The presence of Prestige Portraits and Josten’s in AHS seniors’ rite of passage
“3, 2, 1. Now, smile, hold it… good! You can hold the ‘Seniors’ sign however you want.” Each year, beginning as early as July, Prestige Portraits invites seniors to its studio for portrait-taking sessions that aren’t technically mandatory, but are—if they want to be featured in the yearbook with their senior quote. This is just one of the many expenses seniors face to memorialize their high school experience, others being Grad Nite, Prom, class rings and other traditions that they have been hearing stories about since freshman year.
While some seniors moan in sheer laziness at the thought of taking a portrait, others are enthusiastic to take poses with their friends and fret over how their portrait will turn out—how they will be recalled by their classmates years from now. However, the process is known to be needlessly frustrating and time-consuming. Prestige, whose office is in Hayward, is notorious for not picking up phone calls when students want to to make changes to their appointment or have questions about their pictures. Teju Edidi (12), for instance, wasn’t able to take a portrait.
“I am in the College Connections program at Ohlone, and American shut down my the School Loop portal, meaning I can’t get information about what goes on at American,” said Edidi. “I called [Prestige] on numerous occasions to make an appointment, leaving messages, but never got a response back. I feel left out by not being in the yearbook.”
For the senior wallet tradition, where seniors give photos of themselves and notes to their classmates, Edidi is using other photos that she can print from Costco and CVS, but admits that a high school yearbook is what most adults want to look back at for memories of themselves, friends, and classmates.
Some students may not take a portrait from Prestige because of financial reasons. The sitting fee to order photos is $50, with a minimum of $15 just for the yearbook.
“I‘ve heard more concerns this year than in the years before in regards to [some students not taking a portrait due to cost],” Mr. Musto explained. “I know of one other [school] in Fremont Unified, [Kennedy], that does their portraits on campus. It sounds like something we need to look into for next year.”
Some students, however, go all out for their senior portraits, like Krina Shah (12), who bought a $100 package with two outfits and one background.
“I wanted to have a picture in an outfit that I like the most and am comfortable in. In addition, I wanted to have [one with] an instrument because I’m learning [to play the guitar],” Shah continued.
Some students took advantage of Prestige Portraits’ online Black Friday sale to order their prints.
“They wouldn’t stop emailing me. I saved about $150,” Ragi Lad (12) said.
Also involved in senior year memorabilia, Josten’s is a company that for many years has provided AHS seniors with mementos such as class jewelry, photo cards, and announcements. They also provide the mandatory caps and gowns for graduation day. According to Mr. Musto, about 40% of seniors borrow caps and gowns from American.
A Josten’s representative came to campus during the senior panorama shoot to inform seniors about ordering options. Some students were unpleasantly surprised by the marketing that took place during that Flex period.
“They have a captive audience,” said one anonymous student. “Every senior was in the gym and could not leave. A lot of my friends did not think they should be advertising expensive products to students through emotional stories like that.”
While most people scoffed at the prices of the rings that cost about $400, some AHS students bought products that were somewhat more on the affordable side.
Ivy Chen (12) bought a $42 necklace that she had a meaningful connection with. Most of the products on the catalog are customizable with optional charms, jewelry type, and color options.
“[The ring pendant] symbolizes a period of time and how I came back to myself at the end of the high school years, like the circle of a ring,” Chen remarked. “I didn’t add any charms because I didn’t think it was worth the cost.”
Lifetouch, the parent company for Prestige, does a lot of work with yearbook for sports and ID photos that are taken on MAZE. However, despite its practical monopoly on AHS’s school photos, the company is far from responsive.
“There is a lot of miscommunication,” said Maham Junaid (11), the yearbook co-Editor-in-Chief. “With varsity soccer… we were expecting them to do all of [the sports photos]. The day of the deadline, we didn’t know that boys soccer hadn’t been photographed, so we had to call all of them out onto the field, and they didn’t have their uniforms.”
This tends to be a problem even with their Prestige subsidiary.
“We get sent a whole batch of [photos] from Lifetouch, but we don’t know when they’re coming in. We have a bunch of seniors emailing us, texting us.” Junaid continued.
It remains a goal for every senior to have some way to be remember, and to be remembered in, their high school years. Although a phone camera roll may contain teenage memories, there is something special about tangible recollections that can laughed and reminisced over at a coffee table years from now. But because many complications, obtaining this sweet and simple memory is not as simple as it seems.