As the CEO of Entourage Yearbooks, and a yearbook professional for the last 15 years, I have a special perspective when it comes to yearbooks. I’ve come to realize that yearbooks play a special role, not only for our schools and students, but as a unique journalistic artifacts chronicling the biggest events in US history. As a country, we’ve seen large national events such as the 9/11 attacks, the war in Iraq, and Hurricane Katrina, all change our country in countless ways. These changes are, of course, chronicled by TV and print media. But it’s the school yearbook that covers these events specifically for local communities–their schools, their students, and their families. I have a unique and privileged position to view how the same event is recorded in yearbooks across the country.
Now, we are faced with the global pandemic COVID-19. With the closure of tens of thousands of schools across the country, I am reflective about how this pandemic will be covered by schools at this critical time of the school year. Bob Riley, former governor of Alabama, once said that “Hard times don’t create heroes. It is during the hard times when the ‘hero’ within us is revealed.” Of one thing I am certain: all schools have heroes, great and small, every year. This year, “yearbooking” our local heroes is more important than ever.
It’s easy to predict that yearbooks across the country will be covering the stories and the students that will emerge from this moment in history. Our country and our communities have proven, time and time again, that in times of trial and difficulty there always emerge local heroes. They never get recognized. They never look for their benefit. These are the people that do what’s right because they don’t have it it them to do anything less.
National news and local news can’t cover everyone who is doing something special; who we know are helping when nobody else is helping. This historically has been what yearbooks are wonderfully powerful at capturing and immortalizing in our country’s history. As school yearbooks start coming in, we’ll see how schools cover what is going on in their pages. Many end-of-year events are being cancelled and there will be a need, a calling, for the yearbook to cover how the community weathered this pandemic.
In the news, there will be mixed coverage about whether local, state and federal government did enough or didn’t do enough.Since the journalistic standards of yearbooks generally converge on what the whole community can agree upon, yearbooks historically have been the journalist tome for recognizing local heroics. From sports, to academics, to music and the arts, yearbooks celebrate where students and the community succeed. I say, let’s use that same journalistic standard for the heroes of the Coronavirus! Here are some of the ideas I’ve seen already beginning to trickle into yearbooks:
- Teachers coordinating food drives for students in subsidized meal programs
- Parents raising or reallocating PTA funds to assist with remote learning supplies for all
- Students who are delivering groceries to the elderly who are afraid or unable to go to the stores themselves
- Students and parents working in grocery stores and pharmacies to keep essential items on the shelf
- Our community nurses and doctors preparing to protect themselves as they work the “front-line” of the seriously affected
These are just the start of the stories that we’ve started to hear about. I’m sure there will be countless more. Yearbooks play a pivotal role in our society both as history is unfolding and as we look back on how our lives were affected. I will continue to share the stories we see coming in at Entourage with the hashtag #coronaheroes to social media. If you have stories of how your school is handling the virus pandemic, we’d love to help share those stories with all of our communities.
Of course, yearbooks are not a priority for most right now. Schools are the cornerstones for their communities, and right now they’re focused on coordinating education and safety recommendations. They’re raising funds to take care of students on their free lunch program to make sure nobody goes hungry. Principals are deciphering the local news and working with local governments to set policy and procedures at their schools. I see teachers who are trying to self-quarantine their own families while also preparing remote lesson plans and packets that can be distributed to parents who are trying to keep their kids occupied. No, yearbooks aren’t the focus right now, but we know schools will return and they’ll start to consider how they want to cover the end of their school year.
As for us at Entourage, we’re getting ready to deliver your yearbooks. We are reaching out to all our schools to let them know that we’re still operating and feeling up to the task for the end of the school year. We’ve taken a number of social distancing precautions, from helping our staff to work at home, to coordinating childcare options, to increasing our cleaning schedules, and increasing the distance between workstations. Whether the virus spread gets more or less serious over the next two weeks, we have plans for how we will organize our operations so that if a school is ready to print their yearbook, we’ll be ready to help them. We’re also preparing material to share with our schools on how to coordinate a yearbook using a remote staff, and will continue to share any resources we can with all of our schools.
Thank you to all of our schools, teachers, and parent leadership. We at Entourage appreciate all you do, especially in these stressful times.
To everyone: please stay safe. And for your yearbooks, let’s get ready to record this historic moment in time!