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The City Journals

From bottom of the class to leader of the pack: Copper Hills graduate impresses superintendent

Jun 10, 2019 01:20PM ● By Jet Burnham

Elvis Amin receives the first-ever Dr. Patrice Johnson Superintendent’s Scholarship. (Photo courtesy Jordan Education Foundation)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

At age 10, Elvis Amin was reading two levels below grade level. A child of Sudanese refugees, he struggled to master English and to overcome a speech impediment. But he was motivated to work hard to improve because he wanted to be friends with the popular kids, who he realized were also the smart kids. 

“Seeing them being in their classes, and me going to resource classes or English as a second language classes, kind of pushed me to want to be with them—and to even go farther than them,” said Amin.

And that’s exactly what he did. Now Amin is the epitome of the popular kid. He is always surrounded by friends. He is the smart kid and the student leader. 

Amin served as sophomore class president and junior class president and is currently the Student Body president at Copper Hills High School.

“As a leader, Elvis has the ability to lead a group, but every person in that group will believe that Elvis is their friend,” said Scott Adamson, SBO adviser.

Student Government Adviser Rae Boren credits Amin for a greater school unity.

“He is beloved here at Copper Hills,” she said. “It is because he not only treats everyone with kindness and respect, but he does it with a genuine heart. He learns about the people he interacts with, he listens to them and includes them.”

Whether he is reaching out to the quiet kid, providing a listening ear for the kid who got kicked out of his  house or texting the worried kid at midnight, Amin exemplifies the principles Superintendent Patrice Johnson values. This is why members of the Jordan Education Foundation awarded him the first ever Dr. Patrice Johnson Superintendent’s Scholarship. The scholarship, awarded to a student who has demonstrated leadership, tenacity, grit, perseverance and searching for the American Dream, was funded by JEF board members in honor of Johnson, who is retiring. 

As Sudanese refugees, Amin’s parents struggled to provide basic needs for him and his three sisters. Living on government support for food and housing without positive peer role models in his community, Amin struggled in school. Finally, his mother arranged tutoring sessions, and Amin seized the opportunity to work hard to create a new future for himself.

“Elvis is such a positive young man that when times are difficult, I believe he knows that he or the group or the situation can be overcome with persistence,” said Adamson.

In addition to serving on student government, Amin is also secretary for the school’s Black Student Union and is involved in CH Pals helping special needs students. 

Amin believes his life experiences help him connect with others.

“I feel like, for me, that's been key—building friendships and just helping others grow,” said Amin. “I feel like I'm relatable, and I'm able to help them realize that they can make it past this adversity that they face.”

Amin feels a responsibility to mentor others.

“Being SBO President, I work with 26 other kids in student government,” said Amin. “I try to be like a big brother to them and just hear out their problems and just try to help them.” 

Amin knows he is fortunate to have had the opportunities and the support that he has and he wants to pay it forward. 

“I want to be that person that I never had,” he said. “I never had that mentor—someone that was older than me, who was making it down the right path and showing me the right way to go and just being a good example. I feel like I kind of had to figure that out for myself. I know there's a whole generation behind me that wants to learn the same thing, because no one else is doing it for them.”

This includes the people of South Sudan, whom he plans to help once he gets his business degree from the University of Utah.

“It's the people that keep me going,” said Amin. “Seeing others do stuff and just trying to help them is what keeps me going. And that's what makes me smile.”