Carbon Career & Technical Institute is top notch when it comes to its yearbook staff.

Recently, the school's 2011-2012 yearbook was awarded the top prize, Grand Prize Best Overall Yearbook, in Entourage Publishing's Third Annual National Yearbook Competition.

The yearbook's theme, "A Piece of The Puzzle," was the top yearbook published by Entourage in 2012.

The interesting fact about CCTI's yearbook was the book was not just laid out by a committee of students; the concept, layout, photography, and design were the brainchild of the graphic design students; and made possible through a whole school effort.

Michele Klock, the graphic design instructor and yearbook coordinator at CCTI, said this was the first time that she knows of that the school's yearbook has received such high recognition.

"I am proud of the graphic design students and yearbook committee members for their hard work, creativity, and dedication to producing such a high-quality book," she said.

The 2012 yearbook was Klock's first time at the head of the committee and she decided to let the students completely run the show.

"The students never handled full layouts and photos before," Klock said, adding that this made for a very good yearlong project. "It was pretty cool to see my students' work published and know they learned all about creating the product, from page bleeds to font choices."

She incorporated the project into the students' school schedules, teaching them about Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign, the latest graphics industry standard software and integrating it into the yearbook project.

The students designed what they felt would make a good theme for the yearbook, critiqued each other's work and chose a final design concept, which was then woven throughout the pages of the book. Trese Merkel, a 2012 graduate of the graphic design program, was the creator of the design.

"This is a very big achievement," Merkel said of the recognition. "We had a bunch of ideas and then compiled them all into the final product. It was a big accomplishment for our class."

Following the theme, the students created, designed and refined the page layout templates during class, incorporating school study with future employment opportunities.

They took all the student and faculty portraits, creating a photography studio right in the classroom and worked with other technical areas to design exactly what those students envisioned. This helped offset the costs for the 152-page, full-color books.

"With the yearbook, everyone gets involved," said Krystal Dunlap, a current CCTI student and yearbook committee member. "All departments pick their own pictures. It unites the school because it lets them put their own flair on the pages. By doing this it really makes this book a keepsake while bringing us all closer.

"This makes us proud to be part of something great and also something that everyone can enjoy," she continued.

Klock agreed, saying that the project helped the students because the graphic design team was the designer and the rest of the school were the clients.

"We put everyone in," student Crystal Cisterna added. "It was a long process but it was worth it."

Student Zachary Carr also said that the whole process helped the students learn about future employment opportunities because they not only put together the book, they got to work as a team, giving constructive criticism and blending ideas into a final product.

Travis Hardy, student, added that the process was a mix of stress management and enjoyment.

"Everyone came together to work at their fullest potential and that was great," he said. "The whole learning experience was fun and interesting, but stressful, like a roller coaster."

The committee is now beginning to work on the 2012-2013 yearbook design, which will be "Memories of The Past. Dreams of The Future."

They will again do all the photography and work to make another product that will make the school community proud.

"I am sure we will continue to improve and build on our achievements from last year's book, and I look forward to what 2012-2013 and beyond will bring," Klock said.

The Entourage National Yearbook Competition is a nationally sponsored contest, judging school yearbooks across the dimensions of creativity, originality, and journalistic relevance. Over 300 schools across all 50 states entered the competition. Yearbooks must be created by students and school volunteers.

Complete yearbook contest results can be found at http://www.entourageyearbooks.com/YearbookContest.asp.