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Capturing memories in yearbooks

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Every year, schools typically create a yearbook. A yearbook is both a memory book and a history book containing a summary in photos and stories of what made that year unique.

The coronavirus pandemic has made yearbooks unique but also the production of them extra challenging. Despite COVID-19, the yearbook class at St. Paul VI Catholic High School in Chantilly persevered, collecting memories and creating yearbooks that personified the uniqueness of each year.

“A huge part of the yearbook is social skills and communication,” said Bridget Lisk, editor of the 2020-21 yearbook. Major tasks include doing interviews, compiling quotes and reaching out to hundreds of students. Another big part of creating a yearbook is covering school events such as dances and athletic games.

The coronavirus pandemic greatly limited both kinds of interactions. This came with a shockwave in March 2020, when schools across the country went virtual for the rest of the year.

“I will never forget the day before we got sent home,” said Meghan O’Connor, a teacher at St. Paul VI. “Something inside me said we needed to get every single on-campus picture that we could, because we didn’t know what was about to happen. I am so glad we were able to get those photos because the very next day we got an email saying that we would not be returning to school.” Since the 2019-20 school year was St. Paul VI’s last year in the Fairfax campus, the announcement brought an even bigger sense of urgency and nostalgia.

The theme for the 2019-20 yearbook was “For the Record.” Lisk said the theme “was exemplified through ‘past vs. present’ photos on each page.” She recalled that the news came as a shock: “We were all so excited until COVID-19 hit and we no longer had any access to getting any more photos and lost all in-person contact to students and faculty.”

With that, the yearbook staff had to complete the rest of the book from their own homes. They struggled as they encountered many individuals slow to respond to emails. Luckily, they had most events finished with the corresponding pages, and they were creative with the pages that were not yet finished.

“We ended up combining subjects, freestyled a whole new format for spring sports, and incorporating pages about Covid,” said Lisk. “In the end, I’m extremely proud of the book we created and I believe we did a really good job symbolizing the last, crazy yet memorable year in Fairfax.”

The yearbook staff similarly faced a challenging situation during the 2020-21 school year. Due to the pandemic, St. Paul VI followed a hybrid schedule, with students alternating between in person and online.

“The biggest challenge was adaptation,” said Lisk. “When we were in the building, we were always missing half the school.”

In addition to the issue of not being together in class, it was hard to cover events such as athletic competitions. No one could attend games and restrictions made schedules unpredictable. According to Lisk, there were also many questions about what the year would be like.

The staff also wanted to capture St. Paul VI’s first year at the new Chantilly campus.

“It got easier the more sporting events that occurred and the more students were allowed to attend,” said Lisk. “It was sad having to cut out certain things, but the book still turned out great.”

To portray what the year was like for students, the staff included pages about what the fully virtual students were up to, as well as funny stories during class at home on Google Meet.

Two unique yearbooks were not the only good things to come out of these years.

“Creating two yearbooks in the midst of Covid was incredibly challenging,” said O’Connor. “But it also showed us how incredible people are and gave each of us an opportunity to grow. Life is full and I think we can see that a little clearer now.” 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021