Derrick Hoosava has set an admirable standard, not only for the young men and women of the Tonto Apache Tribe, but for the other teens of the community as well.
Hoosava, who graduates from Payson High School this month, was honored for his many achievements by the Tonto Apache Tribe and his family and friends April 27.
The young man was lured to the surprise dinner by his parents, Farrell and Mary Hoosava, under the pretense it was for his grandmother, Flo Engle.
Mrs. Engle and other family members assisted in the event, by providing a collection of articles and photos that took up almost an entire wall of the bingo hall at Mazatzal Casino.
Members of the Tonto Apache Education Committee shared the young man's long and impressive resume, opening with the remark, "The education committee only had to look at his grades every year and we knew he'd be our student of the year."
He has been awarded that special honor every year for the past three years and will receive it again as he completes his high school career.
Among Derrick's many other honors: He was named to the All-East First Team in football for 2005, was selected as only the third Payson High School student National High School Athletic Coaches Association All-American, is a three-year letter winner in football, a two-time recipient of PHS football's Ring of Honor, a member of the basketball team as a freshman and sophomore, a member of Student Council, both as student body treasurer and class president, and a member of the National Honor Society with a 3.25 grade point average.
He participated in the Longhorn Mentor program, helping incoming freshmen adapt to high school life. He volunteered with the Friends And Neighbors (FAN) Club, a booster organization for the Payson Unified School District. He served on the Payson Planning and Zoning Commission for two years and worked part-time with the Payson Parks and Recreation Department.
Derrick's football skills earned him an invitation to participate on the All Arizona team in the Down Under Bowl in Australia this summer. As part of the festivities Thursday, there was a money tree to help with the expenses he will have making the trip. The first donor of the evening was the man who introduced Derrick to football, Billy Hardt, who coached him on the Central Arizona Youth Football Association's Payson Raiders. Hardt put $100 on the tree.
Derrick has signed a letter of intent to play football at Mesa Community College in the fall. He is the first member of the TAT to go on to play collegiate level football.
Three representatives of the PUSD paid tribute to Derrick -- Superintendent Sue Myers, High School Assistant Principal Tim Fruth and Parent Liaison Blanche Oakland.
"I asked around the schools to find out what people thought of Derrick," said Oakland. "They said Derrick makes the right choices. He is respectful and friendly. He cares about people. That is who Derrick is."
Tribal Chairman Ivan Smith also praised Derrick for his achievements and complimented his parents and family for all they have done for him over the years.
The evening's most touching remarks came from Derrick's father, Farrell, who is a member of the Tonto Apache Tribal Council.
"Our story starts when Derrick came to live with me when he was in the second grade," he said.
"All of a sudden I had this boy to raise. We started down the wrong path and my alcohol problem started to creep into our relationship. I committed to alter my life and head in the right direction.
"My son, he saved my life. In return, I try to give him every opportunity to enjoy his, to do the things I didn't get to do, to see the things I didn't get to see."