Across the country, public school systems are making tough decisions about school closures, hiring freezes and student activity cuts. In New York City, the situation is no different. At P.S. 171 in Spanish Harlem, a plan for a new yearbook program was shelved once again for lack of funds.“It was decided that the yearbook was a luxury item,” said Jane Jung, a science teacher at the school. “There are a lot of things that come before a yearbook — textbooks and teacher salaries, for example. It’s the last thing that they would consider spending money on right now.”
A chance meeting with Elias Jo, owner of Entourage Yearbooks in Princeton, NJ, changed the fate of the yearbook program at P.S. 171. “Elias is incredibly passionate about yearbook programs and was looking for a school that he could sponsor,” said Jung. “The stars were aligned and we were able to form a great partnership.” “How many yearbook company owners do you run into every day?” joked Jung. “I really think it was destiny.”
P.S. 171’s first yearbook won’t go to print for another couple of months, but the excitement is already palpable at the school. The positive impact of the yearbook program is evident, as well. “The yearbook committee has been a great opportunity for students to learn design and leadership skills,” said Jung. “Plus, the yearbook unifies the middle school by celebrating the year’s work in print.” The first yearbook will primarily focus on the 8th grade class, which will move on to high school next year. Students in lower grades are already excited about the potential for future yearbooks.” The 7th graders can’t wait and are already brainstorming ideas for their potential book next year,” said Jung.
P.S. 171 is a Title 1 school with nearly 1,000 students, all of whom qualify for the free lunch program. Many students come from home situations that lack stability and, for them, the school is a bastion of comfort, caring and consistency. Jung emphasized that for many of these students, the yearbook provides deeper meaning. “Our yearbook won’t just provide memories for the kids,” said Jung. “They come from broken homes and have a lot going on in their lives. The yearbook is like a family album for many students.”