The nine students who will graduate Wednesday from Payson Center for Success, Payson's alternative high school, will be the first in the school's three-year history to receive diplomas with national accreditation.
Last month, the school received accreditation from the Arizona North Central Association -- a designation that will make it easier for graduating students to gain acceptance into colleges and universities around the country.
"This accreditation is well-known throughout the U.S.," PCS Director Monica Nitzsche said. "Schools acknowledge that we've met certain standards and we've had someone monitor what we do. Now we can put that accreditation on transcripts and diplomas so students will be more easily accepted into other schools.
"Charter schools (such as PCS) don't have to apply for accreditation. We chose to do it for credibility. People like to see that stamp of approval."
The accreditation process normally takes three years to complete, but the school's four-member staff, which worked with students and parents to establish a school-improvement proposal to qualify for accreditation, completed the process in two years.
The improvement proposal complements the school's charter, which focuses on job skills, technology and responsibility issues, Nitzsche said. Over the next three years, school staff members will strive to help students improve their effective use of the written language, their technology skills and their competencies in planning and preparing for their careers.
"We had already decided that was the direction we wanted to go," Nitzsche said. "Once we got into the accreditation process, we found that everything we were already doing fell right into place for accreditation. We found we were doing everything right. Everything just fit."
The three-member accreditation team assigned by the Arizona North Central Association to guide the PCS staff through the process and evaluate its application was impressed by the faculty's dedication, organization and preparation for improvement.
"We want to commend Monica Nitzsche and Tina Crabdree for their commitment and absolutely impressive dedication to PCS," the team wrote in its executive summary for approval.
"In the few short years of operation they have had to develop curriculum, deal with new and changing state standards, meet the requirements of their district strategic plan as well as the requirements for AIMS and Stanford 9 testing.
"These are a challenge for any school, but with only a few employees, the time commitment is considerable."