Keeping memories alive
• Photo gallery: Yearbooks still popular at Saint Francis School
By Zenaida Serrano
Advertiser Staff Writer
When students Nicole Ancheta and Francesca Koethe flipped through the pages of their new Saint Francis School yearbook, their faces brightened as they pointed out pictures of themselves and their classmates. The personal notes, doodles and inside jokes scribbled throughout the pages of Ancheta's book also made for a fun read.
"We're finally graduating. OMG!!" one of her classmates wrote. Another used all Japanese characters to relay her sentiments: "Nicole, congratulations ... good luck." And another sketched a silly stick-figure girl with the caption: "Me waving goodbye."
"(A yearbook) has all of our memories," said Ancheta, 17, a Saint Francis School senior and member of the yearbook staff. ... "It's one of the highlights of our high school career and it kind of closes the year."
Tens of thousands of Hawai'i seniors say goodbye to high school in the coming weeks, but many will continue to revisit their school days through the pages of their yearbooks. For generations of graduates, these books have come to symbolize the best years of their young lives.
High school faculty and students shared how much these treasured annuals have changed throughout the years, from dark room to digital, black-and-white to full color. They also talked about what hasn't changed and probably never will, such as the group photos of the stoic athletes or the page-long goodbye messages.
Among the constants: Yearbooks are an end-of-the-year highlight, especially for graduating seniors, said Frank Toyama, Saint Francis School's yearbook adviser.
"Even back when I was in high school, everybody looked forward to the yearbook coming out," said Toyama, who graduated in 1967 from Roosevelt High School. "The old slogan about yearbooks is that you're capturing memories. You're preserving memories of students' lives on campus."
THE DIGITAL AGE
Roxane Goo, a 1978 Maryknoll School graduate, recalled what it took to put together a yearbook when she was co-editor of the yearbook staff in high school.
A dark room and all its paraphernalia to develop black-and-white photos. A T-square, scissors and rubber cement to crop and paste photos. A typewriter to type out photo captions.
"From old-school to now? Very different," Goo said and laughed.
At Damien Memorial School, where Goo is yearbook adviser, students use an Internet-based yearbook program to produce their annuals. The online process, used among yearbook clubs statewide, drastically cuts the time and manual labor of yearbook production, Goo said.
"Now you don't need to do the measuring, cutting and pasting," Goo said. "You pick a photo online ... and you can size it right there to focus on what you want. Everything else gets cropped out automatically."
But with all the gains of going digital, there are losses, too.
"One thing that we've lost here at Saint Francis in the last two years or so since we've gone digital is our end-of-the-year picture sale," said Sister Joan of Arc Souza, head of school at Saint Francis School.
An annual tradition, the yearbook staff would sell leftover prints to the student body for 25 or 50 cents. The money would go toward buying more film for the following year, said Souza, a 1961 Saint Francis graduate and former yearbook staffer.
"Something comes, something goes," Souza said.
Yearbook DVD supplements — often extra yearbook photos and videos set to music — are also available to schools, but aren't wildly popular in Hawai'i, said Shareen Guzman, a representative for Herff Jones Yearbooks, which prints and publishes yearbooks for more than 30 schools statewide.
"Ultimately it's about having something to hold, something to write in and something to reference," Guzman said. "A book is something that, in 20 or 30 years, you don't have to worry if you have the technology to view it."
While most schools have gone digital, only a few have gone green.
University Laboratory School is among the first schools in Hawai'i this year to produce its entire annual on 100 percent recycled paper printed with soybean oil ink. The yearbook staff also uses rechargeable batteries in its digital cameras.
"Every year the kids get together and brainstorm on new ideas for the yearbook theme," said Kika Bombeke, yearbook adviser at University Laboratory School. "This year they wanted to come up with something that would make a lasting impression on our school."
A school that has embraced eco-friendly practices — recycling bins for paper, cans, glass and newspaper can be found campuswide — the Lab School wanted to send a message to the greater community as well.
"We strongly encourage others to 'go green' in any way that they can," Bombeke said.
The school has already requested to use 100 percent recycled paper and soybean oil inks for next year's annual.
"Although it may cost a little more money, we are determined to make this a habit for our yearbooks and not just a passing trend," she said.
THE FACEBOOK AGE
The popularity of online social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook may have also affected high school yearbooks — at least the interest in joining yearbook clubs, faculty and students said.
"When I first started (12 years ago), I used to get 30-plus students come into my classroom and apply for yearbook, and I had to whittle it down to maybe 20, 19, 18," said Toyama, the Saint Francis yearbook adviser.
But the number of students interested in yearbook class "drastically dropped" in the years of the MySpace and current Facebook crazes, he said.
"I definitely think it's connected," Toyama said.
Toyama likened Facebook to "personal yearbooks" for its teen users.
"Yearbook is kind of like doing a Facebook (page)," Toyama said. "So if the girls can work on their own Facebook pages, why work on somebody else's?"
However, the yearbook staff at Kaimuki High School is seeing an opposite trend: a dramatic increase in yearbook class signups.
The number of students who signed up for yearbook class went from 25 last year to 50 this year and 80 next year, said Barry Yogi, Kaimuki's yearbook adviser.
"A lot of kids do make their own layouts and pages (online), and I find it fun," said Emilee Gibo, 17, a layout and design editor for the Kaimuki yearbook staff.
"If you can get a grade for doing something you already do, why not do it?" added Thanh-Van Tran, also 17, a copy and design editor on staff.
There are certain things about yearbooks that will never change, no matter the era.
"You can almost guarantee that you're going to have a special senior section and you're going to have sports coverage," Yogi said. "Those are two givens right there."
Yearbooks will always be a way for high schoolers to showcase trends of the times, Yogi added.
Yogi, a 1981 graduate of Roosevelt, recalled his own high school yearbooks with features on disco music, movies like "Flashdance" and popular local hangouts like Zippy's.
The 2007 Kaimuki yearbook was designed to look like an Apple PowerBook, which was popular at the time. The laptop theme carried throughout the pages of the annual (meant to be read horizontally), with the cover's Apple logo replaced with the school mascot's bulldog paw print and different sections of the book looking like specially-designed Web sites.
This year's Kaimuki yearbook includes a feature on the latest electronics, such as the iPod Nano-Chromatic and iPhone. The rest of the yearbook will be kept a surprise until Kaimuki's annual yearbook-signing party on Friday.
The event serves as a fundraiser for the yearbook class and offers students first dibs on purchasing yearbooks, which won't be distributed until June 2.
Damien's yearbook this year carries an iPhone theme from cover to cover. Signs posted throughout campus featuring the yearbook caused some confusion at first, said Wallance Miranda, 16, editor of this year's and next year's yearbook.
"People couldn't figure out whether they were getting an iPhone or if the yearbook was going to be available on the iPhone or if it just looked like the iPhone," Miranda said and laughed.
Back at the Saint Francis School yearbook room, Ancheta and Koethe discussed the significance of yearbooks to high school students — past, present and future.
"It's a time capsule," said Koethe, a junior and next year's yearbook editor. ... "It just reminds you of who were your friends and who was your family in school, so you never forget."