Everyone should receive fair and proportionate coverage, except when it comes to the Senior Class.
A fundamental principle of United Yearbook is to produce yearbooks that are representative of a school’s entire population, inclusive of students from every group and subculture on campus: staff, faculty, and administration at every level of involvement. Everyone should receive fair and proportionate coverage, except when it comes to the Senior Class.
For many schools and student populations, the reason some customers purchase the yearbook is for the Senior Section. Not to mention the hard work that the senior class has put in for the past four years. That is why it is a top priority to prepare the Senior Section with excellence. They receive extra attention: big portraits often portrayed at the front of the yearbook, special features such as “baby photos,“ “senior quotes,” “seniors’ favorite music,” “who has best eyes,” “most athletic,” “most likely to get an oscar,” “best smile,” “most likely to succeed,” and more.
Planning and Preparing
To produce a successful Senior Section, you must begin early in the year. Gather all of the staff and discuss why the Senior Section is important. Have everyone give their input, no matter how vocal or quiet a staff member may be, and make sure each grade level is represented (if possible). Next, select the seniors willing and eager to work on the section. Determine these two priorities: 1). Do not delay. From the beginning of the year, the senior staff will gather information and develop ideas for page spreads, quotes, interviews, and photo layouts. 2). Keep communication flowing and effective. Involve parents and inform them of significant dates. The Senior Section should be wrapping up and near completion by February, which will leave the seniors in charge feeling less pressured and harried.
Senior Section Features
Think about Key Events. It is impossible to include all the personal, one-on-one experiences of seniors, but you can zero in on specific ones. If there is a Senior Experience the school sponsors, include this in a page spread that captures the fondness of the friendships between seniors, community spirit, and a photo of a representation of future hope, like a sunrise, or rainbow.
Consider a “Then and Now” timeline using images and captions that tell the story of who the seniors were as freshmen and who they are becoming as seniors.
Add in another page spread of seniors willing to share personal growth over the four years of high school. These become unique when photographs from friends and family are collected and included with brief interviews in the captions. Let the staff have the freedom to organize the Senior Section in their creative way, while encouraging them to stay true to fluidity, with a comprehensive story throughout.
The Traditional One! Who doesn’t like the baby pictures section? This tradition can be challenging, for it depends heavily on parental cooperation! You will need your senior staff to be proactive and unrelenting in getting the families involved to promptly provide the photos and messages. You have two ways to prepare this section: 1) as a regular feature with a portrait-style layout open to anyone who submits a picture, or 2) as a way to fund-raise: a “senior ad” where parents purchase a spot on the page for their child’s baby picture and a few comments. This 2nd option may limit some from participating for financial reasons. The other factor is collecting the funds from the parents.
Another key portion of the Senior Section is What is Next? Present the places students will be going after graduation: Display the University or College banner or logo of seniors; Show off the scholarship acceptance letters; Include the places a senior may be traveling after graduation; highlight a job a senior has accepted after graduation, etc.
Inevitably, senior staff will request “Senior Quotes” be included. Before you let the senior staff free to gather quotes, gather the senior staff, the administration, and the yearbook adviser to meet and determine a standard protocol - who was going to collect the quotes, what constitutes a quote, how they were to collect the quotes, who was to review them for appropriateness. Students gather them first, then pass them to the administration for review and approval, and the adviser listens, advises, and nods their head, yes or no.
End your Senior Section with THE MOSTS - THE SUPERLATIVES. Seniors love this section because they have an open creative outlet to expand the topics of “the most……” Have all of the senior staff participate by dividing into groups and creating a long list of options for “the most….” The objective is to be as inclusive as possible and to have as many pages as necessary to meet the goal of inclusivity. Once “the mosts…” are narrowed down, share the list with the administration, and go back and forth, until all agree upon a healthy list. Send your troops out to gather nominations, collect the votes, and get the photographs of the winners.
Final Thoughts on Senior Sections
About this time, your senior section should be coming together. As for most things in life, be prepared and remain open for the unexpected in the Senior Section. Hopefully, there are no difficult changes, but always be ready to adjust. Some final thoughts:
Trust your students. Release control, but remain vigilant in your deadline expectations. Bring together the team of your staff and administration to work out problem areas. You will be proud of the results.
Be flexible and receptive. Students usually have the best of intentions, with ideas to match. Allow the staff to brainstorm solutions to problems and make workarounds, or pivot, quickly. It is a lesson in team unity and how to think outside the box.
Create solid partnerships between students, the administration, other teachers, staff, coaches, families, and community businesses. These partnerships will determine the success of the yearbook, and it will be an experience the student staff will never forget. The lessons and skills learned look great on a resume!
Thank you for allowing me to share my experience. United Yearbook offers resources, curriculum, and on-site workshops on this topic and others. Contact info@UnitedYearbookPrinting.com or visit our website at www.unitedyearbook.net to find out more.
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 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.