The night was steamy, but hopes were high Thursday night as Payson High School’s Class of 2009 sweltered in purple and black caps and gowns.
Adults fanned themselves with the graduation programs — rain forced the ceremony into Wilson Dome.
This year’s graduating class received nearly $800,000 in scholarships — two of them $200,000-plus over four years from ROTC programs. Nicholas Lins will receive $230,000 over four years from the Navy ROTC to attend University of California Los Angeles, and Ridge Halenar will receive $205,000 over four years from ROTC to attend the University of North Dakota.
Sixty-two graduates will attend college, and 12 will directly enter the work force. Eight will enter vocational schools, and five will continue their education in some way other than college.
Principal Roy Sandoval told the graduates that they will face adversity, but it will bring them strength. He talked about the Payson Longhorns winning the championship, and about his serious doubts at halftime when the team lagged behind Blue Ridge.
“What are we going to say when we get home?” Sandoval wondered. A big party had been planned.
But, the Longhorns refused defeat. “They marched. They passed. They scored a touchdown,” Sandoval said. And another. And another.
“Boy what a party we had when we got home,” Sandoval said, to wild cheers in the audience.
“Students, as you leave the security of your home, and of Payson High School,” he continued, “keep running, keep passing, keep catching and keep scoring.”
Valedictorian Sumit Patel quoted Dr. Seuss in his speech. “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.”
He then told the crowd that they were now responsible for reaching their dreams.
Salutatorian Alexia Robles, who spoke no English when she arrived in America nine years ago, thanked her parents in Spanish and affectionately acknowledged her “amigos.”
“So here we are, the juggernaut class of 2009,” she began. Parents taught them morals, gave them support. “Without them, we would literally not be here.”
And laughs with friends, Robles said, help ease the way through high school.
“Keep that dreamer quality Picasso had,” she said.
Annamaria Maratona hoped her grandson, Travis Herning, would continue with his dreams. He will become a motorcycle mechanic.
His parents, “have raised a fine young man who’s got a good spirit and a good heart,” Maratona said. She drove up from Scottsdale for the occasion. “He’s a very good kid,” she said of Herning.
And now all the good kids of Payson’s graduating class will leave the comfort of home to build their vision of how life should be.
As Robles said, “Congratulations Class of 2009! We did it!”