Homer High yearbook staff earns national Jostens’ award for inclusivity

The Homer High School yearbook staff received a national award by Jostens for their 2021 yearbook.

Jostens awarded Homer High School’s latest yearbook, “Our Story 202One,” the Jostens 2021 National Yearbook Program of Excellence award at the Gold Level for the yearbook staff’s dedication to inclusivity and creativity. Homer High School is one of only two schools in Alaska who received the award from Jostens, which is a yearbook and memorabilia manufacturer.

The National Yearbook Program of Excellence award honors high school yearbooks that engage and reflect a broad representation of the student body. This is the second year the Homer High School yearbook staff received the National Yearbook Program of Excellence award; however, the staff previously earned the honor at the bronze level. Several members of the staff said that being awarded the highest level of the 2021 National Yearbook Program of Excellence for the annual they created during the COVID-19 pandemic is special and shows they improved their skills even in challenging times.

According to a press release from Jostens, Homer High School received the award by achieving criteria in all three categories: creating an inclusive yearbook, generating school engagement and managing the yearbook creation process.

“Homer High is known for being one of the most inclusive and welcoming schools on the Kenai Peninsula,” reads the introduction of the yearbook. “However, this year has made getting involved no easy task. The yearbook team decided the best way to let everyone be heard is to listen to their story. Being online leaves small windows to get pictures of every student, so by creating surveys and conducting interviews, we’ve done our best to capture this year. You make the year, we make the book. This is our story.”

The 2020-21 staff created the yearbook virtually. The staff includes editors Mya Houglum, Paige Jones, Katelyn Engebretsen and Mariah McGuire, as well as the support staff Madison Story, Tristyn Romeril, Hannah Hatfield and Kamdyn Doughty. Homer High School teacher and adviser Suzanne Bishop led the staff.

The pandemic challenged the staff this year with creating a yearbook featuring all of the students learning on and off campus. “Our Story 202One” shares the experiences of students during the pandemic and the innovative ways they have overcome challenges such as online learning and social distancing. Through numerous online surveys and story and photo submissions, the staff said they reached a larger portion of students who aren’t always featured in the yearbook.

“Our goal is for, since not everyone is at school, was for everyone to be able to tell their story even though COVID is limiting what people can do,” Jones said.

“I think especially in this pandemic year, the theme was really important because this year was really hard for everybody. The individualness of the yearbook was really able to highlight everyone who doesn’t always get attention,” Story said.

The yearbooks were distributed to students during the second week of May. A copy of the 2021 yearbook is available for viewing at the Homer Public Library.

For more information about the yearbook, contact Bishop at SBishop@KPBSD.k12.ak.us.

Reach Sarah Knapp at sarah.knapp@homernews.com.