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Hometown Hero Jon Poolman aims for excellence

Jon Poolman is this month’s Hometown Hero. Each May, the South Whidbey Record Hometown Hero features a high school senior chosen by the school staff.  - Brian Kelly / The Record
Jon Poolman is this month’s Hometown Hero. Each May, the South Whidbey Record Hometown Hero features a high school senior chosen by the school staff.
— image credit: Brian Kelly / The Record

Jon Poolman learned early on to strive for his own personal perfection.

He says, “It may not be someone else’s best, but that’s the whole point — we are not someone else.”

“We aren’t all created the same. I have watched some people work as hard as they could at something and still could not get the best grades, or run the fastest race,” he explains. “And that’s OK. Everyone likes to win, but we can’t all be a winner — however, we can all do our best.”

He says trying your hardest is all anyone could ask for from a person.

“Society doesn’t recognize those that try their hardest. For example, I think when a student really goes all out to do their best, they shouldn’t be cut from a team at tryouts.”

Kevin McDonald, a fellow student at South Whidbey High School, says, “Jon always does whatever needs to be done, and gives all of his energy to it.”

“He’s a fantastic athlete and student, but more importantly, he’s a great guy,” McDonald adds, and offers an example.

“A couple of years we went to football camp. The first morning Jon’s hand got pinned during practice and got broken. I remember he was one sad human being. But he had the doctor wrap it and stayed for the rest of the camp,” McDonald says. “He fought through the pain so he could cheer the rest of us on. When camp was over and we all went home, he got surgery on his hand. He continued the entire time to come to practices and do everything that was expected. It was really funny to watch him try to bear crawl with one hand in a cast.

“Just yesterday, Jon brought his truck and volunteered all day with us to spread bark around the gardens at the school. He gives his all and asks nothing in return — well, except for some food occasionally. Thank God for people like Jon!”

Casey Fate, another South Whidbey High School student, remarks, “Jon is a wonderful human being. He is definitely a hero for our hometown, as well as a hero to me.

“He’s a hero because he lives his life in a very admirable way. He is very level-headed, and does not get too worried if things go bad, or too excited if things go well. He gives everyone the amount of respect they deserve, and will never say anything at the expense of another person. A hero is someone you look up to, and Jon tops the list.”

Poolman inspires others to get involved with community volunteer work and fundraisers. But he’s a quiet leader, as well.

Poolman says he tends to sit back and listen in a new group.

“I don’t want to start off on the wrong foot or anything,” he says.

Because of this, he notices how people treat each other.

“I believe there is a way to win and lose with class. If we win at something, we don’t want to gloat over it, and want to remember to thank our opponent,” he says. “And when we lose, we want to congratulate the winner and not be a sore loser. This goes for politics, too.

I wish a candidate would run their own race, and talk about why we should vote for them, not why we shouldn’t vote for the other guy.”

Humility is a great gift, he says, and noticeable in those who lack it.

“For example, NBA player Paul Pierce is really cocky. He says he’s the best player in the world, and puts down people of lesser skills,” Poolman says. “To me, the guy isn’t exhibiting class. It’s OK to be confident, but people don’t need to blow their own horn verbally. Just get out and do what you can do.”

He laughs. “Maybe you can guess that acting cocky is one of my pet peeves.”

Poolman is quick to point out the many great role models here on South Whidbey.

“Mr. Andy Davis, a coach, for one. In my freshman year, at first I have to admit I didn’t like him,” Poolman recalls. “He kept telling me I could do this better or that better. I thought he was picking on me. But I soon realized I was getting better, and that he truly cared about us, and that’s why he helps us to attain our best. I really respect him and, yes, like him a lot, too.”

Erik Jokinen, a coach and teacher at Langley Middle School, says of Poolman: “All teachers love to have Jon in their class because of his constant internal motivation, great work ethic, and his positive, dynamic personality. He’s an impressive athlete, but even more so is his willingness to try anything new; juggling, lacrosse, skating and more.

“I also have had the pleasure of watching Jon coach younger kids, passing on his enthusiasm to the next generation,” Jokinen says. “Jon is an example of what all students can strive to emulate in their academic career; balance in health, relationships, and a willingness to always try their best at what they do.”

Poolman coaches 7- and 8-year-old boys. One of those boys is Brent Batchelor, 7.

“I have learned from Coach Jon how to play basketball, and never tell a lie!

“I think it’s so cool to have a high school kid that thinks it’s cool to coach us younger kids. Thank you, Coach Jon.”

Poolman says, “The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have.”

He says he wants to run his own race, but also wants to help others run theirs, along the way.

Jonathon (Jon) Joseph Poolman

Born: Jan. 17, 1992.

Family: Parents. Dan and Marie; two older sisters, Melissa and Laura.

Plans after graduation: Western Washington University, with a focus on becoming a history teacher or business major.

Years on Whidbey: 18.

Hobbies: Fishing, hiking, basketball, football, running, hanging out, waterskiing and camping.

Five South Whidbey people you look up to?

“My mom and dad, I hope to make them proud. Andy Davis, a great coach who really cares and pushed me to do my best. Mr. Mark Eager, an amazing teacher and coach. He inspired me to really like history. Mr. Erik Jokinen, who was an inspiring coach for me and so many middle school students.”

What is something hardly anyone knows about you?

“I am superstitious in the way of rituals before a sports game. For example, I always like to listen to the same song before a football game. It’s an instrumental song.”

What is your favorite book?

“‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ because it helped me realize how it was during the Depression Era, and how much further along we are today in our treatment of people here in the U.S.”

What book would you like to write someday?

“A children’s book with pictures, a fiction book.”

What does it mean to have class?

“To always act respectfully, even when you feel you are at a disadvantage. Someone may treat you poorly, but it doesn’t mean you should retaliate. You should be the bigger person and let it go. Don’t stoop to others’ levels; always conduct yourself in an appropriate fashion.”

What do you struggle with?

“I like to plan everything, but perhaps I plan too much. For instance, I planned out every hour of prom day.”

What kind of things will people never find out about you?

“I like to sing, but I am bad at it. Still, I like to sing.”

What is some advice for all to live by?

“Don’t only think about what is best for you, think about the big picture. Think about other people. If you have to sacrifice a little of something to make a few people happy, then isn’t that worth it?”

Who inspired you the most?

“My parents. I have learned so much from their lives, and have always wanted to be like my dad.”

What one question would you ask God?

“Why do some people have to suffer, and why do bad things sometimes happen to good people, and good things to bad people?”

If you could pick seven words for your epitaph?

“No, I didn’t work at a pool.”

A motto to live by?

“Always do your best; anything less is to sacrifice the gift.”

What others say about Jon Poolman

“Jon is obviously one of the most outstanding students in our high school, both academically and athletically, but what makes him stand out to me is his humility and caring nature. He truly cares about his classmates, appreciates his teachers and coaches and loves his school. He has been a great role model for the entire South Whidbey High School family.”

Andy Davis, South Whidbey High School teacher and coach

“Jon is an all-around good guy. He is hardworking in academics and in sports. He is helpful, and always dependable when you need a job done. He’s kind to everyone and gives all respect.”

Devon Sidhu, South Whidbey High School student

“If you don’t know Jon very well, he can seem like a pretty quiet kid, but as soon as you get to know him you realize he has many dimensions. Jon has a hilarious sense of humor and a passion for life that is evident in everything he does. When our whole family gets together, often Jon can have us laughing so hard that we have to wipe tears from our eyes. He is constantly surprising me with the duties he takes on; for example, he is co-president of the South Whidbey High School Honor Society and sports editor for the yearbook, on top of all of his other commitments. It doesn’t matter if it is his participation in Hearts & Hammers, 5K races to raise money for charities, coaching basketball for the Parks & Rec [district], or one of the several other ways Jon has found to give back, he always puts 100 percent of himself into it.”

Laura Poolman, South Whidbey High School Class of 2006 and Jon’s sister

“Jon is a shy person upon first impression, but once you get to know him he has a heart of gold. He is always putting people before himself and is willing to help anyone in need, even if it means going out of his way. If he sets his mind to anything, he will accomplish it, no doubt. Although he may not get recognized for all the work he has done, he is truly a guy who gives all his effort to one project and won’t stop until it is completed. When he opens up, he reveals the amazing person he is. From singing at the top of his lungs to dancing in his room, he can always find a way to brighten up a person’s day. There is no other person deserving of this award than him.”

Laura Barrow, South Whidbey High School senior

“He has a terrific sense of humor, is kind, compassionate and has a deep sense of family. He is a fierce competitor on the athletic field, but has also worked hard and excelled academically, as well. We have had the pleasure to watch this little boy grow into an amazing adult who has filled our life with so much happiness.”

Dan and Marie Poolman, Jon’s parents

“Thank you so much for having Jon be the Hometown Hero! Our family is definitely better off for knowing him. We were so lucky to have had him coach our son in his first year of basketball this year. As a parent, it is rare to find a teenager that is so kind and appropriate with young kids. It is also rare to find one that is always on time and willing to give so much of his free time to coach a team of 7- and 8-year-old boys! Thanks, Coach Jon.”

Garth and Olivia Batchelor

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