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Newport Harbor High School yearbook features Latina on cover for first time

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The 2018-19 Newport Harbor High School yearbook, titled “Harbor, We Got This,” is the first to feature a Latina student on the cover — senior Anahi Villagrana.
(Courtesy of Newport Harbor High School)

The school year is winding to a close at Newport Harbor High School and graduation is nearing for seniors. But before students say goodbye for the summer, yearbooks have to be handed out.

This year’s edition, titled “Harbor, We Got This,” is the first to feature a Latina student on the cover.

“With my leadership group of editors, we all agreed on having [the yearbook] be more diverse in any way possible,” said senior Zurich Bisoso, the yearbook photo editor. “We made sure the opening copy was bilingual to include more voices, as well as the cover to have someone of color in there to show that we’re included. I wanted to include someone who was a model for the school, who was very involved in many different ways.”

The team decided during early development of the yearbook that it would feature Anahi Villagrana, a senior who will be attending UC Santa Barbara in the fall.

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Villagrana said it is an honor to be on the cover and that featuring a Latina shows “there’s so much more to this school.”

Newport Harbor High has been embroiled in controversy this year after a highly publicized incident in March in which students from Newport Harbor, Costa Mesa and Estancia high schools were pictured on social media at an off-campus party gathered around a swastika made from plastic cups with their their arms outstretched in a Nazi salute.

In May, the Newport-Mesa Unified School District said it was investigating “overtly racist” messages in a private Instagram group chat that were attributed to students from Newport Harbor.

Bisoso said she felt it was important to include as many different people as possible because it “makes students feel like they are part of the school. You might feel it is all Caucasian, but that isn’t the truth. When you walk down the halls, you see different people from different backgrounds.”

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“Even with the yearbook, if you can see yourself in the book through someone else’s story that you relate to, you can feel that you are welcome, that you are included and that you are being heard,” Bisoso added.

The yearbook includes an opening statement in Spanish and English.

Bisoso said she and Villagrana are best friends but added that all the other yearbook editors knew of Villagrana and “knew she was who we wanted.”

“When she first told me, I was in shock,” Villagrana said. “I just went, ‘Are you serious right now?’”

“Since I know her really personally, I knew she had a lot on her plate,” Bisoso said. “She had a lot of AP [Advanced Placement] and IB [International Baccalaureate] classes through high school. … On top of all the school stuff … she was working. She had so much going on and managed to do things she believed in.”

Yearbook advisor John Hoist said “Harbor, We Got This” is the culmination of a trilogy of yearbooks that began in 2016-17, when the title was “This Changes Everything.”

It was when the yearbook committee first started asking about more minority representation, Hoist said.

“It was our first step into bringing that open. Last year, it was ‘Let That Sink In’ and we made some big changes, so let’s take this to heart,” Hoist said. “‘We Got This’ is kind of an empowerment that they decided on … that we’re owning it, and that’s kind of why our title is ... something we’re really proud of.”

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“Having students you look up to kind of helps pave the way to create a more diverse campus, leadership in things like yearbook and ASB [Associated Student Body],” he added.

Principal Sean Boulton said he feels the 2018-19 yearbook represents the school’s core values and that this year’s senior class has “paved a path forward with what it looks like, what it feels like ... that [students] all belong at this school.”

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