Yearbook Hero Chris Frost’s Multisensory Approach to Memory Keeping

Headshot of yearbook hero chris frost

Yearbook Heroes is a monthly feature focusing on yearbook tips and tricks.

As a student 17 years ago, Chris Frost helped West Valley High School transition from orange cropping pencils to InDesign. He spent three years on the yearbook staff, and in his senior year became Editor in Chief. After working for guest relations at Disneyland, he returned to the Inland Empire as a SPED aid and moved into the activities assistant role he currently holds, splitting his time between ASB and yearbook.

West Valley’s yearbook advisory leadership, Christ Frost and Billy Valenzuela built a student-run program. “We guide/advise. We don’t dictate,” said Frost.

Tell me how your students are creating more than just a visual book this year.

It started with an idea, really. They wanted to create a Spotify-themed yearbook and it was a reality instantly because Treering has the Wrapped theme. 

It’s all about the music: on sports spreads, we have codes for athletes’ amp songs and instead of doing senior quotes, we are doing senior songs. Being able to capture a moment in a song connects those dots you don’t remember, such as the song the homecoming king and queen danced to. We are capturing that moment, so in 10, 20, 30 years students can really flashback. That’s the point of a yearbook.

Were you worried about some of the song submissions?

The team gave students parameters ahead of time. Since this is a school-published book, the standard requirement is it has to be appropriate without any foul language (radio edits only). Because it’s also a student publication, we want to maintain students’ freedom of expression.

What does your design process look like?

Our students are very independent: for example, last year, we used the Not a Diary theme and a graphic artist on campus created hand-drawn doodles throughout the yearbook. This theme resonated with students because of the nostalgia and emotion. It was healing after returning to campus from the shutdown.

The thing Billy [Valenzuela, yearbook adviser] and I enjoy about Treering’s software is you can use bits and pieces of the design library or use 100% pre-done. We are able to scaffold based on the individual yearbook students’ needs.

What other methods do you use for storytelling?

Treering’s custom pages give our students more ownership and control of their yearbook, and because we can review them before they go to print, it gave us the ease we weren’t going to randomly publish something sketchy. Some of the creativity that goes into yearbook production is passed on to students outside of the yearbook program.

How else does Treering help?

The biggest benefit to West Valley is we produce great yearbooks at a cost our kids can afford. We don’t have to increase the cost of the yearbook, and because of Treering, our book is $20-25 below other schools in the area, making it more accessible. 

Yearbook is essentially carrying on and documenting the history of the school. The enormity of that task is what motivates our students. It’s important to create something that speaks to all students, not just one grade or one class.

West Valley was with another yearbook company for 30 years. Change became necessary when we could no longer pass on savings to our students. We would pre-sell 300-400 yearbooks and still be charged for overruns. We were storing books it cost $60-70 to produce despite selling ads and fundraising to meet the contract terms.

The relationship no longer benefited our school or the students. 

When we couldn’t host a year-end pizza party for the yearbook team because there is $20 in the activities fund and a $2000 final bill, we said, “This isn’t working for us.”

It’s freeing now to have no order minimums and worries about over-shipments. 

What advice would you give to someone just getting started as a yearbook adviser?

Let them struggle a little. This is one of the hardest lessons that I think we as advisers have to learn. Often we have the urge to swoop in and support our students when they start to get frustrated. This robs them of growth opportunities. Of course guide and suggest, but let them do the hard work of getting to the answer. Ultimately it will set them up for success in the future.

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