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West Jordan Journal

A special homecoming for new CHHS principal

Sep 11, 2023 01:59PM ● By Jet Burnham

Principal Rae Garrison (center) at a Copper Hills High School kickoff event for the 2023-24 school year, with her mom, Patricia Garrison, (at left) and her sister, Honey Johnson, (at right). The Garrisons have been Grizzlies fans since Bruce Garrison, Rae’s father, served as the first principal of Copper Hills High School. (Photo by Krysten Wingert)

Copper Hills High School students have been welcomed back to the Grizz Nation with a week of spirited Homecoming activities including an assembly, parade, pep rally, tailgate, football game and dance.

“Since it’s so early on in the year, it really joins us all together,” Public Relations Student Body Officer Phoebe Ojo said. “Because when you go out to the parade, and go to tailgate, you get to meet new people, and you get to see different clubs and different activities. It's just a whole, ‘Hello, welcome to Copper Hills’ type of thing and it brings a lot of people in and makes people feel more comfortable with each other.”

For new CHHS Principal Rae Garrison, coming to work at CHHS is a special kind of homecoming. Her father Bruce Garrison, known as Papa Grizz, was the first principal of Copper Hills High School when it opened in 1995.

He was principal until 1999, when he had to retire due to health problems. Garrison said her dad was such a part of the CHHS community that they named the school’s football field after him and that many former students and staff members attended his funeral, which was held in the school’s auditorium.

“I can't even explain how much my dad loved Copper Hills,” Garrison said. “He just loved kids and people and wanted to bring out the best. He had a magical way of actually doing that. I definitely strive to be like my dad because he was a wonderful human being and leader, so it's an honor for me to follow in his footsteps and to be able to be here. It means a lot. It is definitely a dream job for me.”

Garrison, who has been the principal at West Jordan Middle School for the past 10 years (where her father also was a principal), is excited to create a school culture and climate celebrating CHHS students’ achievements and creating an energy that will give them momentum. 

“The school is part of the students’ identity,” she said. “‘I’m a Copper Hills Grizzly” needs to have a really positive impression on the kids when they think about their school. Whatever the school’s reputation is is what they’ll identify with.”

She has been impressed so far with the school spirit and has tasked her new administrative intern with keeping the community aware of school activities and accomplishments on social media platforms.

“I want to elevate the visibility of Copper Hills throughout the state and promote our brand, who we are as a school,” she said. “There’s so much going on here that we need to tell our story, just get it out there and make sure everybody knows all the great things that go on at Copper Hills.”

With 2,800 students, CHHS has the largest student body in Jordan District and is the largest 10-12 grade high school in the state of Utah. This year’s school theme is Together As One, which reflects the student leaders’ and Garrison’s hope that all students will feel part of the school community and enjoy their time at CHHS.

“It’s a huge high school, so I realize I'm not going to get to know every kid, I may just pass them in the hall,” she said. “But I want every kid to have a great experience here, to have a class they love, a group they’re a part of, an activity they participate in, something that really helps shape and define who they are. I’m excited to see the kids really settling in and choosing their path and becoming an adult.” λ