hen a perfectionist freshman
joined the yearbook staff, she thought it would just be a fun activity. Other people liked it. She thought it seemed cool. Little did she realize it would determine her college choice and career path.

“When I would look at yearbooks, I’d see little errors or misquotes and I thought I’d be the one to correct those errors,” Caroline Mattox said. “But in reality, there’s no way that’s ever going to happen.”

But still, she fell in love.

Nuntius of Altavista Combined School in Altavista, Virginia established itself as one of the top books both in the state and in the country. And Mattox can say she contributed to its legacy.

“My first year, I took a laptop home and I pulled up InDesign tutorials and YouTube videos. I copied spreads from old yearbooks. By the end of my first semester on staff, I was already designing my own spreads.”

More Than A Pica

There’s something about the writing – different from English classes – and the designing – different from art classes. There’s something about the science of yearbook.

“You have to have an eye for detail and you have to know what looks right and what works. You can move a design element over three clicks, and suddenly it looks perfect.”

She went to the Columbia Scholastic Press Association’s spring convention her freshman year. She was there to learn and take it all in. And yes, she said, she does still have her notes saved on her phone.

Three years later, students were taking notes from her as she stood beside her adviser speaking on how yearbook changed her life.

“Yes, I learned AP style. And yes, I learned how to use InDesign, which is handy if my older sister wants a baby shower invitation. But I’ve learned more about myself, how I can be a leader and how I can teach others.”

In March, six years and six conventions after her first, Mattox went back to New York City to teach sessions at CSPA on “What I Wish I Knew in High School.” This time, though, she’s in her second term as the editor-in-chief of Virginia Tech’s Bugle.

“In high school, I was glad I took initiative and I could help edit, but now I’m actually seeing the impact it’s had on my life,” she said. “To have students come up to me at CSPA when they realize, yes, it is yearbook. And yes, it is a nerdy thing to love, but when you love it, it changes you as a person.”