Local students use yearbook to inspire community

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PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Many students hang on to memories from high school forever. Local high school students will always remember how Hurricane Michael interrupted their school year and their lives.

Due to the diligent work of one group of students, a local school will have a hard copy of memories and pictures in their yearbook to show a Category 5 storm can't keep our community down.

J.R. Arnold High School student Kierstyn Carter said Hurricane Michael damaged her home.

"I had a lot of damage. We had over $100,000 worth of damage to my home," said Carter.

She knows many other students had it worse.

"I have five or more friends that moved or were affected where they had to build a new house," said Carter.

This school year, Kierstyn and the rest of her yearbook committee spent several months working on their yearbook, but after Hurricane Michael hit, they decided to make a change.

“It really made us realize what everybody else was going through. We just weren't focusing on ourselves, we had to focus on everyone else and put our problems aside to make sure the story got told," said Arnold student Kelsey Junker.

In the yearbook, student pictures are out of order to symbolize how the storm displaced everyone.

The book also features other forms of symbolism, artwork and stories from students and teachers to showcase the community's spirit despite the hurricane's devastation. Many say the book gives them hope.

"I thought they did a really good job of just adapting the book and telling the story without the hurricane being the story," said Principal Britt Smith.

"In the end, this was a victory over our circumstances and over mother nature. She took a lot from us, but she couldn't take away our spirit,” said teacher Julie Johnson.

Students had to work after school, on weekends and through a flu season to get the book done in seven weeks to be published before the school year ended. They say it was all worth it to uplift their community.

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