Home World Shepard High School yearbook staff earns award from publisher

Shepard High School yearbook staff earns award from publisher

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The Odyssey, the yearbook at Shepard High School is not only packed with information about the 2023-24 school year in its 188 pages.

It’s now a shining example for other high schools to follow.

Walsworth, the Overland Park, Kansas, company that publishes yearbooks nationwide, determined Shepard is deserving of its Gallery of Excellence Award, given to the best yearbooks.

The Shepard yearbook will be cited in a booklet Walsworth distributes to high school yearbooks staffs around the country, giving them ideas of how to best prepare their own yearbooks.

Advisers Jodi Pelini and Erin Kay won the Yearbook Dream Team Award.

Mary Slater, of Walsworth, who works with Shepard, surprised the yearbook club with an in-person announcement May 15. Slater had nominated Shepard and a Walsworth committee agreed, Pelini said.

“Our rep said she was coming over to our last meeting of the year. She wouldn’t give us details,” said Pelini, a digital media teacher. “I was joking, ‘Hmm, maybe we are winning something.’ She surprised us with a nice plaque.”

The Odyssey editor-in-chief, Alaina Simikoski, 18, of Alsip, said students in the club deserve recognition.

“We worked really hard, so I’m really proud of us,” said Simikoski, who graduated May 23.

The Gallery of Excellence from Walsworth Publishing goes to only a select few schools nationwide for consistently demonstrating superior quality, adviser Jodi Pelini said. (High School District 218)

High School District 218

The Gallery of Excellence from Walsworth Publishing goes to only a select few schools nationwide for consistently demonstrating superior quality, adviser Jodi Pelini said. (High School District 218)

“We worked on it at home, during our lunch period. Any free time was dedicated to the yearbook. But it was fun, it was enjoyable,” she said.

As editor-in-chief, it was her job to make sure all the layouts were error-free and names were correct.

“Missing deadlines wasn’t a big issue for us, but we had to make sure we got the names correct. That’s a big thing, matching names with faces,” Simikoski said.

Other Odyssey staff members were Wiktoria Baszewksi, Mariam Diab, Ava Gliva, Nicolas Griffin, Ivan Hernandez, Monica Hernandez, Brianne Katula, Ella Moller, Gavin Moore, Aya Mustafa, Jenna Pollack, Emily Smith, Olivia Uelman and Tennille Williams.

Students worked “thousands of hours” since August, Pelini said.

“It is so much work. We are grateful when it’s done,” she said.

“What’s unusual about yearbook is it’s a club. But instead of having fun and socializing, we have to produce something that’s held to a really high standard,” Pelini said.

“It’s challenging to do that with students who are 15, 16, 17 years old, to do something all the adults are going to criticize and scrutinize,” she said.

Reviews have been very positive.

“Everyone loves the book. That’s the greatest award. When kids are walking around, signing each other’s yearbooks, and are so eager to look at the pages, then you know you did a good job,” Pelini said.

The Odyssey was finished in mid-March but they didn’t see the final product until late April when they said, “oh, my gosh, it really does look good,” Pelini said with a laugh.

The yearbook staff covers every sport, every season and every major event at Shepherd. That includes theatrical productions, concerts and all kinds of events.

“It’s an archive,” Pelini said. “It’s a historical document about what life is like in this year.”

The 2024 Odyssey yearbook at Shepard High School, with the theme

High School District 218

The 2024 Odyssey yearbook at Shepard High School, with the theme “Now Showing.” (High School District 218)

This year’s yearbook theme was “Now Showing,” which is based on Hollywood.

The club was inspired by a comment from Principal Jen Pollack in a meeting early in the school year. She told the club she liked the idea of showcasing Shepard High School, Pelini said.

That made them think of a Hollywood theme “to show that everybody at Shepard is a star,” Simikoski said.

With many underclassmen in the club, Pelini is hoping they take the skills learned this year and expand on them.

“The fact that we got this award this year with such a young staff, mostly freshmen, it sets the bar high for the next few years,” Pelini said.

All 475 copies of the yearbook have been sold. Early birds bought them for $60 at the start of the school year. They were $75 at the end of the year.

“That barely covers our costs. Publishing is expensive,” Pelini said.

Regarding the Dream Team Award, Pelini said she and Kay, an English teacher who works in the school library, are an excellent team.

“She’s very good with the details and I’m more of a design person,” said Pelini, whose career started in journalism.

The key to success, she said, is striking a balance.

“If you can find that balance between something of high quality and still maintaining the fun, the students will come back and work hard,” Pelini said.

As an example, those hard-working Shepard students didn’t have a party when they learned of the honor.

“(Slater) came on a day we were planning for next year’s book. It was back to work. We have to pick a theme,” Pelini said.

While she declined to reveal the theme, next year will be the 50th yearbook at Shepard.

“It will probably celebrate that,” she said.

Steve Metsch is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.



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