Graduates Ponder Life Beyond Pomp And Circumstance

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If you're like many people, high school graduation is just a musty old year book packed away in the attic -- your biggest fears and dreams covered with years of dust. But give those memories a shot ...

Maybe landing your first full-time job, moving away from home, attending a university, or joining the military filled you with anxiety, and yet an unknown sense of freedom.

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The reality of graduation and the adventure of starting a new life shows as Payson High School seniors Katie Ford, Brandi Whomble and Bailey Wholly try on their caps and gowns. Commencement begins at 9:30 a.m., May 21.

Try to recapture those feelings. It was probably the most important and exciting time of your life.

This Saturday 170 graduates from Payson High School will experience those same emotions. As they receive their diplomas -- their tickets to adulthood -- their minds will be filled with hope, excitement, fear and the reality that things will never be the same.

"It's exciting and sad and it may be the last time I see other students," said Mandy Randall, 17. "It's bittersweet."

Randall plans to attend Southern Utah University. Her greatest fear is coming up with the $10,000 a year to attend college.
She's been working part time the past year to save up, and still waits to hear about the scholarships for which she applied.

In spite of the challenges, she looks forward to her new adventure.

"It's neat. I'll be out on my own going to college in the fall," she said.

Randall moved to Payson from Mesa about four years ago and loved attending high school in the Rim country.

"There's a lot of things to get involved with here," said Randall. "I got to know my teachers well and really liked school," she said.

Randall also said attending a smaller high school gave her more opportunities outside the classroom.

"I played basketball and volleyball here," she added. "I might not have been able to play in the larger Mesa school."

Randall will remember with most fondness loved decorating floats and working on homecoming projects.

She said some of her teachers were great. She especially praised her English teacher, Gail Wade who made her senior year special.

"Mr. Wade is hilarious," Randall said. "He's made learning English fun. That class was awesome."

Senior Tina Jackson, 18, is bound for prestigious Smith College in Massachusetts, a private, all-girls institution.

"I'm nervous about fitting in academically and socially," said Jackson.

"I've lived in Payson since I was 3 years old so I'm concerned about doing well and measuring up in such a rigorous school as Smith College," she said.

Jackson wants to major in pre-med.She said her experience at the Payson High School helped her gain the confidence she needed to excel.

"This has been the ultimate high school experience," said Jackson. "The teachers and staff are really good people."

Jackson said World Cultures teacher Kathleen Alexander Young helped her a great deal.

"She made me keep my eye on the prize," said Jackson. "She taught me that Payson is a stepping stone to many things I can achieve."

Jackson's has frank advice to other high school students.

"Take advantage of everything," said Jackson. " Don't let anything pass you by and have fun, too."

Student government president, Katie Ford, 17,said her greatest fear about graduating is leaving familiar faces and places.

"It's exciting and scary because you're really all alone at college. I've grown up with the same kids and only a couple of them are going to (Southern Utah University) as me," said Ford. "The university is a lot bigger than our high school and the classes will be harder and we'll have to get into the swing of things right away."

Ford has been active in student government, homecoming activities and dance.

She said she enjoyed her experience at Payson High School a great deal.

"Here I know just about everyone and I have felt a part of many things," Ford said. "In a small school like ours, you can be more involved than you would in a larger school."

Ford praised English teacher and student government adviser Anna Van Zile for her ability to inspire.

"She is an amazing woman with lots of talent and has taught me how to be a leader," Ford added.

Ford's advice for other high school students is simple:

"Don't give up. There's so much waiting for you.Make the most of your time as a senior."

The seniors' last day of class is Thursday, May 19.raduation rehearsal begins at 8:30 a.m. followed by a senior breakfast at the school.

Commencement begins at 9:30 Saturday morning on the football field at Payson High School.

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