the story of the enduring partnership between the school and the community organization. It was the task of the yearbook staff to realize the types and definitions of the giving culture within the school. Here are some of the ideas the various staff implemented:

Senior Class 

The Senior Class held a special, unified purpose throughout the school year. Their supreme effort focused on the Senior Gift. A page spread in the Senior Section recounted the process and excellent final results of their united effort.


Clubs are great ways students find like-minded people on campus. The interests that brought students together on our campus varied from year to year to some degree–but the reasons never did. Clubs are the best time to socialize and engage in the interests that bring them together–ping pong, My Little Pony, LOTR, etc. There are times when clubs unite to give back through competitions, workshops, Open Houses or by visiting elementary or middle schools to share their interests. These make great additions to student organization sections in the yearbook.


Many times throughout a season, teams are invested in charitable giving or in support of an individual or family enduring a hardship. Two examples from our school: Girls Volleyball dedicated one of their games as an annual Breast Cancer Awareness game. The gym and the team were flooded in pink. Our Cheer team hosted an annual Cheer Clinic For Kids wherein local elementary-aged children were invited to the campus to learn a routine to perform at a game. Simple uniforms–usually a t-shirt and party shop pom poms–were provided. The elementary children were provided an opportunity to envision themselves in high school, hopefully deepening a connection and commitment to their education. A sports team mentoring program with which our baseball team participated was Baseball Buddies. Our school went beyond the donation of new and used baseball equipment for children in impoverished situations. Team members were paired with children to coach them in playing the game. All of these ventures to give back enriched the team’s page spread. Photos and pulled quotes from these events are effective to tell the complete story of a team’s camaraderie, friendship and unity. 

Honor Societies

Honor Societies, including National Art Honor Society and International Thespian Society, have community outreach as a pillar of their treatise. In the case of National Honor Society or National Beta Club, a member might offer to tutor peers or students in middle or elementary school. The National Art Honor Society at our school worked on several group outreach projects. One project included developing a large school history of the valley mural with community members who were served by a facility that meets their special requirements. Again, highlighting the community outreach services provides a fuller picture of what was important during their participation with the organization.


Teachers will often “up the ante” of a learning activity or project by inviting an aspect of community outreach or mentorship using documentation of the experience to receive credit. This employs both Benjamin Franklin's “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember, involve and I learn,” and Aristotle’s “ Those who know, do. Those who understand, teach.” These truisms remain, and when implemented into a learning activity or project they not only deeply root the intention of the instruction, but make for good yearbook photographs and copy. One year an art teacher arranged kindergarten buddies for her intro art class’s history of art assignment. The academic challenge was to create an illustrated book at an elementary reading level about an American artist. The kinds of books that resulted were amazing, and the time spent with kindergarten students in reading circles in their gym was truly fun! Lots of photographs and pulled quotes were captured. The academic section benefited from this expanded content. 

Grassroots Partnerships

There are grassroots organizations that inspire participation. That inspiration can come from anywhere or anyone at any time. One such inspiration was our ceramics department’s participation with Empty Bowls. Faculty, students, and those from the community interested in learning about pottery joined forces to create enough bowls throughout the entire school year to support an Empty Bowls event at our winter festival. Soup was sold at the festival in styrofoam cups. With Empty Bowls as our inspiration, we sold the bowls, too! The funds raised from the sales of the bowls went to a local community kitchen. Again, people working together in support of a cause is great content for the yearbook.

Individuals who volunteer–get their stories!

Volunteers do not usually blow their own horns. Getting their stories is key! Create a campaign centered on finding those individuals. During the pandemic, we created a page spread about the creative ways students responded to the needs of their community. Social media helped us find these students so their stories could be highlighted. One student began shopping and delivering for elders in her neighborhood before those services were even a thing! Another student figured out 3D medical face shields and started printing them for local medical facilities to try to mitigate shortages! Positivity in life within page spreads brought messages of hope during a very challenging time. Who knows what other stories could be told now–Prom Dress Exchanges, unpaid work internships, or a Zero Waste Week Challenge!

Identifying Those Who Give Right Where You Are–On Campus!

Look to those who serve in often thankless positions on campus and lift them up through page spreads that tell their stories. It's important to have those “thank-a-teacher" spreads. (I’d like to see those with something for every teacher inserted throughout the book!!) But there are so many other people who help keep schools afloat. The support staff is vital to the complete story of a school. Doing them justice with a giving-back spread with quotes and stories as well as formal and candid photographs sends the message that they are valued and their contributions are not forgotten. The students who create the event that documents these essential workers benefit, too. Nothing can replace the feeling of lifting up others in genuine and sincere regard. It can change you.

United Yearbook also joins in the spirit of giving. We offer resources to complement your instruction and enrich your yearbook staff’s learning. Our Curriculum & Resources instructional guides provide presentations with varied sets of resources for use with your staff. We also tailor Workshop Sessions for any topic from learning the PLIC Books software platform to writing captions, Building Teams, Leveling Up Photography Skills, and Developing Layout and Composition Design Skills. Contact us. Let’s give together.

Former yearbook advisor, Lucy McHugh

Contributor: Lucy McHugh comes to United Yearbook Printing from a 39-year career in public and private school education. She was a former visual art teacher and yearbook adviser. She received a Bachelors of Science in Art from Columbia College in Columbia, SC, a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Nebraska in 2000, and in 2014 earned a Certificate in Catholic School Leadership from Loyola Marymount University. Lucy enjoys her family, making art and gardening.

Editor, Donna Ladner

Editor: Donna Ladner obtained a B.A. in Education and a minor in English from California Baptist University, and a M.S. in ESL from USC, Los Angeles. After she married Daniel, their family moved to Indonesia with a non-profit organization and lived cross-culturally for 15 years before returning to the U.S in 2012. Donna has been working as an editor and proofreader for TSE Worldwide Press and its subsidiary, United Yearbook since 2015.

Yearbook representative, Jessica Carrera

Co-Editor: Jessica Carrera, Marketing Manager for United Yearbook and Associate Editor at TSE Worldwide Press, holds a B.A. in English with a concentration in writing from Biola University. She aspires to touch the lives of others through her words.

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