MEAD, Wash. - When the yearbook's advisor heard their name announced as the winner of the National Scholastic Press Association's Pacemaker award, she almost couldn't believe it.
"I was like oh my gosh," said Makena Busch, "this is next level. This would be the equivalency of a high school football team winning nationals, its the Pulitzer of yearbooks."
She said as true journalists, her students even caught the video of her reaction. Needless to say there were many tears.
"Its a dedicated group," she said, "23 kids built this 400 page yearbook. That is a daunting task, there aren't many yearbooks that go that high."
As a sixth period class for juniors and seniors, she says her students are ingrained in the happenings of the school.
"I love being on the sidelines for football games, and getting that one moment," said former editor Amanda Stephens. "I love the creativity and I love the writing."
She says the team that worked together on last years award winner, took special care to not only tell the happy stories, your typical yearbook fare, but also the more in-depth stories as well.
"Our book hopefully gives you a different perspective of our students," she said. But a true and factual one, nonetheless.
She said they wrote stories that addressed topics like depression and anxiety.
"Our students are going through real things," she said, "this is their life and what they are experiencing."
All with an end of year deadline looming.
"It was just go-go-go, we had to get pictures of all these sports, and we had all that snow, and practices were getting canceled," she said.
She said, like any yearbook staff in high school, they tend to get labeled.
"We are a bunch of nerds, is probably the biggest stereotype," she said.
But that gets broken at the end of every year.
"When they are looking through it saying 'hey that's me', that is a great shot," she said, "they are kind of like, 'good job guys'."
Stephens has since graduated, but was in giving some pointers to this year's crew who says they have big shoes to fill.
"It really raised the bar," said Danie Jarvis, Photo Editor for this year's book, "but I am pretty confident that the students will really like it, and the judges at NSPA will as well."
He says they are going for round two as new interest in their yearbook grows.
"I used to have to convince students that yearbook is fun and its cool," said Busch, "and I don't feel like I have to do that anymore."
She says she works hard to teach her students the positive role of journalism, and the responsibility they have to tell accurate stories.
She says she always winds up with a motivated, caring, and special group each year.
As the national winner, she says their yearbook will be shipped to thousands of school across the country, to be used as an example for their yearbooks.
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