Although according to district 21C governor Dianne Leibensperger, Helen Keller started the Lions Club with the charge of preventing blindness, the organization has expanded to include educational interests as well.
"We'd like to recognize the parents and the students," Edmonds said, "because it's been said that you can judge a child's success by their parents and parents' success by their children's success."
The Lions Club has recognized high student achievement for more than 40 years, but the governor's visit, according to PHS principal Tim Carter, is particularly significant.
"How many 17-, 18-year-old high school students shake hands with the governor and have the governor give them a medal to honor them for their great jobs in the classroom?" he said.
This year, the number is 36 – 12 seniors and 24 juniors. A straight-A grade point average "doesn't just happen," Carter pointed out. "That's earned."
Napolitano began her speech congratulating the students on their achievements.
"Academic achievement is always something to be proud of and to honor," she said. She also noted that education is a team effort.
"Young people are capable of accomplishing great things alone, but that ability is multiplied when ... adults are involved," she said.
Throughout the speech, Napolitano spoke about the budget "tussle" in the state capitol, and how education is her "top priority."
"The future of Arizona hinges on the students. Public education is not a government program. It is the engine by which we will lift Arizona to a prosperous future," she said.
Napolitano said that although Arizona ranks 49th in the country in per-pupil spending, it ranks first in stolen cars.
"We are at a crossroads," she said. "We have to make some tough choices but those choices are pretty evident."
Since Arizona is growing so rapidly, she said, she would like to harness all the energy, capability and potential of the new Arizonans and create a "unity of vision to make this state the jewel of the West it should be."
After her speech, Napolitano explained her dedication to education.
"It is the foundation for economic development. It enables young people to achieve to their full potential. There is no state in this country and no country in this world that has succeeded without a quality education system," she said. "We're all in this together, and we'll all be better off if our citizenship is educated."
James Carlson, a PHS junior who said he is interested in becoming a politician, said Napolitano's speech impressed him. "I agree with everything she was saying," he said. "Education should be a priority. I'd put it second only to (national) security."
Natalie Acklin, also a PHS junior, said she liked hearing Napolitano speak.
"I've never experienced that before. It was different. It was good because I didn't know everything that's going on in the state and it's good to hear somebody's doing something about it."
Prescott Unified School District Governing Board Member Dee Navarro said she feels the same way about Napolitano.
"She really impressed me," Navarro said. "Her stance on education is incredible. She sticks with her guns."
PUSD Superintendent Kevin Kapp agreed.
"I think she's the strongest advocate for public education Arizona has had in decades," he said.
Carlson and Acklin each said they liked the idea of the Lions Club honoring the hard work of students.
"I'm very impressed with the banquet," Carlson said. "And I'm very thankful and honored to be part of it."
"Getting a 4.0 takes a lot of time and motivation," Acklin said. "If I can, why not do it?"
Carter expressed gratitude for the enthusiasm and support of the Lions Club and other community organizations.
"It's just neat that people in the community are willing to honor our kids," he said of the yearly Lions Club banquet. "They're letting them know, 'you've done something that doesn't happen every day.'"
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