A full moon rose in the distance as Payson High School’s Class of 2010 marched through Thursday night’s graduation ceremony on the football field.
“Parents and family, thank you for sharing your children with us,” began Principal Roy Sandoval as he presided over his last graduation ceremony. “I can truly say that I have just had a great time with them.”
The sparkling, cool evening marked a welcome departure from last year’s steaming ceremony which rain had forced inside Wilson Dome. People variously cheered and clapped for the exuberant grads, punctuating one of life’s few photo-album worthy moments.
This class was the first in PHS history to earn over $1 million in scholarships — and Sandoval said this class also marked the first he saw from freshman year to senior.
“I’ve truly come to love you,” he told the students. The class has suffered losses together.
From would-be graduate Julia Wright, who died in an ATV accident last year, to popular teacher Cynthia Pool, who died during a cross-country bike trip, Sandoval said navigating the crises have brought the class closer together.
Salutatorian Nicole Scott also invoked Pool’s memory. “I know that she would be extremely proud of all of us sitting here tonight.”
Scott acknowledged friends — “it is one of the blessings of old friends that you can be stupid around them” — family — “like fudge, mostly sweet with a few nuts” — and teachers, who give guidance inside the classroom and out.
All who gave speeches — Sandoval and his son, Ben, who was valedictorian, as well as Scott — offered worldly advice for the future.
The elder Sandoval told the future leaders, “be transparent,” and urged humility. He added, “if you surprise them, do it at a birthday party.”
Scott told her fellow graduates that no task is too large, but also urged them to heed her hard-won lesson — don’t overload yourself. A few passionate endeavors look more impressive on a resume than a laundry list of keep-busy activities, Scott said. “So go out and conquer, Class of 2010.”
Ben Sandoval said, “A meaningful life is one spent improving the lives of others.” He also repeated a Theodore Roosevelt quote urging students to plunge ahead despite the possibility of failure.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles,” Sandoval quoted. “If he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”
Sandoval added, “don’t settle for mediocrity.”
Guidance counselor Don Heizer read the lengthy list of students who won scholarships. And next year, 35 students will attend Arizona universities, including Scott and Sandoval, who will both attend Barrett Honors College at Arizona State University. Both intend to study the sciences.
Eventually, the evening ended and the graduates walked off the field holding their freshly minted diplomas, their futures bright — maybe even as bright as the full moon still rising in the distance.