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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Washington Voices

He Finds New Alternative As Asb Leader

Last year, Alex Donaldson watched school assemblies from the top bleachers in the West Valley High School gym. Way up there, where kids in black clothes and chains generally thumb their noses at the golden boys and cheerleaders who are out front running things.

This year, Donaldson is out there himself. He’s West Valley’s ASB president, with responsibility for nine months’ worth of school spirit, a $26,000 budget and this week’s homecoming.

He’s suddenly got so many friends, he can empathize with the old woman in the shoe.

“A year ago, I never thought I’d be elected,” the senior said.

Call it, alternative kid grows new attitude. Call it, Alex surprises everyone, even himself.

“I actually know what’s going on at school. This is the first time I’ve ever been involved with school at all.”

Donaldson is a different kind of ASB president than West Valley Principal Cleve Penberthy has seen in his five years at the school.

“I was talking to him just this morning about his legacy here, the message of inclusion that he represents to me,” Penberthy said.

“I hope kids recognize that for what it is and (in future years) don’t fall back into stereotypic roles as to who’s in and who’s out.”

Donaldson came to an interview this week wearing gray corduroys and a West Valley ASB T-shirt which reads: Don’t complain. You elected us.

Last year, he wore black. Black shirts, black pants, even black fingernails.

Donaldson plays bass guitar in a band called Diabolic. (“No, dad, it has nothing to do with the devil,” Alex said.) The band used to be his first priority.

“My parents were always trying to get me to do my homework first and then practice with the band. I was always, like, ‘Can’t I play my guitar first? It’ll get me all pumped.”’ This year though, Alex has seen the light - and he hopes it’s shining on the University of Washington. His grade point average is pushing 3.7. “Now, I’m like, homework, homework, homework. Then, I have to memorize my lines (for drama).” Alex followed his girlfriend, Michelle Bellino, into drama - another first, for him. “Band is last, now.”

The seeds of his campaign were planted in a history class last year.

“We were talking about recalls, reforms and referendums. Then we were talking about who we could recall - the school board or somebody like that. And then a group of my friends and I said ‘Wouldn’t it be neat to see if we could be elected and recall ourselves.”’ “When it started I thought it was, like, a joke,” said Jon Delderfield, who plays drums in the band. “Then I thought it was, like, really cool that one of my best buds was going to run the school. Now I don’t think so. I never see him.”

Campaigning wasn’t easy, especially the speeches. First, Donaldson spoke to the eighth-graders, who became this fall’s incoming freshmen. He aimed at making a connection with many kids, not with the few. “I tried to make myself be one of them.” He talked about how bad the cliques were when he was in eighth grade. “There were the really popular kids and the jocks and the stoners and the geeks. I was a geek,” he told them.

He did the speech on the fly. No notes, no big deal. Until afterwards, and he ate a bowl of ice cream. “Then I was throwing up in the bushes over there,” he said, looking across the street.

“It takes a lot of courage to get up there - and then get nothing (if you lose).”

Then came the big one - the speech in front of 800 upperclassmen. Donaldson gave his speech in the company of two suited, RayBanned “Secret Service agents” who fought off an attack on “the president.” Donaldson has a bit of the ham in him.

His speech bore basically the same message: that a kid who never considered himself popular was going to try to lead the students from among them.

Donaldson said he has learned a lot this fall. He’s learned that the cheerleaders work harder than some people realize. “I’d like to give a lot of credit to the cheerleaders,” he said. He’s learned that, just maybe, he’d like to be a teacher. “I don’t want to sound cheesy, but I kind of like to help people.”

And he’s learned that even presidents have limits on their power.

“Well, actually Tasha (Box) our treasurer, has more power than me. She gets to sign the checks.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo

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