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Behind The Pages: How To Build The Yearbook

It’s Founders Day and your teacher has just handed out the yearbooks. The front cover is clean and it’s never been opened. The pages are crisp and smooth as you flip through the classes. Everyone is laughing and smiling and trying to find themselves among the hundreds of pictures. You go out to the quad […]

It’s Founders Day and your teacher has just handed out the yearbooks. The front cover is clean and it’s never been opened. The pages are crisp and smooth as you flip through the classes. Everyone is laughing and smiling and trying to find themselves among the hundreds of pictures. You go out to the quad to see friends running around trying to sign each other’s books, filling the pages with various messages from people they haven’t spoken to since freshman year. It’s feels good to look back on all of the accomplishments you and your classmates have made over the year.

But does anyone actually know how the yearbook becomes the heavy, memory-filled final product we all receive in May? Do you know how much work and dedication is put into organizing every single picture and word that goes into the book? Or about the process the little yearbook class goes through in order to create this beloved memento?

As a senior in her last semester of high school at CB and having collected three of these books so far, I was extremely curious as to how the handful of juniors and seniors manage to make the yearbook. Even though not much happens in the first few weeks of school, the beginning of the school year is crucial for the Advanced Journalism class and for the creation of the yearbook.

Honors American Literature teacher and instructor of Advanced Journalism class Ms. Chrys Cassetta stressed the importance of the ice breakers the class participates in in the beginning of the year.

“This is a group that has to get along really well together, because if they don’t, the book will suffer for it,” she said. “We spend about a week getting to know each other.”

Ms. Cassetta even told me a horror story from a class she had years ago that emphasized the need for teamwork.

“In room 601 we have banks of computers on the east side of the room and banks on the west side of the room and in the back. I guess I didn’t do a very good job of the getting-to-know-you part because the left side of the room hated the right side room and they were evil to one another. I thought I was going to just have a heart-attack — it was awful,” she admitted.

But she managed to turn her year with the nightmare class into a learning experience and finished her story on a very positive note.

“I’ve tried really hard since then to emphasize that they have to be able to get along, and this group that I have this year is fantastic,” she said. “They help each other and they’re really good.”

Moral of the story: working together is a crucial part of making the yearbook. After the pivotal ice breaker week, the team gets to work on the second most important part of the yearbook: the ladder, an outline of the overall layout of the book.

“[The yearbook is] organized in what are called signatures and we have the ladder, [which] is two big poster boards that I put on the wall,” Ms. Cassetta explained. You can see on this ladder and write in the various sections, like the opening section and then the senior section, the portrait section, the baby-picture section, and all the different sections.”

The ladder shows the exact order of each section and how much space each section gets.  Alex White (‘19) explained how difficult it is to organize each section.

“We had to redo it three times because we kept giving one [section] too many pages,” she said.

“I give [the students] the opportunity to switch [the order] up, maybe they want the sports in the beginning and not in the end, but they never change it,” Ms. Cassetta said.    

After the group figures out the format of the entire yearbook, the students choose the sections that they want to work on and design.

“We picked out [the top three sections] we wanted to be in charge of, and after we each get into a category, we choose our computers next to the person we are working with,” Alex said. “I am in charge with Spencer Lozano (‘19) [of] the sports section, so we set up all the templates for the sports.”

In order to design each page of the yearbook, the team uses templates that allow them to figure out the perfect place for each picture and each piece of text. During this part of the process, students can put many of their ideas into the book and let their creativity show in their work.

Alex said that the most fun part of the class is “creating the templates and having your classmates [say] ‘that looks really good’ and then you take a step back and [think] ‘wow I did that.’ It’s an accomplishment.”

Will Fuhrman (‘20) agreed with Alex and said said that he really enjoys “putting [his own] input on the pages and getting to create them how [he wants] them to look.”

Ms. Cassetta and Hannah Holtzman (‘19) both agreed that the most fun part is getting to see the the final book after months of hard work.

“When the book is all finished we have a big part and bring lots of food and stuff,” Ms. Cassetta said, and Hannah added that she loves “seeing all the ideas come together.”

While this class can be incredibly fun, putting together a book of pictures from every part of the school over the course of the year is challenging and stressful. One of the hardest parts is meeting the deadlines that are spread out throughout the year. A deadline requires that a specific amount of pages from any section be sent to the company that creates the book for approval.

“Every time a deadline comes up, it gets really tense in the classroom,” Alex said. “Everyone’s quiet because they’re focused on what they’re doing.”

Alex also explained the process the class goes through whenever a deadline approaches.

“First, we ask each other, ‘does [the page] look good?’ and then we tell Cassetta which pages to look at, and if she sees something to correct, she’ll let us know,” she says. “Then she submits it to the Lifetouch company and they will look it over.”

The final deadline for the complete and finished yearbook is March 18, so all of the photographs and writing pieces have to be in to the class before then. For activities that take place in the fall and winter, this deadline barely affects them, but for the spring activities, it makes makes finishing those sections a little trickier.

“The spring sports is really tough — it’s the last thing we can do and [rainy weather] is not helpful,” Ms. Cassetta said. “Let’s hope there is some dry weather because we won’t have pictures.”

Another difficult part of creating the yearbook is selling advertisements because the group has to fill a specific amount of pages in the book with ads. When I visited the class during B set one morning, the team was very stressed about having to ask parents and companies for money in order to take a spot in our yearbook. They also have to meet deadlines when they sell ad space which adds extra pressure.

However, despite the stressful moments, everyone advised that freshmen, sophomores, and juniors should give the class a try.

“[Students] should understand how very difficult it is — it’s not an easy job and it’s very stressful at times. They should realize how much work goes into it,” Ms. Cassetta warned. “I think it’s for someone who is creative and someone who has a real interest in chronicling the events of the school year and wants to be involved, who wants to hone his or her writing skills or is a photographer and like to take pictures. It isn’t for everyone — that’s why the class is so small. It’s a select few people who are interested in that kind of thing.”

“If you’re interested in photography, it’s a good class to take because you get to go around and take pictures of events and other activities that go on at this school,” Will says.

“It’s really fun and you become friends with the people sitting by you. You laugh together and you stress together,” Alex says.

Each yearbook is unique to the group of juniors and seniors that work on it together and is special because it shows how CB has changed and grown over time. 

“I think it’s important because it’s a tradition to have a yearbook and it’s an accumulation of the whole year,” Evi Tsiopos (‘19) says. “It’s interesting to see it all together, even if it’s just small moments from one day,” 

“The yearbook is the only physical thing you take away from the school. It’s a book of memories, it helps you recall what happened over the years, and it’s something you can actually hold in your hands,” Ms. Cassetta added.

“I think the yearbook shows what CB represents, the best parts of CB, and the reasons you come here,” Alex said.

The process to create the yearbook takes dedication and hard work. But for the team, getting to see the final product is extremely rewarding.

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