The Wilson Dome was filled to the rafters by the time caps sailed high Thursday night as the class of 2008 celebrated their success.
Quite a few of those 156 graduates will take their next educational steps with scholarships in hand -- the student body earned a whopping $830,300 worth.
"It is by far the largest tally since I have been at Payson High School," Don Heizer said.
It took as long to name the recipients as it did to award diplomas.
There were high fives, hugs and mugs for cameras as students returned to their seats with award certificates in hand.
The Longhorn Band began the evening with the traditional "Pomp and Circumstance" and the audience rose to give graduates a standing ovation.
"Life is the sum of all your choices," Payson High School Principal Roy Sandoval said in his welcome address at the ceremony.
The Longhorn Band performed "Eleanor Rigby" and the band and Modern Choir performed "Do I Make You Proud."
Then, valedictorian Esther Linkey stepped to the podium full of emotions and minus the first page of her speech, so she winged it.
"Payson represents God's love for me," she said.
Her advice to graduates was to "conquer the world" and to look for and remember the good in life.
"So what if Payson doesn't have a shopping mall. Instead, we have a community that really does care about us, air that is actually healthy to breathe and you can even get in the newspaper for being close to last in a cross country race," she said and was rewarded with applause and laughter.
Valedictorian Mark McCarty said that the first few years after high school set the pattern for the life ahead.
He asked his classmates to consider how they would choose to live.
"For me the answer is courage," McCarty said.
He encouraged graduates to make choices based on "what you believe is right" not on fear.
Once graduate names began to be announced signs requesting no noisemakers were ignored by individual cheering sections. Yet, in combination with stomping feet and often-thunderous applause the air horns and clickers were an exuberant expression of happiness.
Off to China
PHS has one graduating senior who is going to China for five months to teach English with the International Language Program.
- 19 students planning on attending a technical school.
- 52 of our students are attending various colleges.
- 36 students plan on attending Arizona Universities.
- Nine students plan on attending out of state universities.
- 22 students are undecided on what plans they have for the future.
- 11 students are planning on going directly into the work force.
"74 students were apparently "so busy" that they did not have time to answer his survey," Heizer said and the audience laughed.
A list of scholarship winners will be in Tuesday's Roundup.