Keeping West High secured

Valli Ford, Opinion Editor

We have many security guards on our campus, and although it’s a small team, they get the job done. Some are more well known than others, but we appreciate their services and contributions to the school and community overall. One of our well known security guards is a strong woman who goes by the name of Ms. Jenni Payton.

When Jenni first joined, it was pretty rough. As West was first starting out, there were a lot of gang-related problems. “There were a lot of people who liked to fight, and I remember standing in between a red and a blue, using my ‘Big Jenni’ voice, holding them back.” Jenni wasn’t the first guard to appear at West. “Rick and Michelle started early on, then Jason, then myself, then Ed and Marla. Marla works double duty as a security guard and custodian. We’re small, but we’re all one team.”

Jenni has been working at West for 16 years, though being a security guard was not her first job. She started doing career goal teaching and mainly taught young children. Along that line of work, Jenni has worked for a total of five companies. Her past jobs consisted of being a preschool teacher, day camp director, camp drama teacher, [a] security guard at grocery outlets and now a guard for West. Her favorite part of the job is “the kids. I always tell people that if you don’t enjoy [your job], then don’t do it. If you do enjoy it, then stay.”  Jenni believes that it is a stepping stone for knowing the kids better. She also said that “you get to know them better by spending more time with them one on one.”

Jenni is also a Girl Scout Leader. She had been a leader for ten years and became one because “Mikayla [her daughter] wanted to do it.” In the beginning, she worked as a leader/mentor for the girls, overseeing all while occasionally having a troop of her own. As the years go by, two of Jenni’s Girl Scout members attend Millennium High School, and a few are here at West. Overall, Jenni oversees her members as program aid. One of her former members, junior Sydney Feinstein, recalls her Girl Scout experiences with Jenni, “I worked with Jenni at a local day camp here in Tracy, and she has always been very helpful, attentive and devoted to making camp a memorable place for the campers as well as the staff.” Feinstein also talks about how wonderful camp was for her, saying how “[camp] is always magical, whether you’re a camper or helping out with the campers. Every single person there creates the magic, including Jenni. Without leaders like Jenni, camp wouldn’t happen.”

Even after more than a decade has passed, Feinstein believes Jenni still has her charismatic charm. “I think that what Jenni does is unappreciated. She cares a lot about the students, you can tell. She really tries to build relationships with every single person on campus and always engages with everyone she sees.” Being one of the few people who have known Jenni for a long time, Feinstein said, “People haven’t given her a chance. She truly does her job to the best of her ability and a lot of people disagree with it.” Jenni, like the other security guards, have done an excellent job with keeping West High as safe as it is now. Though some people may run into conflicting situations with the guards, Feinstein, like many others, believes people should stop associating their mistakes with [Jenni] as a person. “Don’t blame Jenni because she caught you,” said Feinstein.

We appreciate Jenni as well as her fellow team and are grateful for the services they have provided for us at West.