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Kennebec Journal: Pair of Richmond students get national recognition for yearbook they helped start in middle school

Source: Emily Duggan, staff writer for the Kennebec Journal

Now-high school students, Lila Viselli and Izzy Stewart helped start the yearbook in Richmond Middle School after a six-year hiatus and are being recognized for their work two years later.

RICHMOND — Students Lila Viselli and Izzy Stewart, along with their former teacher, Rebecca Redman, started the yearbook at Richmond Middle School in a year that would go down in its own history books — and are being recognized nationally for doing so.

The Richmond Middle School yearbook won first place in the technology company TreeRing’s Yearbook Hero Contest after being nominated by Redman for their work in restarting the yearbook after a six-year hiatus.

At that time, Redman, now the district’s K-12 technology integrator, was an English language arts teacher in the middle school. She said it seemed like “another hat” she could put on, and decided to look into it after a sixth grade student came up to her and asked if the middle school had a yearbook.

Stewart and Viselli, who are both now 10th graders, decided to join the yearbook club during the 2019-2020 school year. They took charge of the program and were working on the yearbook into March — and then the coronavirus pandemic hit.

As the girls said, everyone had just started to work together.

“It was difficult to do it (the yearbook) from home, but I was happy we did do it,” Stewart said. “When we took on the role with Ms. Redman, it was a really smart decision to get the middle school out there and start from the ground.”

As the pandemic continued, Stewart and Viselli had to become creative, since there were some pages they wouldn’t be able to fill because of sports and clubs being canceled and students no longer being at school in person.

“We did have to move some pages around because of how we planned prior to being shut down,” Stewart said. “So planning to fill when we did get shut down, it was a scramble.”

The middle school’s Yearbook Club is unlike the high school version, where there is a class set aside specifically to work on the yearbook. Middle schoolers are tasked with taking their own photos and working on the book when they have time to do so.

The girls were not the only two working on the yearbook, but they were the main editors. That meant Stewart and Viselli had to take most of the photos themselves.

When the pandemic hit, they were left to finish gathering photos and putting the book together. But they found softball and baseball canceled, and that they had never snapped photos of advisee groups.

“I talked to so many moms on Facebook,” Redman said. “They loved sharing photos with us. We love our community. It’s distinct in Richmond, there is a very strong sense of pride. And of course the parents were willing to share materials celebrating the kids and what they are doing.”

For the advisee groups, Principal Karl Matulis went around and took photos of every teacher’s door, which made the final cut of the yearbook. They learned after the pandemic year to prioritize their photos and to get everything when they can due to how unpredictable everything can be.

Though Stewart and Viselli are in high school now, Redman is still the advisor for the middle school yearbook. She said the yearbook would not be where it is today if it weren’t for the girls’ help, and that’s why she nominated them for the award. The first place prize came with a $100 Amazon gift card and 10 free yearbooks.

“I didn’t think we would get any awards for it, but it feels good to be recognized for what you work for,” Viselli said.

They are not part of the high school’s Yearbook Club because they do not have time with their advanced placement courses, but plan to join before they graduate. The girls said they are thankful for Redman and happy with what they started.

“We are thankful for everyone who helped. It was a lot of help,” Stewart said, “and I’m glad to bring it back and to go into high school knowing we helped the middle school continue … the yearbook. It’s a good feeling.”

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