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West Jordan Journal

West Jordan SBOs, Class Officers Unite

Aug 04, 2016 03:52PM ● By Tori La Rue

West Jordan High School’s 2016–17 SBOs and class officers pose for a picture at the assembly where they were introduced as the new student government members. – West Jordan High School

By Tori La Rue | [email protected]

West Jordan, Utah - The divide between West Jordan High School’s student body officers and class officers is dead, but it didn’t come immediately, according to student government advisers. 

“As someone who was working with class officers, I was really tired of the hierarchy that existed that SBOs were [up] here and class officers were down here,” said Richard Hoonakker, class officers adviser. “Really, it is a different but equal role, with the SBOs managing things that are over the whole school and the class officers managing the things that are specific to their class.”

When Hoonakker’s friend and fellow teacher Richard Minor became the SBO adviser in the 2010–11 school year, the two made the decision to have class officers and SBOs share a preparation class, meetings and responsibilities with the idea that they could accomplish more for the school if they were unified. 

But students had yet to catch their vision

“We had kids coming back who had graduated previous years that I didn’t even know, saying, ‘You cannot do this,’ I literally had four visits from kids I didn’t know who were all SBOs, and they said, ‘If you do this you will destroy SBOs,’” Minor said. “And all the current SBOs that year were all saying, ‘no, don’t do it.’”

Hoonakker and Minor didn’t heed their warnings. In the 2010–11 school year, they combined the classes, and things got off to a rocky start. SBOs were scheduling meetings without telling their advisers so they could keep the class officers away, and class officers were doing the same, Minor said. 

“It blew up in our face,” Minor said about combining the members of student government. “It was a disaster.” 

Predicting it would take about three years—the life-span of a high school class from sophomore to senior year—for the combined student leaders to work together in the way they envisioned, 

Minor and Hoonakker didn’t give up. 

In the 2011–12 year the SBOs and class officers began to cooperate, and by the 2012–13 school year they had merged into a cohesive group, and it showed, according to Hoonakker. 

That same year, West Jordan High School’s student government won the “Best School at Camp” award at Utah State University’s Leadership Conference for being the best behaved and unified group at the conference. They won the same award the next two years, and in the 2015–16 year when USU changed their award ceremony—offering six awards instead of only one—they scored one of the six awards. 

“There’s no other school in the state, or any other state for that matter, who’s received those accolades in regard to functioning as a successful group,” Hoonakker added. 

From 2012 to 2016, the members of student government have been backing each other up on their ideas and creating better quality activities than each group could have on their own, Hoonakker said, adding that in the 2015–16 school year the students found a way for their mascot to sky dive into the middle of their football field during the opening assembly. 

Brenna Booth, the 2016–17 SBO president who has been a member of West Jordan High’s student government since her sophomore year, said she felt included in the school’s student government group from day one. The culture that’s now been established makes it easy for the members of all classes to share their ideas for activities within the school, she said. 

Perhaps the biggest benefit of having a unified group is the increased efforts it allows the SBOs and class officers have put forth during the school’s annual charity drive, Brenna said. Under the direction of the SBOs and class officer, the student body started performing “odd jobs” to earn money for their chosen charity after school hours. 

“We thought, ‘high-schoolers don’t really have money, but they can donate their time,’” Brenna said. “We went around to the different neighborhoods in our school boundaries and explained that we would do any chores or anything that needed to be done in return for a donation to our charity.” 

From odd jobs alone, the school raised $17,000 in their most recent drive. In all, they donated $40,000 for the Tyler Robinson Foundation, a charity that gives support to pediatric cancer patients. 

Rylee Lewis, senior class president, said she’s grateful that Minor and Hoonakker worked hard to get West Jordan High student government members to work together years ago so that the school could continue to benefit from it. 

“At other schools, I see SBOs and class officers separated, but at our school I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been called an SBO, and that’s because everyone sees us as one, and that’s because we are,” Rylee said. “I think it unifies the school to see us so unified as a group.”