Editor’s note: Every year, The Herald Journal profiles one graduating student from each valley high school. Profiled students are selected by administrators at the schools.
Jonathan Stott simply wants to do things his own way — with no limitations.
This year, Jonny is graduating from Green Canyon High School after completing his junior and senior year concurrently — a decision he made after being held back in third grade as a result of complications from a rare genetic mutation. It’s a goal he’s accomplished on top of working a landscaping and construction job as well as serving as the manager of the Green Canyon football team.
“I found a way,” Jonny said in an interview with The Herald Journal. “I find my own way.”
Jonny said from day one he was told he would not be able to walk or run, swim or serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“I defeated those and I’m doing all the things they said I can’t do,” Jonny said.
Jonny was born with spinal muscular atrophy lower extremity predominance, a genetic mutation that affects muscles in the lower body. It’s a rare disease — so rare, in fact, that Johnny is currently the only person in the State of Utah diagnosed with the SMA-LED.
So strong was his determination to succeed on his own terms that even when the school offered accommodations like iPads and note dictation applications, Jonny declined.
“He didn’t want to look different,” said LaLoni Stott, Jonny’s mother. “He wanted to be like his other friends so he always said no.”
Hard work and adapting is a recurring theme for Jonny. LaLoni said though his methods may look a little different, he always finds his own way to accomplish goals.
“We always call it ‘Jonny’s way,’” LaLoni said.
Jonny spent myriad hours studying to graduate with his original class. Jennifer Hartman, Jonny’s counselor at Green Canyon, said he had to take 13 additional classes dispersed across his regular course load — a feat she has never seen successfully completed during her career.
“It’s never happened before; I have not had someone that was able to accomplish that,” Hartman said. “It was really fun to watch him be so determined that he was going to do this, despite how difficult it was.”
For Jonny, though it may have been a little sad to have graduation ceremonies halted as a result of COVID-19, he was also kind of happy to avoid the pomp and circumstance.
“He is not about the accolades in any way, shape or form,” Hartman said. “He determines for himself what he needs to work at and he does it.”
Hartman said it’s also important to note that SMA-LED doesn’t define Jonny.
“His determination and perseverance is what defines him,” Hartman said.
Jonny’s determination doesn’t go unnoticed. Green Canyon Principal Dave Swenson said coaches, teachers, students and teammates all recognize Jonny’s resolve.
“If he’s told that he can’t do it, he looks at that as a challenge,” Swenson said. “He goes out, not only probably methodically, but also with a determination to beat those odds. He’s proven that time and time again.”
Jonny made headlines throughout the state late last year when he started as quarterback in Green Canyon’s final football game of the season. Lined up in a shotgun position, Jonny completed a pass to a wide receiver for a three-yard gain, causing a wealth of loud cheers and misty eyes. For Jonny, the opportunity to play a down of football was a special experience and proved to be one of the most memorable of Jonny’s high school career.
“The best high school experience was the Friday night lights,” Jonny said. “Green Canyon is probably the best, because everybody there is like a family and we don’t feel awkward sharing.”
Jonny was awarded the Spirit of Sport Award by the Utah High School Activities Association on Feb. 29 during the 4A highschool basketball championship at Weber State University. Swenson said he’s still moved by the memory of the tears in Jonny’s eyes as the crowd stood in ovation as he received the award.
“When they read (Jonny’s) accomplishments I just thought, ‘I am very lucky to sit here and witness this,’” Swenson said. “I walked away thinking, ‘I want to be a better person.’”
Jonny said he has recently been called to serve a Portuguese-speaking mission in São Paulo, Brazil. He is slated to leave on Aug. 5. He said he thought he would wind up serving a stateside mission due to concerns of his ankles holding up to 16 hour days of walking, cycling or driving. For his Eagle Scout, Jonny said he received the bicycling merit badge by completing two 25 mile bike rides.
“I’m excited to go out in Brazil and serve the people, but I’m nervous to just learn the language,” Jonny said. “It was my dream to be a missionary — a full-time missionary without limitations.”