Utica High School’s 2022 yearbook earns award, makes lasting impact

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby-Utica News | Published December 20, 2022

File photo


UTICA — The 2022 Utica High School Warrior yearbook has earned a Spartan Award from the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association.

The award recognizes the yearbook as one of the best in the state. The yearbook was judged on criteria including a unifying concept and the quality of its coverage, writing, design and photography. The yearbook earned 945 points out of a possible 1,000.

Teacher Stacy Smale, the Utica High School yearbook adviser, said that everything from the graphic design work to the writing and photography were outstanding in the 2022 yearbook.

“I’m so glad that my students’ hard work was recognized at the state level, and even more excited that many of them will be using the skills they’ve learned long after they graduate from Utica High,” she said in an email interview.

Marissa Barch was the 2022 Utica High School yearbook editor in chief. Now a college student, Barch discovered that the yearbook had received a Spartan Award from a text from Smale.

“She let me know that I was the first to know. I was so beyond excited, knowing that all the hard work the staff and I put in had paid off. I can’t even describe the feels I had; it was like instant dopamine that ran through my body,” she said via email.

Barch said her favorite part had to have been the yearbook’s cover and the divider pages.

“They were the first thing I created after I came up with the theme of the book and they came out better than I could have expected. The pictures were beyond amazing so I couldn’t have done any of those (without) the help of the yearbook’s wonderful photographer, Natalie Garwood,” Barch said.

The theme for the yearbook was “My Tribe.”

“The theme overall was one of my favorite parts in total because it was (a) unique idea that relates specifically to the students of Utica High. It was different than anything ever created by Warrior staffs, so I knew it had to be done,” Barch said.

She said she thought the most challenging part of assembling the yearbook was that deadlines came a lot sooner than expected, but the staff managed to always get it done.

Kristi Rathbun, master journalism educator who advises Rockmedia — the Black & Gold yearbook, Rockmediaonline.org and The Rock newspaper — at Rock Canyon High School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, scored the yearbook this year. Rathbun is the president of the Colorado Student Media Association.

“Thank you for sharing your book with me. It looks fun to be at Utica; it looks like students are learning and competing and involved in a community with strong traditions and pride. I can’t believe you all were able to complete such a strong book — with tons of stories, quotes that give student voice, photos that show the fun and the serious — with a staff of 13,” Rathbun stated in her remarks about Utica High School’s yearbook.

That last sentence resonated with Barch.

“I feel the statement the judges made that most stood out to me was how strong of a book we made with a staff of 13. It was a challenge not having that big of a staff, but everyone helped and stepped up to tasks whenever we needed it, and that was what really helped with having so few people to create it. I’m so unbelievably proud of how hard all of them worked through the tough times, and we still all as a staff did have fun, as well,” she said.

Barch will miss being a part of the yearbook this year now that she has graduated.

“I did carry the love I have for yearbook with me, though, with Mrs. Smale sparking my love for graphic design, which is what I am now majoring in,” Barch said.

She anticipates that the 2023 Warrior yearbook will be “fantastic” as new Editor in Chief Savannah Ruiz leads the staff.

“Those students worked hard and learned so many things over the few years I was there; I can only imagine what great things they’re doing now,” Barch said.