Yearbook honored for capturing 'historic year'

Posted on: Jun 8, 2021

Yearbook honored for capturing 'historic year'

Amidst numerous obstacles raised by the COVID-19 pandemic, students in the Delano High School journalism course set out to produce a yearbook that memorialized their unprecedented experiences.

They succeeded so thoroughly that they recently earned a Jostens National Yearbook Program of Excellence Award.

“I think we’re all really honored, especially because this year has been so hard to fill the pages,” said Brooke Swenson, one of six senior editors. “For every single spread, it’s been completely different than ever before. We’ve had to take spreads out and add new things. I don’t think people were honestly expecting the yearbook to be as good as it is, but we know how hard we worked, so the award just kind of pats us on the back for all that hard work we’ve done as a team.”

“We overcame obstacles from COVID that no other journalism class has ever had to encounter,” said senior editor Ellie Tulkki. 

Only 18 other public high schools in Minnesota earned the award at the silver level, which Delano achieved by generating strong school engagement, and successfully managing the yearbook creation process.

“My editors did a remarkable job creating a yearbook that captured and told a story of this historic year,” said DHS Yearbook Advisor Amy Poppler, adding that 2020-21 has been the most “challenging” and “exhausting” of her 23 years as the advisor. “They overcame adversity in a way that is truly incredible.”

Challenging start
Last year’s yearbook was submitted just before spring break, so editors and staffers did not have COVID to contend with while putting the 2019-20 volume together. However, the juniors missed out on valuable training time with last year’s editors before taking over as seniors this year.

“So we did a lot of self-teaching,” said senior editor Gretchen Barta.

Swenson agreed.

“All summer we were in contact with each other, asking each other questions or saying, ‘Oh my gosh, I found this button. Look what I can do!’ That’s just what it was,” she said.

A slow start in terms of technical know-how was compounded by minimal personal contact. Students spent the first portion of the school year in a hybrid learning model, followed by distance learning, and quarantines were always an unpredictable possibility.

“At the beginning of the year we only had half the editors in the classroom at a time and the other editors were at home,” said Tulkki. “Half of our staffers who take all the pictures and do the work were at home, so it took a lot of communication.”

Content and theme
Because many traditional school events were canceled or altered, the yearbook group had to be creative with its feature spreads. 

“We asked students how COVID affected them,” said Barta. “We had a COVID spread and covered distance learning and all that was tied into it. We just highlighted how everyone stayed united throughout COVID.”

Other unique spreads like the “Anatomy of Delano High School” were also created, and the archives helped provide content where needed.

“Even the spreads we did have, like track and field, we didn’t have photos from last year so we were using photos from years ago to try to get all the seniors when they were younger,” said senior editor Grace Jostock.

Photographers also staged photos with teams and athletes in order to obtain the necessary material for coverage.

As for an overall theme, in a time when students found themselves isolated, the editors chose to focus on the unity that was evident in their COVID reports.

“On the cover we have a big D, and there are different stitches with patches. That represents togetherness,” said Swenson. “Last year was a struggle with COVID, and we knew that would carry over into this year. So throughout the yearbook we have little things tying us together saying, ‘We’re one school and one team.’”
Stress and camaraderie
In what was a strange and sometimes frustrating year for everyone, yearbook members had the added pressure of summing up the experience of their classmates. Although much of the work was done on their own time, adding to the work load of distance or hybrid learning, the editors continued to embrace their role.

“There’s been some stress, and I think we’ve maybe all had a tear, but I don’t think we regret the class,” said Swenson.

“There is definitely stress throughout the year,” added Tulkki. “But the reward you feel when we got those finished yearbooks ‒ everything else disappears. We were all just so proud of what we did and how we overcame the obstacles we encountered with COVID.”

The group’s camaraderie ‒ they referred to themselves as “journ fam” and “one big personality” ‒ helped preserve the fun amidst the effort.

“I think that’s one of the reasons we’re all so close. We were all in it together,” said Kylee Heinzen, a senior newspaper editor in the same journalism class.

Poppler said it took a special group, including Nicolle Hinkemeyer and Kylie Strobl along with those quoted above, to accomplish what the yearbook editors did this year. 

“I feel very proud and fortunate to have been able to work with such an amazing group of editors this year,” she said. “They were determined not to let COVID stop them from creating something that they were proud of. Thus, they worked tirelessly to produce another award-winning yearbook.”

* The Delano yearbook has a strong tradition, winning the National Yearbook of Excellence Award six times in the last nine years. Previous awards came in 2013, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2021.

Post Categories: High School