Copper Hills High School opened its doors in the fall of 1995. At that time there were only a handful of homes in what was considered the extreme west side of West Jordan, Utah. The school was literally located in the middle of nowhere. In the sixteen years since then, the surrounding area has grown exponentially as has Copper Hills High School.
Copper Hills’ first principal, Mr. Bruce Garrison, decreed that CHHS would be both student and community oriented. One of his favorite statements was that he wanted a “do” school and not a school full of “don’ts.”
That pattern was established quickly. A committee of students was selected from all over the boundary area. The task was to select the school colors and a school mascot. In many schools student input in those areas is minimal but not at CHHS. The students were surprised to discover that they had total control over those decisions. They met and determined that we would be the Grizzlies and that the colors would be navy blue and forest green.
During our first year of operation students and Student Officers wrote a Copper Hills High School Constitution to govern all activities at CHHS. Like any good living document, students have amended the school constitution over the years, but it continues to stand as a founding document.
Beginning in the year 2002-2003 the school created a Comprehensive School Improvement Plan. A committee of teachers, parents and students met to evaluate test data, surveys and other concerns. The decision was made to base our school programs on a team, collaborative approach. Based on that premise we changed our schedule, our areas of emphasis and our overall educational program. We began a focus on our “4 C’s.” A unified writing standard was adopted. In a very real sense we began a journey to work collaboratively in identifying and meeting student needs. Our schedule shifted to a block schedule with structured time for collaboration and for individual student help.
We have identified “Desired Results of Student Learning” as a school and within individual departments. Departments are striving to write and implement common assessments based on those DRSLs.
During the last six years, Copper Hills has adopted some additional programs that were designed to improve performance and student integration into the school environment. The first of these was the PAWS program. PAWS (Partnering Adults With Students) is an advisory program. The original intent of the PAWS program was that each teacher, counselor and administrator would have a class of students divided by age groups.
Students would remain with the teacher from 10th through 12th grade. The PAWS class meets each Wednesday for 30 minutes. The purpose of PAWS is to allow the teacher and the students to develop a relationship that fosters discussion, openness and facilitates timely information flow.
Another program implemented during the last 6 years is the ACADEMY program. The original intent of the ACADEMY system was to divide the school into 5 separate groups of students, based on student interests. Those students would be grouped according to interests and classroom curriculum, assessment and methodology would focus on the interests and learning styles of the various groups of students. However, because of our size and other limitations it has been impossible to group students into those interest groups. We have maintained the groupings and have been able to address those interests in other ways. We have occasional socials, activities and career fairs that allow the students to explore career options within their ACADEMY.
Part of the Academy program that has met with great success is the EMPHASIS program. Students at Copper Hills High are able, should they have the desire, to identify a particular area of EMPHASIS. By working with an EMPHASIS leader they are able to concentrate on classes and projects that build on and allow application of the students interest. Students may have multiple EMPHASIS projects. Successful completion of those EMPHASIS programs allows the student, in resumes, to demonstrate a particular focus similar to a college “major.”
Copper Hills has emphasized, with teachers, the need to address and develop methodologies that facilitate different learning styles. All teachers are encouraged to identify, address and facilitate the learning styles of individual students. Many of our teachers have collaborated across curriculum lines to facilitate those learning styles and to unify teaching approaches.
Finally, Copper Hills continues to wholeheartedly embrace Advanced Placement programs and concurrent enrollment programs. We have increased the number of students involved in both programs. In our AP programs we have adopted the “open door” philosophy. Any student who wants a shot at an AP experience is invited to enroll. That approach has not only increased the size of our program, it has increased the diversity of our classes. In addition, we offer more concurrent enrollment classes than any other high school in the state. We encourage upper level classes and actively seek to challenge our students to consider upper level experiences.
In 1995-96 the Student Officers of CHHS set as their primary goal the unification of a diverse and divided student body. By the end of that year identification of students as Jaguars or Miners had all but disappeared. We had become a family of Grizzlies.
In that first year we had essentially no clubs. We began that year to build and establish clubs, strong organizations and traditions. During that first year a Student Officer was placed on the PTSA Executive Board. In 2003-2004 a student Officer began meeting with the Community Council. Student involvement in decisions and programs has continued to grow.
Our principals have maintained a Principals Roundtable to facilitate student discussion and to invite student input. All of our programs are on the table for student input.
The school year 2004-2005 saw a dramatic change in how student government and clubs functioned. The Student Body Officers and Class Officers combined in a single class. They began meetings with club officers and the base for decisions and structure of activities was dramatically broadened. As a consequence we have seen a substantial increase in the involvement of clubs, organization and individual students in all of our activities. As a direct consequence of that effort, we now enjoy ongoing dialogue between student officers, clubs, PTSA, Community Council and others.
In 1995 the theme students selected to govern their activities was “Come Together.” The next ten years saw themes and programs that enhanced that idea of togetherness. In 2004-2005 we celebrated our 10th anniversary. The theme that year was “You ain’t seen nothin yet.” However, faculty T-shirts were modified to read “You haven’t seen anything yet.” The humor of the different themes brought students and faculty together. The sentiment was obvious. We were a school on the move.
Since 2005 our students have seen some exciting things happen. More students then ever are earning college credit while in high school, attending post-secondary institutions, and earning Copper Service Awards and Emphasis. It has been an amazing journey and it is exciting to bare witness to the success of Copper Hill’s students. In part, some of that success has been a reflection of the attitudes and goals of student leaders, student organizations and individual efforts.
From one year to the next, student leaders select a theme that drives the focus for that school year. Those themes, listed here, reflect the goals of the student body and its various organizations. Previous themes include, “Seize the Day,” “Together-Unlimited,” “Come Together” (a repeat of our first year),“Climb Higher, “Leave a Legacy,” and this years theme, “The Impossible is Possible.” The belief in one another, the unfailing desire to be a part of something greater than self, and a commitment to celebrating their collective uniqueness are all attitudes that have built a true school community. It is this very sense of community that has sparked all of the following and more.
- Continual success in our Sub-For-Santa program. This year we raised over $24,000 and provided Christmas for over 60 kids.
- Multiple regional championships
- More entries in art shows than any art program in the district
- More AP students taking and passing the AP exam than any school in the district
- Superior ratings in the performing arts programs at state level competitions
- One of the highest number of national entries and national winners in our Technology programs
- A rapidly growing National Honor Society program
- A dramatic increase in the number of clubs and the number of participants in those clubs
- An increase in our ethnic diversity and a decrease in friction between the ethnic groups
- A dramatic increase in the communication and collaboration between student government, clubs and other school organizations
- Large crowds at athletic events and performing arts events, even when our teams are not having a successful year.
- An increase in the number of National Merit Scholars and Sterling Scholar finalists
- A dramatic increase in the number of concurrent enrollment classes and the number of students involved in them.
The goal of our founding principal that this be a student oriented “do” school is evident in all of our efforts. We will continue to focus on expanding student involvement, student engagement and student empowerment. It hasn’t been, and it won’t be easy but we are proud of our successes and we are committed to moving forward.