The Warrior wins

MCHS’s 2020 yearbook took third place in the IJEA’s state journalism competition, among other honors


Mackenzie Sroka

A stack of MCHS yearbooks sit in Mitch Stengel’s classroom while he teaches on February 2. Though it was only his first year as advisor, Stengel helped his team create a third place yearbook even during a pandemic.

Emma Snyder, News Editor

Capturing the essence of any year into a single book is a difficult task but, capturing 2020 was a completely different challenge. MCHS’s yearbook staff rose to the occasion and created a yearbook that commemorated all of the ups and downs of last year. 

The 2020 edition of MCHS’s yearbook, The Warrior, was entitled “Golden.” 

“Golden was chosen to capture the nostalgic and triumphant attitudes of the 1920s in the United States,” wrote Mitchell Stengel, yearbook advisor, in a letter published at the end of The Warrior. “Entering into a new decade filled with new changes and triumphs, it seemed fitting to characterize the first yearbook of the decade in the same light.”

Not only did MCHS’s yearbook staff put together a 2020 yearbook, but they also put together a successful, award-winning yearbook. 

“The Warrior: Golden Edition won a couple of awards in Division 6 of the IHSA Student Media Contest: Yearbook,” said Stengel. “We finished 3rd in Overall General Excellence, 1st in Copywriting, 3rd in Best Use of Photography, 3rd in Divider Pages, 1st in Layout and Design, and 3rd in Coverage of the Year.”

This recognition came as a surprise to Stengle who is a first-year teacher and yearbook advisor. 

“[Winning] taught me that this school has genuinely good writers,” said Stengel. “There’s only so much that I, as the advisor, can do. It’s the students. It’s their hard work.”

The yearbook staff was just as honored to be a part of creating the award-winning yearbook. After putting a year of hard work into it, they were honored to receive all the recognition for the yearbook that they did. 

“It feels absolutely amazing, along with my other staff members, I put so much work into that book, Stengel often refers to it as “My Baby” because I completely dedicated myself to it,” said captions editor Ella Wirth.

“The feeling [of winning] was exhilarating, just being in the top three has really shown me that yearbook has been an amazing opportunity that I got to be a part of,” said Jenna Ernst, feature editor for the yearbook. “I’m really proud of myself, Stengel, and the rest of the yearbook staff who have made this project so memorable.”

The pandemic made capturing the spring season of the school year challenging but not impossible. The yearbook staff adapted to the situation, completing the remainder of the yearbook in quarantine. 

“Near the end of our production cycle, we were all told to do our work from home because of COVID-19,” wrote Stengel in a letter published at the end of The Warrior. “This did not stop the yearbook staff from capturing the essence of the school during this unfamiliar time; the entire Spring section was compiled and created distanced from each other. I will be forever grateful for those who stepped up during the pandemic to make this book happen.”

Quarantine kinda put a blockage right in our path, a lot of our sports pages had to be taken out which was a bummer but I think it really showed how students can do everything online,” said Wirth.

Gathering sources and quotes proved to be one of the bigger challenges when it came to completing the yearbook. The staff had to navigate interviews via email and not be able to quote as wide a variety of students as they had hoped. 

“When we first got put into quarantine it was a bit of a challenge,” said Ernst. “Mainly because now we could only get in touch with people through email and, sadly, not many responded back. But Stengel really helped us with such struggles and it was awesome to see what we created in the situation of this pandemic.”

Finding success amidst the adversity of creating the 2020 yearbook has given Stengel and the staff hopes for the future for not only The Warrior but all the Communications Program at MCHS. 

“From our award-winning Newspaper, to now our award-winning Yearbook, to eventually creating an award-winning broadcast program beginning next year, my goal is to make waves in the Illinois high school journalism atmosphere as a whole,” said Stengel. “I always tell my students, “Why Not Us?” Why can’t McHenry grow into this journalism powerhouse across the state? From our Messenger writers to our Yearbook Staff to our Broadcasters, we’re looking to make waves, tell genuine stories for our community, and bring some awards home to MCHS. That’s the goal.”