The Payson Roundup would like to join the community in congratulating the Payson High School Class of 2006.
As each student walked onto the platform to accept his or her diploma, we applauded and cried along with parents. We watched these seniors grow up. Their faces and stories have appeared in the pages of this newspaper, for good and for bad. We have seen their winning home runs and last minute touchdowns. We have seen them on stage in drama productions and paid them to wash our cars or bought tickets to their steak dinner fund-raisers.
In many ways, each graduating senior is the end product of our community and our education system. We shape them in ways purposeful and accidental. And they have also shaped us.
The 157 graduates of 2006 are only days into their new life as adults.
We hope the road ahead is full of adventure and happiness, learning and accomplishment.
Many will leave Payson and never return. No matter where they choose to make their lives, we hope that Payson will have given them a foundation from which they will build.
These students were here when the community opened their hearts and homes to the evacuees of the Rodeo-Chediski fire.
And these students have proven to us that they understand the value of community involvement and philanthropy. They raised money to help pay medical bills for little Ashley Allen who ultimately lost her battle with cancer. Whether it was a wheelchair for a classmate or an Eagle Scout project to beautify our neighborhoods, we are proud of what these students have accomplished and are confident they can be successful in the future.
No matter how proud we are of our graduates, we also know there are obstacles ahead.
This weekend, while hiking on the Mogollon Rim, one of our staff saw a clump of "2006" balloons caught in a tree. They were tied with streamers and the "2006" on each one was still legible despite the fact that they were just beginning to deflate. They were likely released in a burst of excitement among shouting and air horns after the tassels had been turned from one side of the cap to the other and high school declared formally over.
Those sagging balloons hanging from a remote ponderosa pine seemed a fitting symbol of those who get stopped somewhere along the way because of poor choices.
As young adults taking responsibility for their own decisions, maybe for the first time, we encourage our graduates to go to college and to stay in school even when it might seem pointless or difficult. Our society is changing and those in this generation without a degree or specialized technical training will be left behind.
Statistically, of those students who do not enroll in college or some type of continuing education the first year after high school, very few will ever return to get their degree or certificate.
Even if a student is undecided, we encourage him or her to enroll in at least one class at a community college -- perhaps here in Payson. That thin thread to academia could become a lifeline later.
To contact Gila Community College, call (928) 468-8039 or visit www.gilaccc.org.