Our own history book: the Accolade in an absent year


Kevin Manero

With all the changes made this school year, the Accolade staff will be taking the challenge of finding the memories that will make up the school year.

TOWAMENCIN — Opening a yearbook on the last day of school is meant to show everything we have accomplished as a school together. But what happens when the memories we were meant to reflect on don’t exist? Or when an entire year of our lives was confined to a technological void? With the barriers the Accolade staff have encountered this school year, they now have to deal with the challenge of creating a non-traditional yearbook to allow students to, as always, be able to look back on the moments that made up their school year.                                                                                                                                             

Behind the moment when students finally receive their yearbook are days and months spent documenting a year’s worth of memories. The yearbook is put together by the Accolade staff who meet every day as a class to work on it. At the beginning of the year, yearbook adviser Mrs. Elizabeth Weizer and the staff members come together to plan the overall theme. Once they come up with a theme, they have to consider the colors and fonts they are going to use and what design principles they are going to follow. During the planning process, they are also covering events that are going on.

“We always think that themes should encompass the visual and the verbal—what you read and then also what you see. We spend a lot of time thinking about North Penn, the community. What do we think of when we think of North Penn? We think of pride, we think of blue, we think of knights,” Weizer said. “After we’ve generated our list of things that come to mind when we think of North Penn, we think about what’s going on in the school year. Obviously, this year, there’s hybrid learning and the Coronavirus. They both really impacted us, which sometimes doesn’t happen—the outside world doesn’t normally have an impact on what we’re doing in the yearbook. We also look at what other schools have done. We try to faithfully tell the story of the year in 300 pages that will live forever in a print book.”

We try to faithfully tell the story of the year in 300 pages that will live forever in a print book.

— Mrs. Elizabeth Weizer - Yearbook adviser

“We think of something that incorporates the entire school. We want to be able to do something that represents each and every single one of us because we’re all together as one school, we’re not one person. We never want to leave people out,” Co-Editor-in-Chief Anisa Akther said. 

When it comes to making the content, the staff members have to take pictures, conduct interviews, and write stories. They also meet with a professional artist who designs the cover. 

“I think people come to yearbook thinking, ‘it’ll be fun, I’ll take pictures and I’ll get to interview my friends.’ At the end of the day, it is a lot of work, but it’s totally worth it when you see the book at the end of the year in print. There’s nothing better than that,” Weizer said. 

Every day is a workday for the staff. The class period will begin with a staff meeting in which Weizer will ask the group if they have any questions or concerns for the rest of the group. Then, they’ll transition to independent work. In an in-person setting, they could go around the building to take pictures. They could also go on the design program and work on their page. 

Staff members also have the chance to earn leadership positions. An Editor-in-Chief’s role is to oversee everything and help the rest of the staff with their pages. As for the other editors, they each are in charge of a specific section. Although one person is assigned to be the editor of one section, all of the staff members will help put it together. Because the staff is small this year, everyone is an editor, with the two returning members, Valerie Hummel and Anisa Akther, as Editors-in-Chief. 

The yearbook staff works with the company Jostens that delivers them deadlines for each section. The first deadline is in December, and then the following ones are in January, February, and March. Because all of the yearbooks will be distributed via mail instead of a traditional distribution day this year, their deadlines have been extended. Typically their final deadline is in March, so the last section they would work on would be spring sports, but that usually gets a tight window. Now, they can consider adding spring dances or events, more for spring sports, and graduation because the final deadline is in June.

After spending months putting the yearbook together, they take a long-awaited break filled with movies and mini parties. Then, they get back to work to gear up for the next year. The staff works together to figure out how they can make the next yearbook in good shape. They save templates and ideas used that year and they transfer faculty portraits. The end of the year is mostly spent cleaning up and organizing in order to get the next year ready to go.

On March 12th, 2020, things began to take a new direction for the yearbook due to the pandemic. Fortunately, the yearbook then was nearly complete, other than the spring sports section. Their yearbook liaison Mr. Straub coincidentally came to visit them that day to take a look at their progress. 

“He was going through the book and said how we were so on track to being done because some of the schools he dealt with might not have a yearbook. We felt like we were in a really good position, but then when we closed down, we waited those two weeks because we didn’t know if we would open back up and if spring sports would still be a possibility,” Weizer said. “Then when it was clear that we weren’t going back. We had to do a lot of adjustments to the book and we had to cut the whole spring sports section.” 

Making adjustments became tedious because when pages are printed, they’re not in single pages. It’s a large sheet of paper that has eight pages on one area and eight pages on another, and then it’s folded in a certain way so that you actually get 16 pages, which is called a signature. It’s difficult to change things within a signature because they’re printed on huge pieces of paper, 16 pages at a time.

With all the changes that occurred this school year, the staff is making adjustments to the layout of the yearbook and what they are planning to include. Senior portraits will now be the first section students will see in the yearbook. 

“The first thing I thought of [when the school year began] was that it is very different, and it’s not at all like how I pictured it was going to be,” Akther said. “Because so many people are virtual and only some people are doing hybrid, I thought, ‘how are we going to be able to incorporate every single person in the yearbook?’ Our goal is to have everyone be represented. We’re trying to figure out new ideas of how we’re going to get more student life. 

“It’s a little hard because the yearbook is basically all about human life. I just hope that everything calms down, so we can all go back to school semi-normal,” Hummel said.

“We were all really nervous to start the school year because we didn’t know how long we would all be at home. We had to do a lot of thinking about creative ways to tell the story of the year because the biggest part of the yearbook and the part that people like the most is student life. And that’s not the same, especially with how this year has been going. We had to think about how there’s no traditional homecoming or there’s not going to be a winter ball or there’s really no spirit week in school. How are we going to represent the life of these kids if we don’t have our traditional activities? Of course, we’re going to cover things like virtual learning, hybrid learning, but then you run the risk of printing pages that have just squares on them of kids who are in Google Meet. Who wants to look at that when we’ve been looking at that for eight months? Now, we’re thinking about what it’s like out in the community. What is it like to go out to dinner? Where are kids hanging out? What is it like at work? We’re thinking about not just the school but the world around it and bringing that into the book. We really had to make a lot of adjustments with the content that we’re going to cover,” Weizer said. 

With the majority of the staff, including the Editors-in-Chief, being 100% virtual, communication is more important than ever. 

“Normally it was, ‘here’s your assignment, get to work, and let me know if you have any questions,’” Weizer said. “But now it’s a lot of communication. It’s a lot of planning. It’s a lot of people saying, ‘I can’t do this, can somebody pick this up for me?” 

Due to social distancing guidelines that everyone must follow, covering events has also changed. The yearbook is working with a professional photographer, which makes taking pictures easy; however, interviewing people has changed because the staff is unable to attend the events. 

When they look back on it in 20 years, they’re going to see not as much, because not as much was able to happen. But we’ll find a way to get a book that has everything in it for the year.

— Mrs. Elizabeth Weizer - Yearbook adviser

“As a reporter, you want to be there and you want to get a feel for what’s going on so that you can add that to your writing. All of our communication with people has been done virtually, either in a Google Meet or through email or Instagram. That’s been tricky because it’s easy to ignore the email that comes to your inbox when you have 500 of them. It’s difficult to get information from people because clubs and meetings are held virtually as well, so we can’t just pop into a club meeting and quickly grab an interview,” Weizer said. “It’s a lot of planning and unfortunately, in news, when an event happens, it’s done and if you miss it, you miss it. It can’t be recreated.”

Considering the amount of uncertainty of what this year will look like, there is a possibility that the yearbook will be shorter than it was in previous years.

“I’m sad for the student life section, especially because North Penn just has so much here. It’s a building that is always alive and bustling,” Weizer said. “I’m upset, especially for the seniors because this would be their senior yearbook. And when they look back on it in 20 years, they’re going to see not as much, because not as much was able to happen. But we’ll find a way to get a book that has everything in it for the year.”

Everything is a process. This is all new to everyone. We are trying our best to make it as if it was like any other yearbook. It will be different, but we are definitely trying to make it as good as we usually do our yearbooks.

— Valerie Hummel

Despite all of the changes and adjustments, the yearbook will still capture all of the memories that happened this year, whether they were in school or outside of school. They are working hard to ensure that they represent the school year as best as they possibly can.

“Everything is a process. This is all new to everyone. We are trying our best to make it as if it was like any other yearbook,” Hummel said. “It will be different, but we are definitely trying to make it as good as we usually do our yearbooks.”