For a group of students in Greenwood, Ind., the school year begins with roughly 300 pages of white.
Of course, they see much more than that.
The yearbook editors at Center Grove High School envision the stories that will fill those pages. It all starts with a rather unique flavor of journalism: inclusivity.
Yearbook contributors know that each student has a unique story, one that deserves to be told. What makes these particular editors stand out is their objective to feature every student in the yearbook – at least three times.
In a school of 2,500, that can be a tall order. But it’s a goal the students inch closer to every year.
“We know the first thing a kid does when they see the yearbook is flip to the index to find their name,” says Melissa Warner, Center Grove English teacher and co-yearbook advisor. “Every year we come up with some sort of coverage strategy that leads them back to multiple pages.”
The challenge is that not every student is captain of the football team, or plays a leading role in the school musical. The Center Grove yearbook group refers to these students as “breathers,” those who perhaps aren’t as involved in mainstream extracurricular activities.
Those are students Casey Tedrow is especially driven to connect with.
“Their passions lie elsewhere, but that doesn’t make them any less a part of our school,” says Tedrow, fellow English teacher and co-yearbook advisor. “We have a tremendous gift, to be able to communicate to all students at our school, ‘Somebody notices you.’”
That’s where Center Grove’s exceptional inclusivity practices come into play. A portion of the school’s yearbook editors are dedicated solely to coverage, and therefore reach out to students individually to find out what makes them tick. This seek-and-gather approach yields great results. Some students share invaluable quotes, while others are a priceless point-of-focus in a group photo. Some tend to have a fascinating side hobby that no one knows about.
“The editors also utilize Jostens’ Coverage Report,” Tedrow says. The report is a tool from Yearbook Avenue® that helps yearbook staff keep track of the number of times each student has been featured.
The yearbook staff has also benefited by attending the annual National High School Journalism Convention, which is where they learn about tools like the Coverage Report. This year’s convention runs Nov. 10-13 in Indianapolis.
Quality journalism is introduced early at Center Grove. The yearbook team is part of a larger group, the Converged News Room, of which about 70 students work together to manage the school yearbook, news magazine, broadcast program, website and social media accounts.
Through the various media outlets, students learn to meet deadlines, multitask and problem-solve – real-world skills that are useful to everyone, and a benefit when it comes to featuring every student in the Center Grove yearbook.
Student buy-in is the ultimate key to yearbook inclusivity, Warner says. When yearbook editors believe in the goal to feature every student at least three times, they find greater success. As a result, their buy-in leads to dedication.
“It might be the late-night work sessions that I really enjoy the most because we’re at the school until 11 p.m., midnight, 1 a.m.,” Warner says. “That’s when I see kids really come through. You see how much they care because they’re right there with you.”
At the end of the day, the purpose of a good yearbook team comes down to the part they play in including others.
“We care that we open students’ eyes to kids who are different than them, and that we teach them how to have a heart for all people,” Tedrow says. “Those skills will translate anywhere the students go in life.”