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Michigan students chronicle unusual period in history through yearbooks

The pandemic changed a lot about Northview High School's yearbook including the publishing schedule. But students say some of those changes were welcome ones.

PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. — You can learn a lot about history from cracking open a yearbook. They capture the evolution of school sports teams, clubs, and fashion. But in a year that has been so strange for everyone, 2021 yearbooks will be able to show future generations what it was like to live through a global pandemic.

13 ON YOUR SIDE talked to Matthew Howe's yearbook class at Northview High School about how COVID-19 impacted their work and how they chose to document the pandemic.

"This year was especially challenging to create the yearbook. We were separated into two groups at school, so the staff was separated," said Northview senior and yearbook editor Paige Hartman.

"We weren’t sure when we would be able to get the resources we needed from people, if were were able to go to events and take pictures and get information and stuff like that."

Yearbook staff members were sometimes able to get into events, but capacity limits kept them from getting to everything, so they relied on others to help them collect the photographs they needed.

"It was really more than just our yearbook. It’s everybody’s yearbook," said junior and yearbook editor Grace Lambert.

"So many pictures are included that people sent in and we’re really grateful that the whole school kind of chipped in and helped make this yearbook."

The yearbook's publication schedule was also delayed, so students won't get them until fall. However, that delay comes with some benefits. Getting the yearbook done by the end of a normal school year means that spring activities don't make the yearbook. This year, they will be included.

"It was super cool for me because I play girls soccer. To be able to see like hey look at this page. I’m on this page. I can see our whole, entire team and see our accomplishments that some people might not have been able to in the past," said junior and yearbook staff member Carly Underhill.

The theme of the yearbook is based off Hasbro's Game of Life. It focuses on everything Northview students accomplished in the past year despite facing incredible challenges.

"Things happen, and we wanted to incorporate all the good that has happened even if COVID has put limits on it," said junior and yearbook staff member Biancah Dells.

"When I look at it, I just see all the bright pictures and it’s so happy. You would’ve never realized without the mask photos that we had COVID in Michigan. It just shows that we didn’t let something so huge effect us."

The yearbook didn't totally gloss over the pandemic. There are pages that chronicle what it was like to wear masks to school and what it was like to learn virtually. But the staff made sure to keep things positive.

"It’s important to recognize your hard work and dedication to something through hard times and having persevered, and I think that’s what I’ll most remember," said junior and yearbook staff member Katie Hudgens.

The staff members credit Mr. Howe who they describe as a "second dad," for helping their vision for the yearbook become a reality.

"He is by far one of the best teachers I’ve ever had and I’m going to remember him for the rest of my life. I’ve had him for soon to be four years and he’s literally just the best," Lambert said.

Staff members have imagined showing the yearbook to their future children as proof of how much hard work pays off.

"We went through this really tough time. We had all these things happen to us. But we were still able to find the good in everything," said junior and yearbook staff member Olivia Austin.

"Even though all of these things happened, I had so much taken away from me or whatever, there’s still some good left."

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