Joe Henderson: Chamberlain yearbook rescued by Strawberry Crest volunteers

Chamberlain High lost its yearbook advisor and was in danger of having no yearbook this year when the advisor and staff from Strawberry Crest High agreed to step in and help. [Times files (2006)]
Chamberlain High lost its yearbook advisor and was in danger of having no yearbook this year when the advisor and staff from Strawberry Crest High agreed to step in and help. [Times files (2006)]
Published April 4 2018
Updated April 5 2018

Organizing and producing a high school yearbook, to capture memories that will last a lifetime, is complicated, tedious, and takes months.

Morgan Miltner, a teacher and yearbook advisor at Strawberry Crest High in Dover, knows all about that. She has led students through the process since the school opened in 2009. She requires them to make multiple editing checks to ensure every scrap of information is accurate.

So, imagine how she felt after receiving a phone call recently that was more like a plea. A representative from Herff Jones, the company that helps produce yearbooks in Hillsborough County, had some distressing news.

Chamberlain High had lost its advisor and was three weeks past the final deadline for a completed book. There was basically nothing in place.

Could she help?

"My first thought was that I couldn’t take on something like that," Miltner said. "And then I thought, ‘OK, I’m going to throw my kids at it.’ I pulled some seniors together and said, ‘Guys, we have to talk.’ "

Student yearbook staffers from the Crest soon joined with students from Newsome High, and together they produced a miracle of sorts. Chamberlain will have its yearbook.

But before we get into that, there was one more important hurdle for the volunteers to clear: They had to find out where Chamberlain is located.

"I had never been there," senior Abigail Erwin said.

Don’t be harsh. Strawberry Crest is in a rural part of eastern Hillsborough County. Chamberlain is about 21 miles from the Crest through some heavy traffic.

The 146-page yearbook is a snapshot of a moment in time, recapping a year of achievement, participation and advancement. How could outsiders do justice to that with so little time and such a high learning curve?

After all, while the volunteers were well acquainted with their own schools, they needed a crash course in what the year was like at Chamberlain. Filling the book with meaningful and appropriate content was a major challenge.

The yearbook cover had been printed in January, so at least that was done. A volunteer from Newsome had flowed student pictures into place. After that, well, let’s just say there were a lot of empty pages.

Miltner helped set up page layout with computer templates, but the content that would fill those pages still had to be generated.

Last Thursday, March 29, the students traveled to Chamberlain and set about filling that space.

They were greeted by grateful administrators and students.

"I had gotten a call from Herff Jones saying, ‘Hey, are you cool with other kids from superstar (yearbook) programs coming to help out?’ Yes, I was," Chamberlain Principal Jake Russell said.

"They all came in and did a great job. These yearbooks are mostly kid-generated things. The teacher just kind of supervises it. It was good for our students to see how something like this is done."

Newsome’s students handled the athletics section — placing photos, cutlines, and short stories that summarized the various Chamberlain sports teams.

"Once they finished that, they were asking how else they could help," senior Anna Benvenuti said. "They were great."

Crest volunteers jumped in to fill part of the book devoted to student life, clubs, academics, and other activities.

Before the day was done, the group had filled 99 blank pages — all for a school they don’t attend.

"We all felt kind of honored to do it," Crest senior Madilyn Stone said.

After a few days of proofreading and late adjustments, a project that once seemed hopeless was submitted to the publisher late Monday night.

"It was awesome, awesome," Russell said. "It was great that those kids jumped in to help. That’s kind of what the whole community of Hillsborough schools is all about. We lift each other up."