April 1, 2008 / Spring 2008 / Staff Management

Raising yearbook staff members

Written by Idea File Staff

They stay up late on work nights, suffer the anguish of deadlines, and fill the need for food.

They are the parents of yearbook students.

These parents stay up late to pick up their child from school, spend time and money feeding the staff and suffer as they watch their children learn to balance their lives. But the benefits of yearbook outweigh all that, and they are passionate about the value of the experience to their children.

Dale and Dodi Dickson’s three children – Jessie, Matthew and Andrew – went through the yearbook program at Shawnee Mission North High School in Overland Park, Kan. Dale Dickson said the yearbook program at the school attracted the best students.

“Our kids got to work with the best. They became friends and academic competitors. It kept them driven to excellence. It kept them off the streets. In a large high school it gave them a small group where they could identify with others with similar attributes. It prepared them for college and life after,” Dale Dickson said.

“The class is adaptable to working life,” said Sonja Sanchez, who has six children. Her first four children – Vanessa, Marco, Kent and Chantal, took the class and Riva, a freshman, is currently in yearbook at W.H. Burges High School in El Paso, Texas. Her sixth child is in seventh grade.

“The yearbook is a really good class because it’s so different from other classes, because their work is seen by a whole other audience than just the teacher,” Sanchez said. “They take a whole new approach to their work.”

Nicholas, Michael, Jonathan and Briana – the four children of George and Monica Stein – participated in yearbook at Seattle Preparatory School in Seattle, Wash. They also were active in sports, drama, student government, and still were home for dinner most nights.

“It’s project management, and in their own lives, it’s time management,” George Stein said.

For Nicholas and Michael Stein, yearbook at Seattle Prep was an after-school activity, and they received no credit for it. But changes enabled Jonathan and Briana to earn credit. Regardless, all four worked the same – hard, Stein said.

Stein said his children participated in yearbook work nights, and the lateness bothered him and his wife at first, but by Nicholas’ senior year that concern had ebbed.

Sanchez had concerns, too. “At times I would think, ‘what are they doing for so long?’ Sometimes I would go check,” she said. But she eventually relaxed.

“I believe in hard work. If that’s where they were, and that was what they were doing, it didn’t bother me, as long as their other class work did not suffer,” she said.

Janet Scanlan’s oldest daughter, Leah, was editor-in-chief of the yearbook her senior year at Quince Orchard High School in Gaithersburg, Md., and she currently is on the yearbook staff at the University of Notre Dame. Scanlon’s two younger daughters are on the staff now – senior Bethany is senior editor, and junior Jenna is an assistant editor.

In all four families, the oldest child recruited or set a example for their siblings to go into yearbook. Some children thrived under the challenge, while others learned by the challenge.

“It wasn’t his thing,” Sanchez said of her second child, Marco, who is studying economics and computer science at Williams College in Massachusetts. Chantal, a junior this year, only took yearbook her freshman year.

Even if yearbook was the class for them, it put all of these teens to the test.

“They all would say they did jobs that leaned toward their talents, talents of being organized, good writers, etc., but they have all really stretched themselves in the sense that they put all their talents together in a way they never had before, that is to say depending on others, meeting deadlines other than their own personal deadlines, working with all different kinds of kids, breaking down a big project, etc.,” Scanlon said.

“All three had to stretch, but for different reasons,” Dickson said of his children. “Jessie was challenged because at the time she was a bit shy and getting in someone’s face or in the thick of the athletic contest to take photos was a bit intimidating for her. Matthew had to stretch because he is an engineer. Not really an artsy bone in his body. But he is very driven and got along well with the staff and could direct others with respect. Andrew has a lot of raw talent in the photography department, but had a bit of trouble in the issuing of assignments to others and getting the results he wanted. So he spent a lot of time doing things himself that he should have expected others to do.”

Across the country, some school districts are questioning the value of yearbook and newspaper programs, mostly as they grapple with shrinking budgets and try to get the most educational value out of each dollar. But parents see the value in these programs reflected in their children.

“It’s without question the best extracurricular activity at the high school. The leadership opportunities are there if their child shows an interest. It looks great on a resume,” Dickson said.

“To parents whose kids want to do yearbook, I would say the experience has been so much more than my kids or I could have hoped for. It has been a somewhat ‘real-world’ experience with budgets, deadlines, headaches and lots of learning, with a finished product that they can all be proud to have participated in,” Scanlon said.

“When my junior daughter graduates, I plan to ask (Quince Orchard High adviser) Ms. Klyn if I can take the yearbook class! From scrapbooking to homemade Christmas cards, I’d love to learn all that they have learned,” Scanlon said.

Idea File Staff

Idea File Staff reports are posts compiled by the Walsworth Yearbooks Marketing Department, covering a wide range of yearbook topics.