Payson Junior High School’s Latinos in Action Club Making a Difference

Curtis Burton
Payson Junior High's Latinos in Action club members


Payson Junior High’s Latinos in Action club has had a very positive impact on the local community this year.  The club organized with the purpose of getting students involved in the community through service oriented activities.  Members of the club volunteer their service in a number of ways.  This year, the club has done a lot of volunteer work at Park View Elementary.  Members of the club volunteer at the school each day helping students with guided reading and at times math practice. 

Members of the club also took part in the annual Latinos in Action Conference which takes place at Utah Valley University.  The purpose of the conference is to highlight student accomplishments and provide information that will help students make the transition into post high school education.  Members of Payson Junior High’s and Payson High’s Latinos in Action clubs played significant roles in the conference by delivering rousing speeches for making a difference in our communities.  Such a speech was delivered by Payson High, and former Payson Junior High student, Ramiro Salazar at this year’s conference.

Mr. Sorenson, an administrative assistant at Payson Junior high and mentor to the club, has seen firsthand the good things the club has accomplished.  “Latinos in Action has given our students a stage to share their talents.  LIA students have been able to use their bilingualism to help younger students gain valuable reading skills.  We love LIA at our school and we are very proud of all they have been able to do this year here at our school and for the students at Park View.”

Andres Salazar had this to say about the club, ”Latinos in Action is a great opportunity and it shows dedication to the school’s Latinos.”

There are 18 members in this year’s Latinos in Action Club: Cesar Valencia, Francisco Valencia, Roberto Cortez, Andres Salazar, Diana Quintano, Charlie Ortega, Griselda Martinez, Jonathan Vargas, Ana Lopez, Manuel Espinoza, Yazmin Rosales, Eluney Peve, Wendy Munoz, Michelle Zamora, Kelly Martinez, Dayan Solis, and Erik Garcia.         

Science Olympiad

Curtis Burton

Payson Junior High School Students Shine in Science Olympiad

Payson Junior High School Students made an excellent showing at the Utah Science Olympiad held on March 26 at Weber State University in Ogden.  The Science Olympiad gives students the opportunity to display their understanding of different scientific concepts through experiments and presentations.  The Payson Junior High team, which was coached by Mr. Golden Adams and was known as the B-21 team, took eighth place overall at the state competition, and many students on the team had notable performances.

Josh Evans and Dallin Johnson placed eighth for their Anatomy entry.  Jessica Staehli and Seth Stringham also took eighth for their “Can’t Judge a Powder” entry.  Erin Fuhriman and Dallin Johnson took sixth place for their “Dynamic Planet” entry.  Tasha Griffin and Jessica Staheli took fifth for their Ecology entry.  Tasha Griffin and Karanda Heimuli also took second and won a Weber State University scholarship for their Experimental Design entry.  Tasha Griffin also earned individual accolades for her “Microbe Mission” entry which earned a third place finish and another Weber State University scholarship.  Josh Evens and Jessica Staheli also took sixth place for their Fossils entry.  Josh Evans and Karanda Heimuli teamed up to take sixth place in the Junky Challenge category.  Zach Ethridge and Tasha Griffin teamed up to earn a sixth place finish for their “Mystery Architecture” entry.  Karanda Heimuli and Dallin Johnson placed fifth for their “Road Scholar” entry.  Dominic Hancock earned a seventh place finish in his category for his “Shock Value” entry.  Kassidy Evans took eighth for her Helicopter entry.  And Morgan Keller placed second with a Weber State University scholarship for his Astronomy entry.

Mr. Adams, the coach of this year’s Science Olympiad team, stated, “I’m really proud of these kids.  Eighth place is the best finish at state we’ve had, and next year we’re looking at improving on that.”

Grizzly Den A Success

Curtis Burton and John Plaisted

This year at Payson Junior High a new program called Grizzly Den has been implemented that has produced some amazing academic results.  Grizzly Den is a program that allows students to meet with their teachers, regularly, for additional subject help.  Under this program, students receive mini report cards four days out of the week (excluding Wednesday because it is an early out day). Those with passing grades may choose to attend a supervised activity or enrichment class, while students with deficient grades must go back to the class they earned a deficient grade in to work on improving the grade during the 23-minute period.

Over the course of this school year, Grizzly Den has helped the students at Payson Junior High improve markedly academically.  In the first full term of implementing Grizzly Den, the number of failing grades was reduced by 50%.  The number of A grades has steadily increased from where they were last year.  Deficient grades have steadily dropped throughout the year and based on statistics it appears that the entire distribution of grades has shifted towards higher grades.  The staff at Payson Junior High is encouraged by these excellent results and continues to look for ways to help students improve their academic standing through this new program created to help students succeed.

Payson Junior High’s Badminton Bonanza Still Burning Bright

Curtis Burton

Most students wouldn’t get up at 5:30 A.M. and drag themselves to school on a day that school is not even held, but such was the case with the students who participated in Payson Junior High School’s annual badminton tournament.  Over 60 students participated in this year’s tournament which was held on January 14; both the school’s gyms were filled to capacity with students vying for this year’s tournaments championship doubles team.   

You may be wondering why there is so much interest in badminton at Payson Junior High.  Well, the reason for the students’ high level of interest is largely attributable to Mr. Archer, the P.E, teacher at Payson Junior High.  Over the last ten years, Mr. Archer has generated a lot of interest for the sport by teaching it well, making it fun, and putting on regional tournaments.  He’s even had students from neighboring schools and communities and their parents participate in his tournaments.  Students at Payson Junior High know it is a big deal to win, or at least do well in, the annual tournament; seemingly everyone turns out: students, parents, and teachers.  It’s not uncommon to hear about the jockeying for preferred doubles partners that goes on in the weeks and days before the competition.  Mr. Archer has generated that kind of excitement for the sport.

“Badminton is the fastest growing racket sport in the world and was added as an Olympic event in 1992, and the kids love it,” said Archer.  Archer also stated, ”Badminton is a great sport.  It’s a fun game for beginners and top flight athletes as well.  As a P.E. teacher, I have always enjoyed physical challenges in team or individual sports and badminton delivers!” The large number of students that competed in this year’s tournament agree with Mr. Archer as demonstrated by their participation.

There were many tournament winners and great players this year.  There were two divisions with winners from each.  Division ‘A’ winners included Wyatt Vorhees and Jace Carter (first place), Kyle Moffat and Max Roberson (second place), Chance Brost and Cooper Ashton (third place), and Brody Adams and Preston Lange (fourth place).  Division ‘B’ winners consisted of Tyler Anderson and his brother (first place), a freshman team from Springville (names not available) (second place), Brody Jensen and Seth Colby (third place), and Adam Pullan and Nathan Hansen (fourth place).  Congratulations to all who competed and made this year’s tournament another badminton bonanza!


Payson Junior High Wrestlers Excel in Local Tournament

The Payson Junior High wrestling team recently took first place at the Bo Wilson Memorial Dual wrestling tournament held at Salem Hills High School.  The 12-team tournament featured many of the top junior high wrestling teams from around the state; teams were matched against other teams with each team wrestling 6 other teams.  The Payson Junior High team won all 6 of their matches beating Altamont, Juab, Pleasant Grove, Brighton, Mountain Crest, and Delta.

Riley Loveless, Aaron McNaughton, McCay Savage, McCoy Cary, Chazz Haveron, and Brian Hoschouer all went undefeated throughout the day and won first place medals.

Jesse Schromges, Josh Jensen, Heber Shepherd, and John Harmon, Seth Sorenson, and Colton Stulce won 5 of their six matches to earn second place honors.

Danny Vigil, Alex Vigil, and Garret Jackson won 4 of their matches to take third place.

Riley Loveless pinned all six of his opponents and received the most pins award for the tournament.  McCoy Cary was awarded one of the outstanding wrestler awards for his outstanding performance in the tournament.  Aaron McNaughton was given the Heart of a Champion award which is awarded to the Payson wrestler that exhibited the most heart, leadership, and camaraderie throughout the tournament.

A number of Payson Junior High Wrestlers also did well in the JV wrestling tournament: Cade Osborn. Colton Shepherd, and Brady Barker took home first place medals; Dane Draper and Gunner Mortensen both took second place and Brandon Cole third.

Payson Junior High Holds Annual Talent Show

Curtis Burton
Skyler Rushton, a ninth-grade student at PJHS, performs at the school's annual talent show.

Payson Junior High recently held its annual talent show, and the participating students showed how truly talented they are.  Judging by the thunderous applause and cheers that came from the student, faculty, and parent audience in attendance, everyone was impressed with what the talent on display. Seventh-, eighth-, and ninth-grader students performed various talents. The talents performed included singing, dancing, piano playing, guitar strumming, drumming, bagpipe playing, and even tumbling. 

The show consisted of several great student performances: Brytney Rosser (vocal performance); Kris and Megan Anderson (sisters, vocal performance); Jamie Finch (vocal performance) accompanied by Preston Lange (piano); Danielle Gubler (vocal performance); Emily Garrett (piano performance); Natalia Dorado, Yazzmin Rosales, Jazzmin Flores, Jessica Redmond,, Carolina Redmond, Michelle Zamora, Ana Lopez, Guadalupe Gonzalez, Fabiola Figueroa, Gema Albor, and Maria Lara (dance number); Jalon Watts (vocal performance); Alex Thompson, April Jensen, Kalee Doyl, and Lexi Drummond (lip sync); Chase Healey and Damon Bean (vocal duet); Jenna Wright (piano performance); Amber Ringer, Becca Brown, Taelyr Bair, and Aubrey Nelson (dance number); Jessica Bastean (vocal performance); Ms. Ericksen, Josh Evans, Michael Sonderegger, McKay Savage, Chase Healey, Megan Snow, Austin Peck, Alex Peck, Kayla Hawkins, Nathan Heaps, Tyson Prince, Bailey Carter, and Kassidy Evans (drumming group); Maris Mortensen (vocal performance); Skyler Rushton (bagpipe performance); Karly Mecham, Talyr Mortensen, and Shaelyn Waters (dance performance); Sierra Steele, Haley Gonzalez, McKenzie Muniz, Sierra Monroe, Katelyn Boothe, and Emily Hallett (dance performance); Caitlin Oberg, Taylor Salazar, and Sierra Davis (tumbling); Megan Snow and David Green (guitar performance); Mr. Plaisted, Emily Petty, Jazz Vasquez, Tat Grinshaw, David Green, Junior Murillo, Allison Chapa, and Anna Fordiani (rock band performance).

Haylee Coombs, a ninth-grade student at PJHS, commented on the show saying, “PJHS has a lot of talented students.  It was great to see how talented our classmates are.”  Preston Lange a ninth-grade performer in the show said, “I was nervous, I felt like throwing up as I waited for my turn, but it was also fun and exciting.”  Alex Thompson, also a ninth-grade performer, said of the performance, “It took a lot of work to get ready for our song (a lip sync to Queen’s “New Bohemian Rhapsody”), but it was a lot of fun practicing with friends.  And we got the reaction we wanted.”  

            Mrs. Gifford, Payson Junior High School’s student council advisor, expressed her appreciation to all the students that participated in the show: "I was so impressed with the preparation and professionalism of each act. They did an OUTSTANDING job, and wowed all the students and staff!"

Fall Sports

Curtis Burton
Pictured: PJHS Cross-country Team
Pictured: PJHS Freshman Football Team

Those that participated in the fall sports at Payson Junior High this year had great seasons.  The cross-country team, freshman football team, tennis team, high school soccer team members, and high school volleyball team members all experienced team-specific measures of success.  PJHS athletes from each team conducted themselves very well on the tracks, fields, and courts of competition.     

The cross-country team began with small numbers this season; however, Dakota Lange, a team captain and mentor to many on the team, was able to bring many runners to the team through recruitment.  The team’s numbers reached the largest they’ve been in years with 30 athletes on the team.  With increased numbers, the team finished 2nd place in most their races for both the boys and the girls.  At the district championship meet though, Payson Junior High finished 1st.  Dakota Lange said about the race and team, "We believed and we did it!"

The team had some great performers.  Notable performers from the team were, for the boys, Dakota Lange (eighth grade) 1st in district, Dallin Wyberg (ninth grade) 4th in district, and Dillon Boulton (eighth grade) 10th in district.  For the girls, Ally Chapa (ninth grade) 8th place in district, Cierra Lundberg (ninth grade) 9th place in district,
Chloe Williams (eighth grade) 10th place in district, and Maris Mortensen (seventh grade) 12th place in district all had great seasons for the team.

Turning to football, this year’s PJHS freshman team was made up of 36 players coming from 4 different city league teams the previous year and included 10 players who had never played football before.  The season started off a bit rocky as the team started 0-3. This start was a disappointment to the coaches and players and left them with almost no shot at the playoffs because in order to make the playoffs, the team would have to win their final 3 games.  Remarkably, they did, beating Timpview and Salem towards the end of the season to get into the playoffs and finish the season with a 3-4 record.

Colten Allred (the leading tackler on defense) said of the team, “Stepping onto the field with this team was one of the best things I have ever done.  I love these guys like they are my brothers.”

Connor Mitchell (QB/LB) spoke of the team’s character also, “This year in football I think if we took or learned only one thing it would have to be that nobody is better than anybody, but anybody is as good as everybody.” 

Jake Corbett, the freshman football coach, wanted to voice his thanks for parent and community support the team received this year.  He would also like to thank Shane Bluth, Dylan Clark, Mike Cole, and Andrew Greenhaulgh who helped coach the team this year.  Coach Corbett stated, “It was a privilege to coach some amazing young men this year, and I felt honored to get to be a small part of their lives.”

On the tennis courts, the PJHS team had some great moments.  One of the team’s coaches, Travis Hatch, said, “We had a great season this year. We had a lot of fun learning some of the basics of tennis and improving our game. The girls had a lot of fun at practice where we worked to improve our ground strokes and serves and our overall play.  The girls had a lot of fun together getting to know each other and learning to work as a team.  They were cheerleaders for their team members when they needed them.  We had some wins and some losses, but overall, we had a great time.”

Hopefully the winter sports teams can have as much success at PJHS as the fall sports teams had.

Reb Ribbon Week and Be a Buddy not a Bully Week

Curtis Burton
Members of the Latinos in Action Club display the Red Ribbon Week Pledge Chain.

Red Ribbon Week and Anti-bully Week Help Students at PJHS Recommit to Social Integrity and Responsible Citizenship 

Payson Junior High’s Mission Statement states, “At Payson Junior High we are committed to academic excellence, social integrity, and responsible citizenship.” Students, faculty, and administrators at Payson Junior High certainly practiced what their mission statement states as they took the opportunity the last couple weeks to emphasize “social integrity” and “responsible citizenship” at the school.  Students recommitted themselves to being alcohol, tobacco, and drug free during the school’s annual Red Ribbon Week (10/25-29/10) and committed to put an end to bullying during their annual Be a Buddy not a Bully Week (11/8-12/10).

During Red Ribbon Week, the school’s students, faculty, and administration participated in a number of activities that promoted living a healthy lifestyle.  Students and faculty wore red wristbands showing their outward commitment to being alcohol, tobacco, and drug free with prizes given to those who were wearing their wristbands.  Members of Payson Junior High’s Latinos in Action Club created a red school chain that consisted of signed commitments to avoid alcohol, tobacco, and drugs which was displayed near the school’s counseling center.  The school’s counseling department and administrative team scheduled two assemblies that helped students appreciate the Red Ribbon Week message.  The first assembly was given by BYU athletes who shared how they are able to do what they do athletically and have an athletic advantage due to avoiding alcohol, tobacco, and drugs.  The second assembly was given by Butch Scott who shared with PJHS students and faculty his family’s tragic story of the loss of their son and brother to a drug addiction.  Students really seemed to appreciate the significance and warnings of the messages that were shared.

Kassandra Allsop, a ninth-grade student at PJHS said, “I liked the drug assembly because I have a family member that is struggling with drugs, and I can see how it is affecting him and how sad it is for the family.  I learned how one bad choice can ruin your whole life.  I know lots of students who thought the story of Butch Scott’s son was so sad.  It was very powerful.”

The Be a Buddy not a Bully Week was introduced by the counseling department a few years ago to make students at PJHS aware of the dangers of bullying.  Students made anti-bullying videos, the winner of which was Kris Anderson, a ninth-grade student at PJHS; they participated in a door decorating contest; students signed pledge notes to not bully; they sent buddy notes to classmates; and students participated in a Mix-It-Up Lunch where students sat with and got to know classmates that they didn’t know before the lunch, and prizes were given to the students who got to know as many new classmates as they could (Andrew Putt won the grand prize: an MP3 player).  Christina Lowe, Miss Utah, delivered an anti-bullying message focusing on compassion and respect in an assembly that the students participated in.  

Nicole Kearl, a ninth-grade student at PJHS, said about the week’s message, “We’ve got to rise above the influence of bullying.”

From all appearances, Payson Junior High is doing its best to do just that and really live with “social integrity” and “responsible citizenship.”

Payson Junior High's Annual Fun Run

Curtis Burton
Pictured: Faculty and students running in the annual Fun Run.

Students at Payson Junior High had a great time participating in the school’s annual Fun Run on October 19.  The Fun Run, which has been organized annually by Jennifer Braithwaite, helps promote fitness and living a healthy lifestyle.  True to tradition, this year’s run had a huge number of student and faculty participants. This year 287 students and faculty participated which is up significantly from last year’s number of 184 students and faculty members who participated. The two-mile course annually begins and ends at the Payson High School track which makes it fun for the spectators and runners to cheer the racers as they begin and finish the race.

This year’s overall winner was Dakota Lange an eighth grader at PJHS. Top finishers for the girls in each grade were Maris Mortenson (seventh grade), Sydney Thomas (eighth grade), and Calli Jensen (ninth grade).  The boys top finishers were Dylan Armstrong (seventh grade), Dakota Lange (eighth grade and overall winner), and Dylan Wyberg (ninth grade).  The top faculty finisher was Mr. Bird (the cross country coach). The top ten finishers in each the seventh, eighth, and ninth grades qualified to run in the Principal’s Challenge which was held on November 2.

 “This is one of the best activities we do all year,” said Jesse Sorenson, an administrative assistant at Payson Junior High. Sorenson went on to say, “There aren’t many other activities that get as many of our students involved like the Fun Run does.”

Jennifer Braithwaite added, “The students ran a great race. The weather was great, the conditions were great, and the race went smoothly. We’d like to see even more students out next year.”

PJHS Principal's Reading Marathon Challenge

Curtis Burton
Winners of the Principal's Reading Marathon Challenge

Last month students at Payson Junior High enthusiastically took up their principal’s challenge to read at least 26 minutes a day for 26 days as part of Payson Junior High’s Second Annual Principal’s Reading Marathon Challenge.  Mr. Swenson, the principal at Payson Junior High and an avid runner and finisher of several marathons, challenged the students at PJHS to read 26 minutes a day for 26 days prior to this year’s St. George Marathon which he and Mr. Burton, an English teacher at PJHS, ran.  The students that took up the challenge by reading for 26 minutes a day and documenting their reading were entered into the Principal’s Reading Marathon Challenge drawing, and they were also allowed the opportunity to guess the finishing time for Mr. Swenson’s and Mr. Burton’s marathon.  

Said Mr. Swenson regarding the challenge, “It is always exciting to see so many students work hard on an academic goal and a healthy lifestyle goal.  Reading is a very important lifelong skill, and it is also important to learn good healthy lifestyle habits as well.” He went on to add, “The Principal's Reading Challenge goes hand in hand with the English department's encouragement to read every day.   Students will do better in school and increase their academic success if they read each day.”

Hundreds of students participated in the challenge, and over twenty students won prizes through the Principal’s Reading Marathon Challenge drawing.  Several students commented that reading 26 minutes a day was not too challenging because they read that much and more everyday for their reading requirements at the school.  Many students are also participating in the school’s 40-book Club, which is a challenge to read 40 books by the end of the school year, so they were eager to add to their page totals by participating.  Mr. Swenson and Mr. Burton were very pleased with the amount of enthusiasm and participation that came from the students, so to keep the tradition going for a third year, Mr. Swenson and Mr. Burton are contemplating running another marathon next year.