We asked a group of Payson High School students who are graduating this year to reflect on their education, their years at PHS, and what they have learned about life so far. Here are their responses:
Junior graduating early
"Is the glass half full or half empty? This is a question I have asked myself throughout my high school career.
"I've come to the conclusion that only I can decide that. In high school, you grow up. You learn that things don't just get done by themselves.
"As a freshman, you look to blame others for your faults. But as school continues, experiences teach you that claiming your faults saves a headache.
"I have faced many obstacles while wandering the campus of PHS, and each and every one good or bad has contributed to making me who I am today. This person is someone I am proud to be, and I have high school to thank for that.
"By looking at high school as a learning experience, I have learned so much."
"My overall high school experience has been very exciting. Over the past four school years, I've been involved in orchestra, varsity cheerleading, student council, advanced acting, advanced art, and am currently doing peer counseling.
"If I could do it all over again, I'd definitely spend more time with my friends, whom I've often neglected for study time.
"After high school, I plan on going to NAU, where I've recently been accepted. I hope to attend the college of social and behavioral sciences and major in psychology.
"If I could offer one piece of advice to Payson High School students, it would be, 'Carpe diem.' High school years really do fly by. Make the best of them, and have fun."
"During high school, I have had both memorable moments and moments I would like to forget. Through the years, from my days as a freshman to my senior year, I have matured.
"Overall, I have enjoyed these last four years. They have given me the opportunity to make some great friends, learn some of life's hard lessons, meet a wonderful boyfriend.
"My experiences at PHS I will forever hold close to my heart."
"My experience at Payson High School has been beneficial to my future plans. One reason for this has been my involvement in some of the many clubs the school offers.
"I am currently in the National Honor Society, I am a peer counselor, and I am a team captain on the varsity soccer team. Being involved in these activities has improved my outlook on life and made me a more outgoing person.
"Hopefully it will also lead me to success in my career."
"High school, like most things, is what you make of it.
"I probably place too much emphasis on school work, and made school worse than it had to be. I eventually realized, however, that high school was not that bad if you became involved. During my senior year in particular, I tried to become more involved and it made the difficulties of high school much easier to handle.
"I plan to attend Arizona State University this fall and study architecture."
"'The highest reward for man's toil is not what he gets for it, but what he becomes by it.' John Ruskin.
"This is one of the biggest things I learned in high school due to the experiences I had with teachers, peers and coaches. There is a lot of freedom that comes with high school, and a lot of maturing that takes place.
"It is a time during which I learned more about growing up than I thought I would. It is a lot of fun, but also a lot of responsibility.
"I have learned to grow while attempting to take each day to use for the best because it is a time that goes by so fast."
"During high school I have kept very busy. I have participated in multiple activities such as sports, teen court, and Key Club. I also went on two Purgatory ski trips which were a blast.
"One of the highlights of this year was working with the fifth-grade CHAMPS program. The kids are great.
"My motto through high school has been, 'All things are possible with God.' I have taken challenging classes, and I hope it pays off.
"My best memory would have to be laughing with my friends. I don't know what I'd do without them.
"I'm still unsure where I'll go to college next year, but I plan to keep busy and, of course, to keep laughing."
We conclude this student forum with the unique perspective of Basia Opalska, an exchange student from Poland who will graduate from Payson Center for Success.
"High school in America. Hmm, it is much different from Polish schools.
"First of all, students are not able to choose subjects in my country. Everyone has to pass the same amount of classes and has to take so many subjects to pass.
"Here, every day is different. You don't have the same classes every day.
"What really astonished me my first day at PHS was the parking lot. I was wondering if all those cars belong to teachers or are students allowed to drive? Then I found out you only have to be 16 years old to drive.
"In Poland, only some teenagers have cars. There, it is twice as expensive to buy a car and gasoline.
"Here every teacher also has his or her own rules, which sometimes makes it hard to remember that this teacher doesn't like gum in class, and the other doesn't like hats or something else.
"What I love about your high school is that it's fun. There are school assemblies, clubs, dances and sports. American people love sports, and I do too. They have spirit.
"You guys have cheerleaders and mascots, which we don't. Polish parents are too busy to go to kids' games, and there are no fans when you're playing. In Poland, we don't have homecoming week.
"We do have a prom. It's always 100 days before graduation. But we don't dress up for the prom, and only seniors are allowed to attend.
"I remember last year when I walked into the prom. Those girls looked like princesses. It was so beautiful to me.
"High school here, I think, is easier. You can choose classes and pass with general math. In Poland, you must pass calculus. Education takes a lot of time in my country.
"What was also different is that here many high school students are also working. If I worked during high school in Poland, my grades wouldn't be good.
"I really enjoyed my American high school experience. I can't say that it was better or worse from a Polish one. It is just different.
"But I did love those days at PHS and PCS. Trust me, I know it was not easy to cooperate with an exchange student like me. My teachers know what I'm talking about.
"So thank you for your patience. I will remember and miss all the people I met in beautiful Payson forever."