Your time spent in high school is when you are expected to discover what you are interested in doing in your life after graduation. Growing up, I was not the athletic student or the one that had a specific talent, so my career and life goal was never clear to me. At 15 years old, my sophomore year, I joined a discourse community that changed my life forever, yearbook staff. It gave me a sense of purpose I had longed for throughout high school. I finally had a group of like-minded people that I could work with and a few of them became my close friends. When I first walked into the journalism room, Room 2210, I didn’t feel like I had my place yet.
By junior year, I felt like I was getting a hand at being a helpful and successful staff member. My senior year, I was in Room 2210 at least 5 hours each weekday which gave me a physical sense of purpose because I was Editor in Chief. Joining the discourse community, yearbook staff, was successful because I became an expert, attended workshops and conferences to better my skills, and respectfully executed a memorial page.
My journey on yearbook staff was a cookie cutter example of starting at the bottom and working my way up to become an expert. I spent every semester of high school in Room 2210, each was a very different experience from the last. Sophomore year I was in Introduction to Journalism. I learned things like how to write stories and how to take photos journalistically. The whole course was a stepping stone for students to join yearbook or newspaper staff, and it greatly helped my decision to choose yearbook.
I spent junior year as a staff photographer, attending many events, from football games to science experiments. I was always at events with my camera in hand, and students got used to seeing me around. Throughout junior year, I was mentored by the Editor in Chief, Sierra Condit. While I wasn’t in the important decision meetings, I did get the see what the position intelled and how I could improve some aspects of staff. This opportunity to be mentored by her allowed me to get the job as Editor in Chief my senior year.
From watching and working with her and seeing what did and didn’t work, I already knew what changes needed to be made. One main issue was that photographers were not signing up and going to events. Partly because signing up for the events was only possible on a paper calendar in class.
So if staff members weren’t in class or didn’t know your schedule yet signing up was difficult. To ensure every photographer could get the information needed about the time and location of all events, I made signing up for events all electronic through Google Calendar. It could be viewed on computers or phones, eliminating the issue of miscommunication about events and possibility for excuses. Staff members could look at the calendar anytime to see what events needed a photographer and which ones had enough. Keeping the level of novices and experts is crucial in discourse communities, especially one like yearbook where students leave each year.Throughout my years on yearbook staff, I attended workshops and conferences that helped me build my skills in photography, writing, design, and leadership. In July 2017, I went to The Washington Journalism and Media Conference (WJMC) in Washington DC.
In September 2017, I went to The National High School Journalism Convention (NHSJC) in Dallas, Texas. In April 2018, I attended The Arkansas Scholastic Press Association Convention (ASPA) in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Even though the days were spent in rooms listening to a person speak, each convention and workshop offered me new skills or lessons that I had not known before. During WJMC, I remember the keynote speaker, Sonya Gavankar, tell all 250 correspondents “Making small mistakes in your job means you have spread yourself too thin”. I would remember this quote when working on the yearbook and deadlines were approaching.
I couldn’t possibly do every job as Editor in Chief, and I had to learn to delegate before I was spreading myself too thin. When we had two 96 pages deadlines that happened to be weeks apart a lot of work in and out of class had to be done to complete the pages. I couldn’t possibly photograph every event, interview students, and finalize the pages. So I assigned each student on staff a task to finish by a certain day.
Some had to finish 3 captions while others had to complete all the past month’s modules. When in the moment of the workshops and conferences they seem minute and pointless, but the information I learned proved valuable in yearbook and life. During my senior year, two students committed suicide, completely unrelated and at different times. While the topic is taboo in some area, sadly it was a normal occasion for my high school. Every year we experience some sort of tragedy that impacted students and staff members throughout the district.
One of the deaths happened while we were still working on the book, and we heard talk from students that they were expecting a memorial in the book. It was my job as Editor in Chief to work with the Advisor in order to figure out the correct way to pay respects to the students, friends, and family. We decided to do a memorial spread in the back of the book after the ads. Photos were submitted to us which we included in the memorial. These events led the school to start a suicide prevention initiative on campus. We ended up doing a story over the students and staff members that started the initiative. Due to my work in the discourse community the memorial and story can be looked at forever.
The yearbook was 498 pages my senior year, which all start out as blank pages. It was the job of the two design editors to fill the pages with design elements, stories, captions, and photos. Some might argue that I was Editor in Chief, not the design editor so I had no idea how pages or spreads should look and be structured. All staff members took Introduction to Journalism class and spent our junior year as staff writers and photographers learning from previous editors. So technically we had the same skills and education but different strengths. I gave my input on the design of spreads multiple times throughout the year whether it was wanted by them or not. As Editor in Chief, I had to notify them of how some designs just were not practical for the length of stories the staff was writing or the quality of photographs being taken. Each year we cover homecoming, I decided to pitch my idea to the design editors for how the spirit week spread should look and be executed.
My idea was the most liked among staff members, so I was tasked with designing and executing it. For the duration of the week, I photographed students who were dressed up, cut out the background of each photograph, and placed all the edited photos on the spread. After hours of editing and designing, I completed the spread just like I envisioned. It became a favorite among staff members and our advisor.
That spread won Best of ASPA 2018 for Yearbook Special Coverage. This award goes to show that even though I didn’t have the title for a position, I could still give credible input.I am now 18, and I remember walking out of Room 2210 for the last time on May 17, 2018. The moment was bittersweet because I grew each time I was in that room, but I had to move on. As I prepare to apply for positions in my sorority and other various campus organizations, I can look back on my time in this discourse community to show my expert abilities, the knowledge I’ve learned at workshops and conferences, and memorial to honor students who passed away.