Mississippi Public Broadcasting has created a statewide digital yearbook for high-school seniors after the academic year was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
MPB Director of Education Tara Wren launched the project May 8 after she had conversations with students who were disappointed with the end of the school year.
“The year just didn’t end or go like they expected it to go, so we just wanted to do something that was happy, fun, uplifting and celebrated them as a person,” Wren said.
Mississippi families of high-school seniors can electronically submit baby, prom and yearbook photos to MPB, as well as senior quotes. Families can access the material, according to Wren, like a “keepsake.”
Wren felt that MPB was the platform to showcase the digital yearbook because it has a strong connection with its audience. The network’s education division promoted the yearbook with a press release and social media posts, and it contacted families of high-school seniors who had been featured in past stories.
April Jones was one of the sources contacted by MPB. Jones said she submitted pictures of her son, Tyler Ward, to the yearbook because she wanted to celebrate his achievements. Ward recently graduated from Brandon High School with honors and earned a full scholarship to attend Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss.
“As parents, we don’t understand just how much it means to our kids sometimes, like we think they don’t care, but they truly, deep down, want to be recognized and honored and be celebrated, because it’s a big deal,” Jones said.
Ward explained that he was disappointed and felt “forgotten” after senior events were canceled for the school year, yet he and his fellow students enjoyed the graduation projects, including a drive-thru graduation orchestrated at his high school.
“Everything’s just out of our control right now, so anything we get, I feel like we just appreciate it,” Ward said.
The yearbook, which has more than 50 submissions, will continue to collect photos throughout June.