Most people have a high school yearbook. Even if it is sitting in the closet or on the top shelf of the bookcase, no one it throws away. But think back to when you were in school.
Do you actually remember thinking about the yearbook before you picked it up on the last day of school? Do you remember ever seeing someone taking those pictures?
Most of you probably said no to both of these questions. But those students who were a part of the yearbook staff think about this time differently.
That’s right, there was an entire class of students working year round producing the yearbook that was printed and passed out to almost the entire student body. At Bear River High School in Garland, the head of the yearbook operation is business and CTE teacher Braquel Brinkerhoff.
Brinkerhoff was much like most of you before she was asked to be the adviser for yearbook. She was always surprised when she saw pictures of herself on the drill team in the book, and she thought that some students must just throw the yearbook together during the last week or so of school.
But there is so much more work to yearbook than Brinkerhoff realized.
All year, students under Brinkerhoff’s direction hunt down pictures and stories so you never forget the fun times in your high school career. After each deadline, pages are submitted to Jostens, a company that specializes in yearbooks, caps and gowns, and other graduation essentials.
At the end of the year, Jostens sends back the completed book — Bearfax — to be passed out to the student body. This is where you probably remember seeing it for the first time.
“When I first got the assignment, I thought no one would sign up. But I’ve learned it is such a preparer for life,” Brinkerhoff said. “Students learn so much about working in the real world and it isn’t like other classes with a lecture. It is hands-on, and these kids have to work against a hard deadline with an actual company that comes up with the standards. It is like selling a product and an opportunity to publish their work.”
Shaelyn Stephens, the Bear River staff’s design editor, shares Brinkerhoff’s views, saying, “I didn’t even know that this class was a thing until I became a part of it, and I think that is probably true for all of us. But is really has been more than I thought and actually feels like something important rather than just another credit I have to get.”
Students have to be reliable and make sure to get pictures and stories because a lot of things at school, such as games and dances, only happen once.
And one big skill that students learn is communication. They have to learn to interview and contact students and teachers alike to set up appointments to take pictures and gain access to club activities.
“But,” Brinkerhoff says, “the biggest thing is coordination. The yearbook takes so many people working towards a common goal. If you break it down, so many eyes have seen each page and so many hands have contributed.”
When these students go into their careers, they will have gained valuable skills from yearbook that will give them a leg up on the competition. And Brinkerhoff says this is a good opportunity for students to grow while still in a safe environment.
“I think sometimes, adults don’t think to or allow students to show what they are capable of,” she says. “I try to stay hands off to let the kids create what they want to create and take responsibility. You have kids that can step up to the challenge if they have a good enough support group.”
Tucker Porter, one of the hardworking photographers on the Bearfax staff, really knows what Brinkerhoff means by challenge.
“Mostly this class is pretty chill, but when you realize that you’ve messed up a shot or that you don’t have something that you thought you did and the deadline is in a couple of days ... it can get rough,” Porter says. “But usually you’ll find that anyone who isn’t also freaking out about their own stuff will be willing to pitch in and cover for you if you need it.”
On behalf of every yearbook staff member, Brinkerhoff would also like to invite all of you to go and pull out those old yearbooks and take another look.
“I hope when you dust off your yearbook you can open it and remember the good times and the people you were with and how it made you feel,” she says.
Those times may be long behind you, but the memories never have to fade away.
And parents of current high school students, as the end of the year approaches, have you gotten your child their yearbook? If not, remember to go to jostensyearbooks.com and purchase one before it it too late!
Alison Shepherd is a senior at Bear River High School where she is on both the yearbook and newspaper staff. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.