Michael Cline, the fifth-generation Tonto Basin student was the 2020 Payson High School valedictorian and an Aspire Arizona Foundation dual-credit student, he has risen above the challenges. His father operated the machinery needed to drive the support pillars of bridges down to bedrock, which required travel all over the country. So after the divorce, his dad decided to move back to Tonto Basin — where Michael could live with his grandmother and have a stable home and education. Most of the year, his father was away. But every night his dad called him and asked that Michael share his day. Every summer, he would travel with his dad to the job sites.
“I learned a lot of stuff on the job. I know the basics of pile driving. He taught me a lot about it. Essentially, it taught me to always look forward. It’ll be better on the other side. Focus on the future more than what happened in the past.”
His coach Jonathan Ball, advised the scrappy, 5’8” tall Cline to become a sprinter.
“Not doing it”, said Cline. “Gonna be a shot putter”.
“Bad idea”, said the coach, eyeing Cline’s slender 160 pound frame.
“Gonna be a shot putter”, said Cline. And so he became a shot putter and discus thrower, substituting grit for body mass. Year by year, he got better. This year, he would have gone to the state tournament, if the virus hadn’t canceled it.
Outside of training to throw a 16-pound shot put as far as he could, he also loved fiddling with engines — like his neighbor’s lawnmower. He decided he’d become a mechanical engineer.
Now he’s got a $72,000 scholarship to attend Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, with a year of classes already under his belt.
In his speech, he celebrated his teachers — especially the tough ones who demanded his best, further stating:
“So to this class of 2020 be proud of yourself, don’t look on these last few months with self-pity because you missed the prom or an award assembly or a concert or a track meet. Be proud of your hard work, resilience, and tenacity to make it to the finish. Take the time to work on yourself, to be a better person every day, and to hold fast to your values to meet the expectations to become the best version of yourself. The winning results come from your hard work, learning from failure, and above all else being persistent. Set your goals and remember they should never be too easy. After all, the choice is always yours to improve.”
When asked about the impact that the Aspire Foundation has had on his life, he stated:
“The Aspire Foundation has impacted my education significantly. The Dual Credit Program has not only allowed me to get a head start on my college education but it has also prepared me for what to expect when transferring to a university.”
Michael was also the guest speaker at the MHA Foundation’s Black and White Ball of 2020 (the fundraiser for Aspire Arizona Foundation) in which he shared:
“I’ve been accepted to six universities for engineering, all with scholarships.”
He has graduated with his first year of college already completed, thanks to the innovative program that pays the tuition for college courses at the Payson High School campus. Cline shared he had never attended such an event, but now hopes to graduate, get a good job and,
“Come back to buy a table at the Black and White Ball.”