The yearbook: Where it starts. Where it ends.

At the end of this month, almost every student will be able to receive their copy of the yearbook. Students everywhere will be flipping through pages, looking for the clubs they were in or staring at that cute student’s picture. Many will secretly (or maybe not so secretly) go to the index at the back of the book and find every page that they are on.

Most will not give a second thought, however, to the hours spent by a group of twenty students who worked to put the book they hold in their hands together.

The lengthy process of creating ONU’s yearbook begins even before the school year starts. First, the executive editor of the Aurora is appointed during the spring semester. Junior Sarah Zelhart ran the show this year. She will return to the position as executive editor next year as well.

Zelhart has been working on yearbooks for six years now. She started out as a staff member during her sophomore year of high school. Then, she became the editor at Momence High School her junior and senior year and continued that tradition here at Olivet.

After the executive editor is chosen during the spring semester, brainstorming begins.

Zelhart says that she had the idea for this year’s book when she got the position in the spring of 2010. She did not set it in stone however, until after she had selected the other editors on her staff and pitched the idea to them as well. She says the book is not hers alone, so she did not want to choose the theme without consulting the rest of her staff first.

The executive team of the Aurora staff includes (from left) adviser Amber Olney, senior Alyssa Cramer, junior Brent Brooks, junior Sarah Zelhart, senior Danek Torrey and senior Kayla Koury. Photo submitted by Sarah Zelhart

The editor positions on the Aurora staff include the head designer, the head writer and the head photographer. Students interested in those positions or any other staff positions applied shortly after Zelhart was appointed. She then made her selections and hired the staff.

“I look for people with yearbook experience as well as creativity and the ability to work with people,” Zelhart says.

The staff includes the design team that works on the page layout, the writing team and the photography team. Once the whole staff is hired, the executive team, the three “heads” of each team and Zelhart, continues to come up with ideas. The editors even get together over the summer to attend a yearbook conference with publishers.

Last summer’s conference was in Kansas City, Mo. The editors attend workshops to discuss ideas with people from publishing companies.

By the time they come back to Olivet in the fall, the Aurora staff already has the yearbook planned out. They move in two days before the freshmen to attend a staff retreat where they discuss their staff manual and have questions answered.

There is little time for the staff to get situated with the new school year. The photographers and writers begin taking pictures and writing stories on all the back-to-school events. The executive designer finishes making the templates for the pages by September.

Aurora’s publisher, Walsworth Publishing Co. out of Marceline, Mo., gives four deadlines throughout the year at which time the staff has to send in a designated amount of pages. The executive editor decides ahead of time what pages should be done for each deadline.

Zelhart required the staff to finish a set number of pages each week before the publisher’s deadline so that she could proofread the pages for any overlooked mistakes. She then uploads the pages on Walsworth’s website and receives proofs back two weeks later. She takes another two weeks to make extra edits and then sends in the final version.

The final deadline this year was before spring break on Feb. 22.

“Anything that happens after [spring break] just doesn’t go in,” Zelhart says.

The final event the staff prepares for is the distribution party.

“Last year was the first time we had one,” Zelhart says. “It really helped distribution, and it’s just a time for students to kick back and relax as they look at the yearbook.”

This year’s party is in Common Grounds. Sodexo will supply cookies and the Aurora staff will give out candy. There will be live music as well. Last year, University President Dr. John Bowling attended and even signed yearbooks. Zelhart said Bowling will make an appearance again this year as well. The party will be April 27 from 4 to 10 p.m.

Zelhart says that she and the staff spend countless hours working on the yearbook, but their hard work is worth it in the end.

“I just like making something that people are going to keep for years and be able to look back on,” she says.

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