The 2014 Westlake High School yearbook has received numerous awards in scholastic journalism, including the CSPA Gold Crown, the NSPA Pacemaker Award and the ILPC Gold Star. These first two are given only to the top publications in the country and the third is awarded to the best in Texas. The El Paisano has won this trifecta before in 2012, validating the yearbook as consistently excellent.
“Only a small percentage of publications become finalists and receive any kind of recognition [in national competitions]; an even smaller percentage gets the Gold Crown or the Pacemaker, so it’s a big deal,” adviser Cindy Todd said. “To [also] get the Gold Star in a state like Texas that’s so competitive in scholastic journalism means everything to us.”
Todd’s experience certainly maintains the yearbook’s commendable standards, though the success of each publication depends entirely on the staff members.
“I respect my students,” Todd said. “There are some things in this yearbook that I’m not particularly crazy about, but it’s the students’ work. It’s their vision, that’s what it should be, and it’s my job to support that.”
The secret to the yearbook’s achievements last year stemmed from its abundance of feature stories: by emphasizing their writing, they managed to cover stories in more detail than what is expected of almost any high school yearbook.
“A lot of yearbooks don’t put a lot of stories in their yearbooks anymore, and last year [we had] 14 [feature stories] throughout the book,” Todd said. “It was challenging but also really gratifying to try something new and different [by having] completely different designs from the rest of the book, different fonts from the rest of the book and [to have] it pay off.”
This boldness showcases itself again, with the theme for the recently-distributed 2015 yearbook pertaining to the difference, specifically how Westlake students stand out as individuals to make a difference in their community. Everything centers around this theme, from the feature stories to even the texture of the yearbook’s cover.
“We needed something different to live up to last year’s cover which was beautiful,” co-editor-in-chief senior Jenna Jones said. “We were thinking ‘What’s something that makes the one difference in your life,’ [so we created] a textured cover in order to give it that worn, loved feeling.”
The 2015 book also features a first-person story in the senior section written by Nikki and Kendal Lyssy, twin sisters who were born blind, with a Braille tip-in between the article on every copy, making this yearbook the first in Westlake history to insert Braille within the issue.
“There’s actually four pages of Braille in this yearbook and we’re really excited about that,” Todd said. “Nikki and Kendal are so loved that this [represents] something we can do for them, to give back some of the joy they’ve brought to so many people on campus.”
The yearbook staff’s ambition to please the student body with methods as unique and colorful as the school they represent results in remarkable annual publications, regardless of what judges think.
“The primary thing we think of [when designing yearbooks] is: how is the student body going to interpret us,” Jenna said. “If we don’t win any awards but they still love it, then we’ll still consider it a successful book [because] they’re the ones that really matter.”
Yearbooks are currently available outside of room 285 near the P.E. gym.
Video courtesy of Cooper Kerbow.