by Lisa M. Jackson, PHS 2003 graduate
It’s been 10 years since Payson High School’s Class of 2003 gathered for their graduation on May 24, 2003.
During that decade much has elapsed since that warm Saturday morning — 2003 graduates have done a wide variety of things locally, nationally, and even internationally.
Some went on to college in distant states, or opted to stay in town to raise their own families; some found employment in academia, while others started their own businesses; and some are still exploring where life will take them next.
There will be much to catch up on at the Class of 2003’s upcoming 10-year high school reunion Friday and Saturday, Sept. 27 and 28.
The reunion also ties in with Payson High’s traditional Homecoming weekend.
To highlight the diversity of adventures some of the 2003 graduates have been up to in the last 10 years, three of the graduates who will be returning to the 10-year reunion are profiled below:
Laura Merritt (née Crabtree) enlisted with the Marine Corps after high school graduation and was active duty from 2003-2008. She was stationed out of Camp Pendleton in California, but also spent two years of her military service in Okinawa, Japan, and was deployed to Iraq.
In 2008 she was honorably discharged and began pursuing completion of prerequisite classes for nursing school.
While school was interesting, Laura missed being in the military and decided to put her academics on hold to complete the Army National Guard’s Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) training. EOD specialists are the Army’s bomb technicians.
During EOD training, Laura met her now husband, Jon Merritt, who is currently on deployment in Afghanistan.
She and Jon were married in May 2012 and live in Oklahoma.
Laura is back in nursing school now, and flies back to Arizona one weekend per month for her Army EOD duties.
For Laura, joining the military after high school gave her the opportunity to travel the world and meet people from a variety of backgrounds.
Laura’s parents still reside in Payson, and she keeps in touch with people back home regularly. The things she misses most about Payson are the mountains, weather, and the natural beauty of the area.
Katie Simon (née Carpenter) attended the University of Arizona after high school, where she majored in physiology and minored in chemistry.
After college graduation in 2007, she moved to Texas where she earned her master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Houston in the areas of exercise science and kinesiology.
Katie’s Ph.D. dissertation was on high fat feeding and its affect on the immune system. She is now completing a postdoc fellowship at the University of Minnesota where she is exploring the effects of movement and physical activity on the risk of developing diabetes.
Her research is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and is a joint project between the University of Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic.
This past June, Katie wed Noah Simon, whom she met during her time in Houston. While she and Noah enjoy their life together in Minnesota, they hope to move back out west in a year or so once her fellowship is completed to be closer to her family (her mother and father still reside in Payson) and warmer weather!
Travis Sanders attended Yavapai College after high school, where he was part of their national championship-winning soccer team.
Travis later transferred to Northern Arizona University, where he double-majored in economics and German.
During college he spent a year studying abroad in Dresden, Germany where he became fluent in German.
While in Europe he met his longtime girlfriend, Sara Long-Gagne, during a trip to Spain. Sara is from the French-speaking part of Ontario, Canada, but finished her medical residency this past June in Vancouver; she is now a pediatrician there.
Travis moved to Vancouver to be with Sara shortly after he finished at NAU in 2009.
Prior to his current job in Vancouver, he worked as a project manager for Newspaper Direct, an electronic newspaper delivery service and he spent some time working in Redmond, Wash. for Nintendo.
While at Nintendo, he discovered that a fellow PHS 2003 graduate, Celia Chesebro, was working there as well; the discovery proves how small the world can be!
Recently, Travis received his master’s degree in Germanic studies from the University of British Columbia this past May.
Travis’ parents also still reside in Payson. He says it seems crazy to think that it’s been 10 years since high school graduation, but he’s looking forward to coming back and hearing where life has taken the rest of his classmates.
More than 150 students walked in Payson High’s 2003 graduation, and through Facebook, word-of-mouth, and via the reunion Web site, a large majority of the students have been contacted. Next weekend will surely be a great time had by all, with a decade worth of catching up and reminiscing to do!
For a list of reunion events, locations and times, 2003 graduates can visit the reunion Web site at http://phs2003.weebly.com/.