Payson High School senior Kajal Daya wasn’t sure what kind of career she wanted until she volunteered at Banner Payson Medical Center.

“Volunteering at the hospital has been life changing,” she said. “It made me want to pursue a degree in pharmaceuticals that would allow me to help individuals in the future. It was a really good experience for me”

She plans to major in chemical engineering at Arizona State University, earn her master’s degree and become a certified pharmacist.

She decided to take advantage of the school’s dual-credit program with Gila Community College to get an early start on her college education. And two years of dedication have earned her 30 college credits.

It also helped her finish at the top of her class and become this year’s valedictorian with a 4.2 grade point average.

“My goal was to get ahead in college so I would be able to graduate early,” Kajal said. “I was actually surprised when our guidance counselor, Mrs. Griffith, told me I was valedictorian.”

Her sister, Priyanka, who also finished in the top 10 percent of her class at PHS, graduated from ASU in 2017. Her younger brother, Arjun, is finishing his sophomore year at PHS.

Kajal was born in Phoenix and her family moved to Payson when she was a child.

Her family is originally from India. Her mother and her parents moved to California when her mother was a child.

Her parents manage the Rim Country Inn in Payson.

Kajal has plans when she finishes her education.

“I would love to travel throughout Europe, that’s always been a dream for me,” she said.

In addition to excelling in advanced courses, Kajal, a member of the National Honor Society, also served as treasurer for DECA and the Link Crew and president of the Payson Area Advisory Youth Council.

She qualified for DECA Internationals three consecutive years by finishing in the top three in her event at state. She competed in the hotel franchise business plan contest. She teamed with her sister the first year and with her friend, Melissa LaSpisa, the past two years.

Kajal also volunteered at the Payson Public Library and she’s taken up painting.

“My hobby is, I love to paint with oils,” she said. “I started last year after I reconnected with my kindergarten aide, Keri Parker, who works in the IT department at the high school. We’re doing a three-part project I came up with. The paintings all represent the changing of the seasons — the changing between summer and fall, fall and winter, and winter and spring. I’m working on the third and final piece now.”

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