top of page

Inclusion and Belonging: Who Are You Leaving Out?

Almost every school has multiple cultures and subcultures, whether they involve race and ethnicity, gender identity, socio-economic status, religion, sexual orientation, special needs, and/or language preferences.

While creating your yearbook, ask yourself: Does this yearbook leave out any of these cultures — and the students within them — by intention or neglect?

The fact that most schools today are educating a more multicultural student body means that each classroom and campus can become a place of peaceful coexistence and respectful interaction, or a hotbed of conflict and distrust.

Making space for everyone requires a willingness to both listen and make time to discover. It has been suggested that the anger currently expressed in American society is due to the fear of making room for the ‘other,’ as if more for them must mean less for me.

Perhaps we are being idealistic about education, whether public or private, but it seems that we can do something to combat this mindset. One of our main purposes as educators is to help our students become better adults and better citizens by teaching them about different cultures and how other people live, and by showing them how to live and work alongside others. We not only help our students ​​establish values ​​and beliefs, but also show them how to recognize and value differences of opinion. Thus, we are able to shape a better society for ourselves by knowing and respecting other people, including those who are not like us.

We all want to belong. Psychologist Abraham Maslow reckoned that belonging needs to be satisfied before a person can be fulfilled. Belonging is an intense part of the formation of a young person on their journey to adulthood. With this in mind, when our yearbooks are pulled down from the shelf ten years from now, we all want to believe that we belonged, that we mattered.

So, across these complex considerations, yearbook staffs have to — as wisely as they can — create a yearbook that is a visible representation of making space for each other, about discovering the unknown and the other, and create a place where — at least between the yearbook covers — there is no distinction among populations.’re not just creating a better yearbook, you might actually be changing someone’s life.

It’s hard to do inclusion and diversity well, and it’s impossible to do it perfectly. But we have some suggestions for doing it better:

● Some schools have rules requiring that each student has a minimum number of appearances within the yearbook (perhaps three; one portrait and two others). The more-involved students will no doubt exceed that number, but no one should drop below it.

● Increase the diversity within your yearbook staff. If you are recruiting students for next year’s staff, take the time to seek out atypical students. That may feel risky, yes, but the rewards will be great. Not only will you gain access to some underrepresented groups, but seeing such underrepresentation embodied may also enlighten your entire staff.

● There will inevitably be some faculty members who are officially or unofficially involved with various ‘subgroups.’ Seek these people out and ask them, “Has the yearbook been representing your students well? How can we do better?”

● Some students are not involved in any school activities (for a variety of reasons), so if you only focus your book on official activities, then you’re going to miss those people. So, send your staff out to do “student-in-the-hallway” interviews or quick-question features, and focus on reaching those students who would not otherwise be involved in activities.

● Some advisors have forbidden students from working on activities involving their friends. That may make some of your students uncomfortable and put them in unfamiliar situations. However, isn’t that discomfort a necessary part of our educational process? Don’t be afraid to broaden the horizons of your students.

Research has shown that students are less likely to drop out when they feel connected to their school, and one way of feeling connected is by being represented well in the yearbook. So, you’re not just creating a better yearbook, you might actually be changing someone’s life.

If none of these arguments are convincing, then consider the bottom line: Students (and their parents) are more likely to buy a yearbook that represents them well. is a celebration of the diversity of God’s world.

This is an intentional process — it won’t happen by itself. It is also a sensitive process, as it may force some of your students out of their comfort zones (since most people feel safer with what’s already familiar to them). However, this is not meant to be uncomfortable. Rather, it is a celebration of the diversity of God’s world. But the advisor must lead and model the mindfulness that is necessary for the students to take this seriously.

The idea of a yearbook truly being for all students is a very big idea indeed. There is inevitably a social hierarchy at every school, but this hierarchy doesn’t have to be reflected in your yearbook.

United Yearbook offers resources, curriculum, and on-site workshops on this and other topics. To learn more, contact us at or visit our website at


Dr. John Tuttle, Curriculum Specialist & Lecturer

Dr. John Tuttle is a lecturer for UYB’s in-class workshops, and also works with curriculum development, podcasts, and blog posts. He holds an M.A. in Philosophy of Religion and a Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration from Biola University, where for ten years he was Director of Student Communications. For several years, Dr. Tuttle has also worked as an adjunct faculty member within Biola’s “great books” program.


bottom of page