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The end of the year is approaching quickly and for most students that means more time out in the sun, studying for exams and, of course, getting a yearbook.

The school yearbook is one of the best ways to remember the school year – from the dances to all the sports scores and all the candid pictures in between.

People rarely think about all the hard work and time that goes into making that yearbook. They don’t think of the talented, dedicated people who make every decision about every page, picture and word. So here is a behind-the-scenes look into the making of a yearbook, from start to finish.

What most high school students don’t know is that the process of making a yearbook begins the previous year, in early February. Yearbook club members unanimously say that is the thing that surprises other students the most.

It all starts with a theme. The theme or idea is what the entire yearbook will be based upon. This theme can begin with an inspirational quote, a song or movie title or even just a word or phrase. This theme then leads to the production of a cover. The cover can have the theme written on it, have a representation of the theme or it can be a related image that leads the reader toward the theme. The cover for the next book is actually finalized before, if not right around the same time that last year’s book is passed out. It can be computer generated or drawn by an artist. After that, the work begins on the inside.

Something I’ve discovered through working on a yearbook is that when you have about a dozen minds and a couple of hundred ideas, compromise is the key. Themes can be combined and tweaked to accommodate everyone’s tastes and styles. If a few people in the yearbook club are unhappy, there’s a good chance many people in the student body will be unhappy. Trying to please everyone can be a challenge.

There are several sections every yearbook should have – intro page, table of contents, seniors, juniors, sophomores, freshmen, staff, student life and sports. Careful planning and decisions must be made about each page. There may be more or less sections depending on the size and age range of the school. The book usually ends with ads and/or a closing page.

Each section is then split into one- or two-page spreads. The pages are assigned to the staff members and the creating begins. Some of these sections entail more work than others. For some, it’s a simple layout, just some “mug shots” or a repeated layout. However, others involve spending hours calling businesses and yearbook customers, collecting pictures and information from students, and looking up quotes on the Internet. Some yearbook committees use only templates provided by the yearbook company, others use them as a starting points and then make them their own. My yearbook team chose a different route. We created all of our page layouts from scratch – no templates, just our theme and our imaginations. This method is difficult, but it gives personality to the book.

Once the pages have been laid out, then come the pictures and words. The yearbook photographers are always looking for that perfect shot. At least a hundred photos can be taken at every event in hopes to get that one shot that capture the memory. Enough photos need to be taken to try to get every student in the yearbook at least three times, but not to focus on one person or group too much.

We’ve had people join our club because they like taking pictures and wanted to gain experience, and we also have had a few people who joined with little knowledge of cameras and are amazed at what they can do.

As for the write-ups, some yearbooks have a specific person whose only job is to write; others have everyone contribute. The goal is to make them interesting so students will take the time to read them.

When people think of the yearbook, one of the first things that comes to mind is memories. The editor of Alden High School yearbook, KeyOnna Miller, a junior, says memories are the reason she joined the yearbook staff.

“I wanted to help people keep their memories,” she said. “I love seeing people’s faces as they look through the book for the first time, and when they find the pictures of themselves.”

The goal of the yearbook staff is to offer positive memories. Whether your sports team is undefeated or hasn’t won a game all season, the pages will be equally amazing. We do our best to zoom in on the positive events from the year. The yearbook staff wants to make sure that when people look at their yearbooks 20 years from now, they remember high school as the best years of their lives.

If you’re organized, enthusiastic and willing to work with others, yearbook may be for you. Being on the staff of your school’s yearbook committee has many benefits.

“It’s great because you get to be around people who know what they’re doing,” said Alden freshman Max Gucinski.

Jacob Morris said that working on the yearbook has “helped him become more social.”

Sophomore Claire Herget said she enjoys the family environment and all the support that comes from it.

Many of the skills learned from working on the yearbook will be useful later in life. These include: “being able to resolve conflicts,” said senior Sarah Herget; “being able to deal with hard situations,” said junior Andy Gonzales; and “learning to appreciate the little things,” KeyOnna said.

Even though at times it may be stressful and frustrating, the positives of working on the yearbook outweigh the negatives.

So when you get your yearbook in the next few weeks, think of the yearbook staff who worked countless hours after school, during holiday breaks and even over the summer to give you the best yearbook possible. Remember the people who pushed creativity to the limit every week, put in many late nights and went dealt with plenty of stress. Cherish the memories.

Emma Retzlaff is a freshman at Alden High School.