The yearbook is an iconic part of the high school experience. Many schools have year-round yearbook clubs, staffed by students, building content to be published. They take pictures, write blurbs and short essays about their school, and decide what will be immortalized in glossy, hard-bound volumes. Yearbook clubs have their own little culture, they interact across schools and districts, and they compete for prizes.
In 2015, Windsor High School in Santa Rosa, California, won $500 at a summer yearbook camp under the leadership of soon-to-be Senior Charlie Sparacio. They could have folded the money back into the club, or congratulated themselves with a well-earned party, but instead, the staff decided to do something very special.
Windsor Senior Maycie Vorreiter is not on the yearbook staff, but she’s a popular student at the school. She’s also blind, and has been since birth.
Sparacio and his staff very quietly researched what it would take to print their yearbook in braille, and then proposed the effort to the school. Their $500 prize money wouldn’t cover the volume, but the publisher got on board as well, and they, the school, and the yearbook staff split the $4,000 cost between them.
Vorreiter’s 2015-16 yearbook, printed especially for her in four thick volumes of braille text, was presented to her as a surprise on the last day of school. It’s a foot tall, and features essays and reflections by nearly every student in the school, as well as a large section of descriptions of images from the standard edition. It may actually be one-of-a-kind; no one involved could find any reference to any other school ever having made a braille-print yearbook. Perhaps not surprising, at that price tag.
But Vorreiter hopes that it sets a precedent.
“It was one of those really awesome moments that I would want to relive again,” Vorreiter says. “My hope is that in the future, if there are other visually impaired students that go through high school, they get a yearbook for their senior year, too.”
After all, visually impaired students deserve that part of the high school experience, too.