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Yearbook Evolving with the Times

West Deptford's Aquila is winning awards in an ever-evolving publishing world.

They’ve gone from graph paper to graphic design software, from pasting mock-ups together with glue and cropping tape to cutting-and-pasting Quick Response codes into the layout with a few clicks of a mouse.

In an ever-evolving world of media, yearbook, the Aquila, is no exception.

Only a few years removed from having to lug a heavy desktop computer home with them to catch up on a few hours’ work on an evening or a weekend, co-editors Phyllis Tortu-Sliwecki, a French teacher, and Dawn Jasper, the school’s librarian and yearbook class teacher, can now hand over remote access to their student editors and work wherever they can get online.

“We’ve come a long with technology,” Jasper said. “It’s nice to see what we can do.”

While the digital revolution has its challenges–a nearly 4-inch-thick binder of vanity ads had to be taken apart, scanned, laid out and cobbled together on the page, for instance–there are plenty of advantages: they can fix snafus like misspelled names or misplaced photos with just a few keystrokes, and hitting deadline means saving one last time, rather than rushing out to beat the FedEx truck.

Some things haven’t been touched by that evolution, though–like the sense of accomplishment students feel at the end of the year, with that hefty, 280-plus-page behemoth in their hands.

“Just to be able to look at it and say, ‘I did this, I put my effort into this,’ it’s just a great feeling,” said Jade Fox, the Aquila’s editor-in-chief.

Fox also went low-tech with last year’s cover–which scored the yearbook an award–spending hours laboring over a cutout design of an eagle’s head.

And despite the advances in technology, Tortu-Sliwecki said students can spend “months and months and months” perfecting bits and pieces of the final product, hanging out in the library in the afternoons and evenings, making revision after revision to get things just so.

“You have to love it,” she said.

Amanda Donisi, a senior spending her first year on the yearbook’s staff, worked on the middle school yearbook, but said it was a world of difference between that and the Aquila.

“It’s a lot more time and effort,” she said.

Senior Tina D’Aiutolo said those hours upon hours of work pay off at the end of the year.

“Making it your own, and seeing how it looks when you finally put it down on the pages...it just feels really good when it’s done,” she said.

Besides the hours during the school year, Jasper and Tortu-Sliwecki head to conferences in the summer to unearth new ideas, sometimes brainstorming on plane rides or in the hours around conference sessions.

All that effort has resulted in the Aquila and its staff racking up a number of awards, scoring recognition from Balfour as part of the annual YearbookYearbook, which highlights stellar work from high school staffs around the country, with less than about 3 percent of yearbooks published by Balfour getting that recognition.

Part of that success may stem from the decision to go with a theme for the yearbook every year over the past two decades–like this year’s 50th anniversary edition, featuring some history alongside the class of 2011.

“A lot of schools don’t do a theme–it’s just helter-skelter,” Tortu-Sliwecki said.

Those themes and design choices are the DNA, the sense of history embedded in each year’s creation, Fox said.

“Every different class that comes in and works on a yearbook, you can just see them in that yearbook,” she said.

Mary Lebeau May 09, 2011 at 11:31 AM
Great story! I worked on the Aquila as a member of the class of way back when. Advisors were Ms. Gaughan and Ms. Fitzgerald, if I recall correctly. Our theme was "You've Got A Friend." I would love to hear from others about their yearbook themes!
Kathleen Sherf May 09, 2011 at 12:25 PM
This yearbook is always exceptional and really reflects all of the hard work invested. Every year I can't wait until my son brings his home--it really gives us parents a good glimpse into the "secret world of high school" that our kids tend to keep to themselves!!!

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