The day begins as students file into Room 115 for their first hour yearbook class. Chatter bounces around the room like a dodgeball while the voices of Carrie Underwood and Justin Timberlake buzz in the background. 10 minutes into the hour, Dante Colombo, the editor-in-chief, commands the room’s attention by reminding the staff what still needs to be done for the day. Meanwhile, design editor Teanna Totten works on the design of the latest yearbook spread.
Colombo and Totten first joined a yearbook staff their eighth grade year at West Junior High. Colombo was named editor-in-chief and Totten was named design editor the following year at West. Upon joining Free State’s yearbook staff their sophomore year, Colombo entered as a photographer and Totten as a designer. This year, they were named editor-in-chief and design editor once again and are currently in charge of Free State’s 2013 yearbook, “Thrive”.
“Our theme is ‘Thrive.’ [Thrive signifies] just being happy with the way things are now [and] being accepting of how the school is now,” Colombo said. “Last year our theme was ‘Merge’ to talk about how the ninth graders were coming up and we were merging.”
As seniors this year, Colombo and Totten leave Free State hoping to have made something for themselves and everyone else to remember.
“It’s cool because in 50 years someone’s going to pull out their yearbook and show their kids my work and Dante’s work,” Totten said. “I know my work will always be here.”
Colombo agrees, hoping the yearbook will have a lasting impact and set the stage for returning and new staffers.
“That’s what’s really cool about yearbook,” Colombo also said. “You have that yearbook for your whole life and it’s going to be there forever.”
As they supervise their final publication, Totten and Colombo hope to leave the staff with the skills necessary to create next year’s publication. They have high hopes for next year’s staff and next year’s yearbook.
“I’m going to miss the staff, but I’m excited to move on to different things,” Totten said. “[But] I know the editors for next year will [be] fantastic.”
Colombo is optimistic for next year as well.
“I just hope that we’ve done enough to not only teach how to make a yearbook right but I also hope that we’ve inspired our staff be creative and come up with their own [theme] that will really work for them specifically [and] for their year specifically,” Colombo also said. “There’s a lot of pride that goes [with making a yearbook for your senior year].”
Colombo and Totten, prepared to transition from high school to college, both hope to apply their yearbook skills in the future.
“You do learn how to communicate and even if you don’t go into journalism, communication and knowing how to communicate is a key skill you’ll use for any job.” Totten said.
Since Totten and Colombo have been a part of the journalism community for so long, they have experienced person growth.
“When I came in here as a sophomore, it was intimidating at first just because there are all these people so much older than you and have been doing it for so much longer,” Colombo said. “It was a transition at first but not too terrible.”
As seniors, Colombo and Totten have tried to foster the same welcoming environment they experienced when they were underclassmen.
“It’s funny how much people come out of their shells when they’re on yearbook or newspaper,” Colombo said.
Now that both editors are going in different directions, they both leave the staff influenced by what they’ve learned.
“I’m going to KU and majoring in graphic design and possibly double majoring in journalism,” Totten said. “If I hadn’t had this opportunity I wouldn’t be doing graphic design, I wouldn’t have discovered something I love.”
Even though Colombo hasn’t decided on a career path yet, he hopes to use his communication skills in the profession he selects.
“I think for a long time it was my intent to major in journalism and do something like that but the older I get the more I realize that there’s other things I like doing,” Colombo said. “[Yearbook] more than anything, [has] improved my ability to talk to people and my ability to lead people. That’s the most important thing I’ve [gotten] out of [yearbook].”
Although the two editors are leaving, they hope to keep “thriving” in the future.
“I know that last year [the freshman coming] was a really big deal with everyone coming together,” Totten said, “but I think that now we’re together and now that [Free State’s] not so new and different we truly can thrive.”