Yearbooks are a timeless memory capsule synonymous with most everyone’s high school years. But for most students who only see the finished product, the amount of time and effort dedicated to its production can be lost in the shuffling of the pages.
Nowhere has that time and effort been more apparent than at Olentangy High School, where under the tutelage of journalism teacher and yearbook adviser Jessica Roads, the OHS yearbook program has become one of the best in state.
After taking home first-place honors in each of the past nine years, “The Golden Arrow” was awarded first place in the Ohio Scholastic Media Association (OSMA)’s state competition for a 10th consecutive year earlier in the school year.
OSMA grades high school yearbooks based on a wide range of details that include the theme, reader services, photography, captions, writing, headlines, design and graphics, coverage and leadership. “The Golden Arrow” received a “good” rating in theme, reader services, photography, writing and leadership. “Outstanding” marks were given in design and coverage.
“You have created a book your school and community should be proud of,” the evaluation read.
The yearbook program is one of several specialized courses in OHS’ journalism program, which also includes broadcast journalism and the school’s news magazine, The Beacon. Students must first take the introductory class and maintain a B average before moving forward into one of the specialized programs.
Roads, who also teaches the introductory class, is in her 12th year heading the yearbook program, and her obvious passion for the program makes it no wonder why there has been so much success through the years.
“I tell the kids, I do not hide how I feel.” Roads said. “I love yearbook. It’s my favorite class … The creativity, the collaboration.”
Roads added that being able to see the summation of an entire year’s worth of work is especially rewarding, as is seeing her students, many of whom she has for their entire high school career, grow through the years.
“A lot of high school teachers don’t get that,” she said. “They get 45 minutes a day (with students).”
But while the yearly success of “The Golden Arrow” begins with Roads, she is quick to point out her role is entirely in an advisory capacity. It’s the students, she said, who are generating the sustained success.
“The kids pretty much run the show,” Roads said.
Students this year are well underway in creating a yearbook that will uphold the standard and tradition that the staffs before them have created, albeit with slightly fewer team members. Roads said the current staff consists of 15 students, where as that number has been around 25 students in the past.
One of those students, junior Lauren Sommerfeld, believes that while last year’s edition may have taken first-place honors once again, there is significant room for improvement in 2020.
“I feel like (the 2020 edition) is a recovery, to be honest,” Sommerfeld said. “The last yearbook was very lacking in our creativity, but this one, the theme is very powerful.”
Sommerfeld added this year’s staff seems to be much more cooperative and willing to move in the same direction, which will pay dividends in the quality of the final product.
Asked if there is any added pressure to continue the excellence that has been “The Golden Arrow” over the past decade, Sommerfeld said, “Yes, I definitely think so. Anytime we start to slack or wonder why we’re doing this, (Mrs.) Roads and the editors remind us that this is our legacy, and we have to uphold it.”