The Conway High School yearbook staff was recently recognized for its hard work on the book this past school year.
Jostens, the leading producer of yearbooks and other content created by students, announced on May 7 that the program was named a Jostens 2017 National Yearbook Program of Excellence.
CHS was one of eight schools in central Arkansas that received the award.
According to a news release, the award was presented to CHS for achieving specific criteria including creating an inclusive yearbook, generating school engagement and successfully managing the yearbook creation process.
"Jostens is proud to recognize those individuals who have acted as wonderful stewards by creating an exceptional yearbook for their school and community," Jostens President and Chief Executive Officer Chuck Mooty said. "Yearbooks are a critical part of telling a school’s story and Jostens is dedicated to supporting yearbook staff members with state-of-the-art tools and resources that help celebrate moments that matter."
Sponsor Jamie Bratton — this was her first year at CHS — said the students decided from the beginning that working toward the award would be a goal.
She said one of the goals was to be able to feature 50 percent of the student population, which is more than 1,200, three or more times.
One of the ways they accomplished this was writing every single one of the CHS students on a whiteboard in the classroom and marking them off as they completed the criteria.
"We took pictures of it because it was an accomplishment for sure," Bratton said.
For editor and senior Matthew Henninger, having that was a helpful visual and also a great encourager. As the year went on and they were able to mark name after name off, the accomplishment felt great.
"[Winning the award] felt really proud for me, especially since it was my senior year," he said. "I have always striven to cover everybody. To see that we actually made it and got 50 percent of our student body in the book this year made me really proud of the work we accomplished."
While there were a few grammatical errors and other general issues, most everyone had positive things to say about the book and its theme, "Within the School."
"I wanted to, this year, cover the stuff that people didn’t see in the school and increase coverage of certain clubs," Henninger said.
Senior Hadiyah Cummings, who also worked as an editor on the book, said they were truly able to be as inclusive as possible.
"I was really proud that we were able to do that and I know it means a lot to people who usually just see themselves in the normal mugshot," she said.
Bratton said when they got the book in and were finally able to look at the moment was amazing.
"I think you can look at PDFs all day long, but until you have the finished copy in your hand you don’t realize what you’ve made," she said.
Senior Makayla Manning said winning the award was one of the proudest moments of her high school career, especially since it was her last.
"I loved yearbook and I loved being a part of it because we are just like a big family in here and doing what we love with our friends was a plus," she said. "Finishing out the year strong … hands down a good moment."
While winning the award was great, several of the staff members made mention that the bonds they formed throughout the year were also equally as impactful.
"Not only did I like producing the book but I also like how close you got to all the members of the staff and the connections that you formed," CHS students Annette Quinn said. "This year, it hasn’t just been a work environment. It has been hard and there’s been a lot of work, of course, but it’s also really close and everyone’s gotten to know each other really well."
Henninger said the group that is in yearbook wouldn’t necessarily have hung out outside the club.
"It just brings us all together and allows us to respect and appreciate everybody else’s strong points and help people with their weaknesses," he said. "We really get to see everyone blossom throughout the year and find out who everyone is and be there for everybody at their low points and their high points."
Bratton said that was something she witnessed and thought it was impacting.
While this is around her fifth yearbook to help produce, she said in years past she has had to have more of a hand in it, but with this group, wasn’t worried.
"They knew what they were doing because they worked so hard on the book last year without their teacher here," she said. "They were very experienced. They’re very very capable. I’m really proud of them. I feel like I could give them anything and say go do this and they would figure out a way to plan it and make it happen. They’re just a great team and they’re problem solvers. It’s been a really great experience."