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I’m not a big fan of underclassmen. Maybe the years have embittered me to the naivety of youth. Maybe I’ve just got eclectic quirks. However, with my involvement with yearbook this year, I’ve had to step out of my comfort zone and engage with the entire student body to find interesting individuals and stories. To do so, I’ve had to talk to kids of all grade levels, including underclassmen, and through my interactions, I’ve not only learned a lot about myself, but also enriched my life with new perspectives and inspiration.

Finding opportunities to branch out and meet new people is not exactly an easy task. In many cases, the cliche “get involved” is a valuable piece of advice. But if you don’t want to join more clubs than you can handle, yearbook is an option that’s centered around getting to know people. I joined because I wanted to write copy, but I’ve come to appreciate the opportunity to network and know people from all walks of life.

So what’s to gain from pursing interests and meeting new people? A lot, actually. The individuals I’ve met on behalf of yearbook have exposed me to new ideas, done incredible things. They’ve inspired me with awe and afforded me new perspectives on a myriad of topics. High school is filled to the brim with kinds of people. Just a few weeks ago, I had a conversation with the president of a club on campus geared towards easing the transition to high school. Sure, I may not agree that the hear-warming experience of helping freshmen makes the large time commitment to the club worth it, but getting to know and respect people that do find the experience incredibly rewarding has convinced me that I might need to reevaluate my less-than-appreciative stance towards underclassmen.

Speaking of unappreciated underclassmen, the other day, I was interviewing a sophomore who was engaged in a plethora of math related ventures, participating in competitions and taking various college level math classes. His dedication to his pursuits were both surprising and eye-opening. While I didn’t exactly go out and sign up for as many math competitions as I could after I interviewed him, just getting to know his story was enough to give me a whole new perspective on the importance of math. High school, like yearbook, is not so much about school as it is about the diverse group of people who make up the student body.

In terms of personal growth, interviewing people with yearbook has also given me a healthy confidence boost. While I may not be the best at conducting interviews, the more I talk to and laugh with others, the more natural the interviews get. While formality may be of the essence in the workplace, it’s not exactly the best tool for a yearbook interview and social interaction in general. By adopting a more casual and personable personality, I’ve found myself putting myself out there more and more often, not to fish for people to write copy on, but to meet and just get to know.

So participating in yearbook has enriched my life in a variety of ways, many of which I would’ve never expected going into the class. Although deadlines may not sound like the most enticing thing to deal with, working with the rest of the yearbook staff to scramble towards a common goal is an exciting experience. Meeting with an editor to go over a piece of copy may seem daunting, but polishing a piece of writing to greatness is an experience usually unavailable in a typical high school writing class. And while holding a finished product will elicit pride, joy, and relief, it’s the journey, the people I will have met along the way, that will make the yearbook such a valuable memento.

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