A foursome of Payson High School's 2005 graduates relied on rigid course work and exceptional scores on college-level Advanced Placement Program exams as springboards to university scholarships.
Stephanie Hilliard is now realizing a childhood dream by attending Stanford, Crystal Sprinkle is enrolled at Brigham Young University and Brent Riepel and Rebecca Stuart are freshmen at Arizona State University.
While attending Payson High School, the four earned the designation of College Board AP Scholars by successfully completing challenging college-level courses and chalking up outstanding scores on AP exams given last May at Gila Community College.
Payson High School counselor Don Heizer said that only about 18 percent of high school students around the country who took the AP Exams performed well enough to earn the AP Scholar recognition.
"It is really an accomplishment for the four to do what they did," he said. "The competition is fierce."
Hilliard earned the designation of AP Scholar with Distinction for posting an average grade of at least 3.5 on five of the exams.
Riepel and Stuart received AP Scholar with Honor awards for earning an average grade of at least 3.25 on four exams.
Sprinkle received the AP Scholar designation for completing three AP examinations with a 3.00 average.
In addition to earning the awards, the students received college credit while still in high school.
The College Board is a not-for-profit organization, founded in 1900, that is now composed of more than 4,700 schools, colleges and universities.
The goal of the organization is to assist high school students in college admissions, guidance, financial aid and enrollment. Among its best-known programs are the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and Pre-SAT.
In addition to Hilliard receiving the AP Scholar Award, she reaped several scholarships following her graduation in the spring. Among them were the Discover Card Tribute Award of $2,500, U of A Arizona National Merit Semifinalist Award, $8,000 and Payson Arizona Public Service Employee Scholarship, $1,000.
Last spring, she was chosen The Payson Roundup Young Woman of the Year.
Riepel earned the U of A President's Award for Excellence, $3,988 per year; and $300 from the Mogollon Health Alliance partly because he would like to study pharmaceutical research.
Sprinkle was given the U of A President's Award for Excellence, $3,988 per year; and the $1,000 Rim Country Kiwanis Scholarship.
Stuart received the ASU President's Scholarship, $7,000 per year.