Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes
SANDY – In August 2009, the then newly formed Canyons School District welcomed its first kindergarteners. This year, those kindergarteners will graduate from high school.
"In what would become a proud Kindergarten College — and Career-Ready Day tradition, the students that first week of 'big kid' school were asked to share who they wanted to be when they grew up," the district website states. "They were given mock diplomas, mortarboards and blue wristbands labeled with the year they would eventually graduate from high school – the year 2022."
While the two soon-to-be graduates who spoke with KSL.com did not remember their first years in the district, they both had positive things to say about their time as students in southeastern Salt Lake County's Canyons School District.
Jordan High School senior and student body officer Isaac Brockbank said he remembered "all good things" about his time as a kindergartener in Mrs. Susan Homer's class at Park Lane Elementary.
"I really enjoyed elementary school," he said. "It was just really fun. I made lifelong best friends there, and Mrs. Homer was awesome. It was a good time. I honestly don't remember a ton about it, but all good things."
Jorgen Koch, another senior at Jordan High School, acknowledged many good things that happened throughout his school years, while also speaking about some of the hard things, particularly experiencing public education during the pandemic.
"Time has gone by slowly and fast," Koch said. "During middle school, I remember it dragging on a bit, but high school flew by for me. With COVID, it almost seems like we missed that entire year of school, even though it was just the back half of the year that got canceled. Then coming back from it, obviously, things weren't the same for almost the entire next year. It's hard to think back to what the normal was before that. It definitely affected how the last half of high school was."
Canyons District spokesman Jeff Haney agreed that the time since those first kindergarteners stepped foot in school has gone by at various speeds.
"Can't believe it's been 13 years since the start of Canyons District," he said. "I remember, vividly, the kindergarten class of 2009, and that we remarked at the time that they'd be our first graduating class that would go all the way through Canyons schools.
"The years went by both slowly and quickly, and I'm sure it's been that way for our students, too, especially as they've gone through high school during the COVID-19 years," Haney said.
Finding their stride and making way for the next generation
Both Brockbank and Koch soon found their stride going into their senior year — both were varsity starters on their high school soccer team, and both found ways to be involved in and outside of school, making lifelong connections.
For Koch, many of those connections were with his own siblings.
"Overall, one of my favorite things I've been able to experience with high school is that the entire time I've been at Jordan, I've had brothers there with me," he said. "My first few years, I learned from my older brother how things worked. It was fun because before high school, I didn't have classes with them. In high school, I was able to have classes, and even be on sports teams with them. It was really great for me to hang out with my brothers — aside from just at the house — and get to know them even more than I already did."
Brockbank said that while there were some definite challenges brought on by school, it has been important for him to discover the good things about it. He advised anyone starting their first years now to do the same.
"I'm a really bad test-taker, and sometimes getting the grades has been hard," Brockbank said. "My biggest advice would be that if you're just kind of worried about high school as a whole, look for ways to get involved. If something bad happens, it's not the end of the world. Don't take the little things too seriously."
Coming full circle
Brockbank's Kindergarten teacher, Susan Homer, has not only been with Canyons since day one but has taught all of her 32 years as a teacher at Park Lane Elementary.
What she had to say very well may have proved the age-old saying that everything you need to know you learned in kindergarten.
"Any advice I would give to the graduating class is this: Remember my class motto, 'You can do hard things,'" Homer said. "Always believe in yourself. And it's OK to make mistakes. Learn from them and move on. Never give up. Remember to find joy in your journey."
Canyon School District high school graduation ceremonies will be Wednesday, May 25, at various locations listed online here.