While they had envisioned to receive the news from New York, the Saugus High yearbook group and their adviser celebrated virtually, amid a global pandemic, placing in the top 50 for their “Like Never Before” edition.
Just earlier this month, students Ashley Dredge, Megan Puettmann, Olivia Tesselaar and yearbook adviser Darren Thomas were thrilled to travel across the country to accept the Columbia Scholastic Press Crown Award, but much like the rest of the nation, their plans fell victim to the novel coronavirus outbreak.
“Our trip was canceled, along with all other trips in the (William S. Hart Union) District for both students and staff,” said Thomas, adding that it was only the second time in over 100 years the Columbia Scholastic Press Association had canceled the conference.
For Puettmann, a 17-year-old senior who has been in yearbook over the past three years, the trip cancelation was “genuinely heartbreaking,” she said.
“This year has held so many obstacles, all of which we have overcome with the help of our excitement about our trip to New York for the conference,” said Puettmann. “The day it was canceled everything we were looking forward to kind of dissipated and we were really sad for a while.”
As their adviser, Thomas said he “felt especially bad for my students, who overcame numerous unprecedented obstacles this year to not only get a book done but to create a book that I am very proud to give to our community.”
He said students spent four, straight 10-to-12-hour days to complete the book, which focuses on the new things on campus that are changing Saugus, such as its newest performing arts center.
To avoid placing the students at risk amid the ever-changing COVID-19 developments across the nation and the world, the group received the results of who won gold or silver via a live video feed.
And the results did not disappoint. The Saugus High yearbook group won a “silver crown,” meaning they placed in the top 50 in a pool of more than 1,300 submissions.
“We are really humbled and honored to win such a prestigious national award,” said Thomas. “After the number of obstacles we have faced this year as a school and yearbook staff, it’s important to stop and appreciate the moments of victory and joy. There’s a lot of uncertainty and fear right now, so a moment like this brings some much-needed cheer. I can’t say enough how proud I am of my students.”
For the students, it was all about the book, “one that we love so deeply, in the midst of life’s challenges,” said Puettmann. “We overcame everything that has been thrown at us and everything that has been taken away from us and, in the end, we will be stronger because of it.”
Staff Writer Caleb Lunetta contributed to this report.