It’s safe to say the outgoing Pierson Middle-High School Student Council president, who will graduate this weekend and enter the exploratory studies program at Purdue University this fall, made the most of her school days in Sag Harbor. She was a member of the Robotics Team, treasurer of the National Honor Society and a member of Pierson’s Shared Decision Making Committee who has also volunteered extensively in the community. In an interview with The Express, Payton recalls her time in school, looks ahead to the future and offers advice to younger students at Pierson.
How would you sum up your experiences at Pierson?
Reflecting on my experiences at Pierson, I feel incredibly privileged to have attended this school. Pierson has afforded me the opportunity to challenge myself academically by taking International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement courses. In addition, the school encourages its students to be involved in clubs and extracurricular and community service activities, which I feel not only help bond friendships but also promote a mindset of being of service to others.
What are some of your favorite memories from your days in Sag Harbor schools?
Some of my favorite memories from my days in Sag Harbor schools have been things such as the old Bingo Nights at the elementary school, the Washington, D.C., trip in the eighth grade, going to see the school plays and, more recently, doing the Slip and Slide alongside my classmates on the last day of school. My most fond memories are actually the simple moments of spending time with my friends who have been my classmates throughout our years in the Sag Harbor school system.
How prepared do you feel to go off to the world beyond high school?
I feel that I am ready to start this next chapter of my life. I feel as if these past four years of high school have helped prepare me to think globally and critically, and I am excited to meet new people and have new experiences that college will offer.
How do you think students your age generally feel about the world that lays before them — culturally, economically, politically, emotionally?
Well, there certainly is a lot of turmoil we are all facing in today’s cultural, political and economic climate. However, I believe students my age are excited to face the world that lays before us. While not everything may be exactly what we want, I believe our generation will be working to help make the changes we believe will make the world a better place for all generations, not just for ourselves.
What do you think are some of the issues that matter most to people in your generation?
Our generation, like generations before us, is faced with many constantly evolving issues. Environment concerns, social injustice and gender equality are issues we are concerned about and they have been debated and discussed for many generations. While I believe that social media has many positive aspects, I also believe it seems to compound some of these issues for today’s youth. Social media can layer in peer pressure, bullying and social acceptance or rejection. I think that whatever our opinions may be, our generation can concur that our most powerful tool is our ability to work together.
What do you think the biggest challenge will be for your generation?
A problem that I see as being the biggest challenge for my generation is our ability to unplug from our phones and the internet. We are constantly distracted by and bombarded with information, and our ability to be completely present in an experience has been inhibited. We are accustomed to capturing a moment or need the instant gratification with a quick search on our devices, and when we don’t receive immediate feedback we feel a bit frustrated or lost.
Knowing what you know now about school and life in general, what advice would you give to younger students at Pierson?
My advice to younger students at Pierson is to try to be actively involved in as many activities, clubs, shows or groups as possible while you are there. All of these awesome opportunities can help you find your own passions in life and create friends you may never thought you would have prior to being involved. Pierson is a place of opportunity, so take advantage of all that is offered, and if you don’t think we have something you want, work to have it offered! In addition, give back to the community. It is the most rewarding experience to be of service to others. Lastly, always do your best. You don’t have to be the best, but there is honor in knowing that you have always tried your best.