Cultivating Young Talent, Design Skills

Cultivating Young Talent, Design Skills

Proponents of digital-only yearbook solutions suggest that an app or website may very well do a better job of documenting the year’s history these days, but I’m convinced that print yearbooks are here to stay.

The timeless, tactile experience offered by ink on paper cannot be undone by a dead battery or weak connection; a bound book need not keep pace with software updates and new hardware.

My grandfather’s 1943 Olio senior yearbook from Amherst College holds a cherished place on our bookshelves in a way that no app in the future ever could.

One way to perpetuate the power of a printed yearbook is to engage students at even younger ages. Once they find passions for telling stories visually and verbally, they’ll be promoting the value of the yearbook to their peers.

In June 2016, Winfield Street Elementary School in Corning, NY, will release its second edition of the 36-page Down Under yearbook, printed at Herff Jones’ plant in Montgomery, Alabama. The Down Under is a collaboration between Winfield students and volunteer mentors from Tesserae, the yearbook at Corning-Painted Post High School. I love their book’s name; the school’s mascot is a kangaroo and one of the first tasks for the inaugural elementary staff was to name the yearbook.

We founded the Down Under with three mentors from Tesserae working with 12 3rd-5th grade students and two teachers at Winfield in 2015. This year’s staff includes 20 elementary students and six mentors from Tesserae.

As we work to complete the high school book, the elementary staff fires up, and the enthusiasm and education couldn’t be more inspirational. Love, love, love to watch them all in action.Cultivating Young Talent, Design Skills

With guidance from Corning-Painted Post High School junior Jake Russell, 4th grader Michael McNaughton practices using the Herff Jones YBook eDesign software. McNaughton is in his second year with Winfield Street Elementary School’s Down Under yearbook staff; Russell is a second-year veteran photographer with Tesserae.


Near the end of the Down Under staff’s work afternoon in C-PPHS’ student media lab, which houses the award-winning Tesserae yearbook, 4th grader Megan Williams checks her inspiration spread against her work in YBook. Williams is in her second year with the Down Under staff, which is mentored by six student volunteers from Tesserae. Karleigh Corliss, a C-PPHS sophomore and one of Down Under’s mentors, said, “It’s exciting to know that I’m a part of something that’s so special like this. I joined because I like working on yearbook, I like working with kids and I like working with my friends, so mentoring the Winfield kids was really a combination of all those things.”


With a few weeks of theme development and photography training behind them, sophomore Elia Warner works with 5th grader Lawson Bigelow (back) and 4th grader Dorothy Piech as they learn how to use YBook on Wednesday, January 27. Warner, who is a first-year member of the Tesserae yearbook staff at C-PPHS, said, “It’s really rewarding to be able to help [the Winfield kids] from start to finish with photography or design and see their excitement and how proud they are about accomplishing and creating new things. Working with Dorothy was fun for me because she was able to quickly learn and apply the new design skills that I helped her with in order to create her practice spread. It was great to receive a high five from her at the end of the day in the lab, and it’s nice to know that the other mentors and I are opening up creative possibilities for the kids, and that I have the opportunity to mentor the writers, designers, photographers and editors of the future.”

Mike Simons
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