'Act Upon Your Dreams'

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A serpentine line of purple and black wended its way across the green field and through an archway of ribbons and flowers.

With black and purple gowns fluttering in the constant breeze, 142 graduates of Payson High School would meet as a group one last time Saturday afternoon on the field they came to know as home.

Their friends and relatives filled the stands and flowed out onto the green grass. From the crowd, they heard shouts of "I love you," "Way to go, little sister," and the blaring of horns.

They uniformly took their seats while the PHS band played the traditional "Pomp and Circumstance."

Several seniors picked their instruments up for the last time as band members. Tears welled in their eyes.

There was reason to cry and reason to rejoice. There were many stories of hardships overcome and battles won.

"This week Payson was honored with the Don F. Stone Award, recognized as the best 3A school in the state in everything -- athletics, scholarship, drama," said Jerry Daniels, who gave the welcoming address.

"We recognize the senior class for their leadership."

Jacob Goble, one of the graduates, told his classmates, "We, as dreamers, must be willing to take it upon ourselves to taste everything.

"The venture down the road of life is to savor everything along the path.

"Dream," he said, "but most important, act upon your dreams."

Cameron Omoto, another graduate, said, "A small part of me wishes today will never end."

Omoto talked about his long-time friends and quoted a teacher who told him not to count the days, but make every day count.

"The teachers may have made up the lesson plan," Omoto said. "but the teachers made the lessons come alive."

He talked about how his worries of what to do at recess turned into what to do with the rest of his life.

"I hope you had the time of your life," Omoto said. "I'll miss all of you."

Mothers and fathers, step-parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends listened as the chorus sang "Amazing Grace" and "Look Ahead."

"I didn't think I'd make it to see this," said Sug Thiele, whose only child, Josh Slaughter, was graduating. She had undergone three surgeries in the past year.

One graduate, Mark Petefish, had lost both his parents, Anthony and Kay Petefish, during his senior year. He was there to receive his diploma and his brother had flown in to be with him.

Carrie Gugino's grandparents flew in from Gowanda, N.Y., and her mother, Clarita Inaven, had spent hours making traditional Hawaiian leis for Carrie and her classmates.

Don Heizer, the district's head guidance counselor, said, "It takes a community to raise a child. This community has done a great job."

The list of scholarships was lengthy and impressive, with hundreds of thousands of dollars from businesses, clubs and organizations, from schools around the country, from small amounts to full scholarships complete with room and board.

The total amount of money given out in scholarships exceeded $350,000.

High School Principal Philip Gille presented the graduates with their diplomas. Among the graduates was his daughter, Elizabeth Ann.

As each graduate's name was called, the audience learned of his or her future plans. They would go on to college, to jobs, to marriage, to military service. They would go into a multitude of careers.

Some joked that they would just leave home. Others joked that they wouldn't.

They gave high fives and did cartwheels, they hugged and kissed their friends and then they did what all graduating classes do -- they tossed their caps into the wind.

They covered each other in silly string, and parents and step-parents, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, friends and grandparents rushed the field with cameras, flowers and gifts in hand.

Nicole Settlemires' sisters gave her a quilt made of family pictures.

Bree Hibbitts, who plans to get married next month, got flowers and balloons from her fiancee, Nathan Morris.

Wearing flowered leis and cowboy hats and their purple football jerseys for the last time, they laughed and cried and hugged each other. It was easy to see that they didn't want to let go of the day.

Out of the crowd, a capless, black-robed young man walked across the field carrying a rolled up piece of paper, proof that he had completed his graduation requirements.

For a moment, he was alone, and in that moment he posed a simple question to no one but the wind.

"What will we do now?"

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