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The City Journals

Alta senior Jordan Thomas received Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Award

May 07, 2018 11:23AM ● By Julie Slama

Alta High senior Jordan Thomas, pictured here with her principal Brian McGill and University of Utah assistant professor and awards chair Steven Bell, received the Martin Luther King Jr. Youth Leadership Award from the University of Utah. (Denise Ferguson/Alta High)

Alta High School senior Jordan Thomas is an excellent student leader and talented writer as the school’s national news editor, but her newspaper adviser said Thomas shies away from the spotlight. 

Such was the case when Thomas recently was awarded the Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Award from the University of Utah. When she didn’t attend the ceremony, the presenter came to Alta High to present her a plaque in front of her peers in her U.S. government and citizenship class. She also was recognized at the Canyons Board of Education in late February.

“She’s very low key and very quiet,” said Denise Ferguson, Alta yearbook and newspaper adviser. “She prefers the background, but this is an amazing recognition for her service outside of school.”

The Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Award is given annually to students from grade 7 through 12, who are dedicated to social action, positive change and building bridges among cultures and communities. The award is based on the applicant’s personal statement as well as a letter of recommendation. In addition to the plaque, Thomas received $100.

Ferguson, who recommended her for the award, said she has known Thomas for two years as a top student in her AP language and composition English class as well as a member of the school’s yearbook and newspaper staffs.

“She has organized a book drive for a Title I school and collected hygiene items for homeless shelters. She has helped with the youth resource center and I know she’s helped with the local soup kitchen,” she said.

In her recommendation, Ferguson wrote that Thomas “tells me she tries to be a ‘friendly face,’ so the people she interacts with know ‘somebody cares.’ The more I learn of Jordan’s humanitarian efforts, the more convinced I am that she has made positive changes and has built bridges among cultures and communities in the Salt Lake Valley.”

In her own personal statement, Thomas said that change in the community starts with everyone.

“Even the smallest of contributions can make a change, and I believe it is best to start this change locally in order to make the most impact,” she wrote. “We each have a personal responsibility to improve our community and enact positive social change by identifying a problem and constructing a plan to rectify it.”

She said that as one of few African-Americans in a predominantly white community, she grew up battling social pressures to fit in, and at times was ridiculed. This led to her joining school clubs that promote tolerance, such as Advocates for Equality and Gender and Sexual Identity Alliance, so she could help others who may be struggling to fit in.

Jordan is also involved in marching band and National Honor Society. As a school editor of “The Hawkeye,” she also oversees several writers and supervises the content in addition to editing copy and creating layouts for the monthly newspaper.

Sophomore Abram Berry said that Thomas serves as a role model for the staff.

“She works hard, but she also has time for others,” he said. “It’s pretty cool that she got recognized for the work she does.”