Heaven is an Ex-Locker Room

Tucked away in an unassuming corner of the Austin Gym lies the yearbook room, a hallowed place on the John Cooper campus. A haven of graffitied brick, Harry Styles cutouts, oversized arcade prizes, scattered SD cards, and mountains of overdue proofs, this simple room holds all the secrets to the proliferation of the epitome of student journalism: the Paragon yearbook.

Under the watchful eyes of the editor-in-chief and our iconic advisor Ms. Boeding, the Paragon staff works tirelessly to create each 400-page installment year after year. The process begins in the summer, when staff meet to brainstorm theme ideas, attend yearbook camp, and meet with a cover artist. 

By the time August rolls around, the Paragon team is more than prepared for what’s to come. The first month is spent setting up files, naming pages, and, of course, taking on the beloved JoBros project. Named in the early 2000s when the Jonas Brothers were all the rage, JoBros gives staff the opportunity to practice their design and interview skills. Paragon is entirely student-produced from scratch, with no tolerance for templates or fill-in-the-blank copywriting. Paired up with an upperclassmen, new staff interview their partner and design an entire spread about them, their interests, hobbies, and quirks included. The project not only introduces the software used to create the book to new staff, namely Adobe InDesign and Photoshop, but also serves as a much needed refresher for returning staffers.

Skills in hand and theme in mind, staff then begin the most momentous task of all: creating the book. Pages are submitted over 5 major deadlines, each one boasting anywhere from 40 to 140 spreads. Staff members take the photos, design the layout, gather quotes, and write the copy that makes each yearbook spread a unique and telling testament to the year thus far. Different types of spreads warrant different levels of work. Hanging out on the Lower School playground for a 3rd Grade Class Page is a far different story from the terrifying realization that you were assigned a Middle School Boys Basketball page and their season ended months ago without a single photo.

Still, the workload of yearbook is certainly worthwhile. Whether it’s a late night or a weekend workday, the yearbook room is never without a constant supply of snacks, Taylor Swift music, and inside jokes only made possible in the delirium of deadline. The walls may be covered in to-do lists, page assignments, and submission dates, but they are also adorned with staff photos, signatures, and editors’ crowns. The yearbook room is the definition of work hard, play hard.

All our hard work finally comes to its conclusion with the final deadline in mid-March. The Friday night before Spring Break, the whole staff unites in what can only be described as a journalistic fever dream, staying at school as late as needed to send off the book in its entirety. The room is jam-packed, with students at every computer working together in a euphonious fervor of keyboard-clacking, Alexa-blaring chaos. There are shouts of joy when a classmate you DM-ed on Instagram in October finally responds to give you the quote you asked for, or the groans of agony when you open up your page to find it didn’t save. By midnight, only a select few are still standing, hard at work into the early hours of the morning. When the book is finally finished, it is sent off in a comatose haze. After nearly a year in the making, our work is complete.

The six week period spent waiting for the books to arrive is not unproductive, but nothing can match the pace of the first three quarters of the school year. This welcome lull is interrupted, however, by the army of boxes filled to the brim with yearbooks. Piled in the center of the room into a cardboard castle, a mountain to be conquered, a stockpile of success; the smell of their clean pages is rejuvenating. 

So cheers to the yearbook staff, for their hard work, creative spirit, and dedication!