Foreign Students Thrive At High School

Photo by Andy Towle. |


An end-of-the-year Academic Awards Ceremony at Payson High School featured many talented and determined individuals, including many foreign exchange students.

Outgoing Principal Anna Van Zile on May 7 received the Global Education Excellence Award from the Education First (EF) Foundation, which sponsors and supports high school exchange students from around the world. The award recognized an “extraordinary commitment to international understanding and global awareness,” explained local exchange coordinator Edie Miller.

This year, Payson High School welcomed 16 EF Foundation exchange students from Taiwan, Thailand, Germany, Norway, Switzerland, Denmark, Japan and Austria.

“Payson High School has shown an outstanding commitment to offering a global education,” said EF Foundation President Dan Sodervall. “By welcoming exchange students into the classrooms, Payson High School has created new and unique learning opportunities not just for the exchange students, but for the American students and faculty as well.”

The numerous learning opportunities for exchange students included culinary arts, sports, career leadership, acting and field trips. Most importantly, Payson High School integrated the students into the extracurricular and academic activities said Miller.

Fah Phongthanakul, an EF student from Thailand, said Payson High School allowed her to participate in the choir and the color guard, study and learn more about the United States, see different parts of Arizona and develop her English. “I can’t believe how nice they are — I have never see something like this before and I really appreciate it.”

Similarly, Lukas Fiala from Austria, and Patrick Schlereth from Germany, agreed that the positive relationship between the teachers and students was astounding. Fiala participated in the band, while Schlereth was in the marching band and musical. “I will never forget my time in Payson and I know I will always be welcome here!” said Schlereth.

Miller added, “We thank Payson High School for welcoming this year’s students from around the globe. The community and visiting students shared an unforgettable experience thanks to the generosity of Payson High School administration, teachers, students and families.”

To learn more, contact EF Foundation local coordinators Edie Miller at (928) 951-4871, or Janet Nossek at (928) 595-0395, or visit


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