The Bunker Hill Middle School yearbook club has received the Jostens 2021 national excellence award for its “Harry Potter”-themed yearbook.
The program of excellence honor started in 2015 and recognizes school yearbooks from across the country. The winning books are chosen for being meaningful and accessible to all students. Bunker Hill yearbook Advisor Lori McEntee believes the pandemic had something to do with helping her students achieve the award.
“Jostens went over every yearbook that was submitted for certain criteria they were looking for,” said McEntee. “They were looking for inclusion and bringing in more students than usual, instead of just regular kids that are super-high achieving …They were also looking for comprehensive themes.
“Without COVID, I don’t think we would have gotten the award,” she added. “Without COVID, the yearbook is full of all the clubs and regular stuff, and this year, we had to think differently. I did a lot of surveys to the kids asking them to send me pictures of their virtual learning or something they like to do outside of school. I think that is why we had so much more content and were able to include so many more kids in the book.”
The yearbook club consists of 12 to 24 students who take time before and after school to create a book distributed to students at the end of the year. Again because of COVID, most of this year’s book was created by students at home who communicated mainly through email and Zoom..
But the club ran into other problems along the way, including the inability to get students together for photos of other school clubs and 100 missing portraits of remote students.
“We used to have group meetings, but this year it was more of, ‘You are in charge of this, now go work on it,’” McEntee recalled. “I would tell a kid to go look over the eighth grade stuff and another one would look over the seventh grade stuff. It had to be a lot more delegation, because it is harder for them to work together, too, when they are on full remote …
“Everything we did before was completely thrown out the window.”
Despite the challenges, the club used creative ways to fill pages with content while integrating photos of students who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to be in club or candid photos. Yearbook students asked their peers to send photos with favorite Snapchat filters and quotes about binge-worthy television shows.
“We are always trying to get every kid in the book three times,” McEntee explained. “But the same kids are involved in everything and the same kids are involved in nothing. When you open it up to a page with Snapchat filters, every kid does that … We tried to pick things that were universal and that brought us so many more kids beyond the portrait pages.”
Along with the opportunity to include more students in the book, McEntee also used her love for “Harry Potter” to create a comprehensive theme that started with a Marauders Map cover of Bunker Hill Bull Dog paw prints and included movie and book quotes, as well as fonts and clip art on par with the theme.
“‘Harry Potter’ was my dream theme, I have always wanted to do it,” McEntee noted. “So we designed the cover last April, and that kind of all fell into place with the theme. That theme is also very comprehensive, because you can do a million different things … It really went well together.”
Since their award, yearbook club members have looked forward to upping their game next year with a Netflix theme and also hope to learn more about silver and gold award criteria from Jostens. But before they plan next year’s book, the club wants to submit the 2021 version to the exclusive Jostens Look-Book, which includes photos of award-winning yearbooks for inspiration.
“Bunker Hill is the most fantastic school,” McEntee gushed. “We try to do everything well, and because it is such a good school and the kids are happy here, they work so hard on these kinds of things …
“Kids want to produce for you here; that’s the whole culture for the school.”