Payson Student Wins Coveted Flinn Scholarship

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Those who think brains and brawn don't mix have never met 18-year-old Mark McCarty.

Only two months after the Payson High School senior showcased his brute strength by winning the 152-pound 3A state wrestling championship, he staged a stunning show of intellect by being named the recipient of the most lucrative and prestigious college scholarship in Arizona.

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Mark McCarty has won a Flinn Foundation scholarship, which goes annually to the top 20 highest achieving students in the state.

The Flinn Foundation scholarship, which goes annually to the top 20 highest achieving students in the state, was given to McCarty late last week.

With it comes a full-ride financial package that includes tuition and fees and a stipend to cover room, board, books and supplies.

A three-week overseas seminar after his freshman year and two additional summers or semesters of international study are also included.

Expenses to pay for personal mentoring by Flinn scholars, field trips, cultural events and opportunities to meet and greet business, government, education and arts leaders are also included in the scholarship.

"It is the finest scholarship a (high school) senior can receive," PHS principal Roy Sandoval said. "Mark is well deserving of it."

McCarty is aware that he is receiving a financial aid package that is among the very finest in the country.

"It pays for everything, I am excited about getting it," he said.

Only two other Payson High School students have ever received the scholarship.

Nikki Hale was the school's first winner in 1989 and Beryl Jones won it in 2006.

For Hale, the scholarship changed her life.

"It was the best thing to ever happen to me," she said. "It provided me such great opportunities. I was able to go to school, enjoy what I was doing, and not worry about student loans."

After Hale and Jones received the scholarships, they opted to attend the University of Arizona.

McCarty will select Arizona State University.

"It's not official yet, but that's where I'm going," he said.

At ASU, his plans are to have dual majors -- economics and biochemistry. After obtaining bachelors degrees, he plans on attending graduate school, possibly also at Arizona State.

As a recipient of the Flinn scholarship, he is required to attend one of the state's three universities.

The Flinn Foundation is a privately endowed grant making organization established in 1965 by Dr. and Mrs. Robert S. Flinn to improve the quality of life in Arizona.

The path to earning the celebrated scholarship was a long and winding one for McCarty.

He said he became interested in it after talking to Jones who told him of the tremendous advantages of earning the grant.

In October of 2007 he began pursuit of the Flinn by filling out an on-line application. With it, he sent teacher and counselor recommendations, his transcripts, three essays he had written and a resume of his extra curricular activities.

"In the middle of December, I received a letter saying I was a quarter-finalist," he said.

Which meant another round of applications and face-to-face interviews in Phoenix with a panel of three Flinn scholars.

He was also asked to take campus visits to both UA and ASU. Later, he was named one of 48 semi-finalists.

Finally, at a dinner in Phoenix, McCarty and the other candidates went through two more days of extensive interviews.

Although they were arduous, the PHS senior was not unnerved by any of the question and answer sessions.

"I didn't really let it bother me, I just tried to do the best I could," he said.

Next up, he will attend a Flinn recognition dinner with his parents to be held May 18 in the Valley.

At Payson High's graduation a week later, he'll be recognized as the top-ranked student in his class with about a 4.30 grade point average.

During his middle and high school tenure, McCarty has always enrolled in advanced placement classes, including math.

As a sixth grader at Rim Country Middle School he took Algebra I at PHS. Taking a PHS advanced math class as an eighth grader, he often could be found tutoring the juniors and senior members of the class.

"I still like math, it's my favorite subject," he said.

As academically successful as he was, the teenager never dreamed he was someday earn one of the finest academic scholarships available.

"I always thought I probably go to college on a wrestling scholarship," he said.

Others who watched McCarty kick start his wrestling as a third grader on the RCMS team shared that belief.

"He was a good one from early on," former PHS coach Dennis Pirch said.

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