EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

June 14, 2014

Salem High graduates 350

Four valedictorians lead commencement exercise

By Doug Ireland

---- — SALEM — Except for the weather, it was an evening of perfection at Salem High School last night.

As a heavy rain fell outside, the school’s four valedictorians — all with perfect 4.0 grade-point averages — and class president Kristen Foster encouraged their 345 classmates to reflect on the past but move forward into the future.

“We are preparing to fly away from that nest ...” Andria Auger said. “We are stepping into the unfamiliar and the unknown.”

Auger was joined at the podium by co-valedictorians Brenna Blakslee, Charles Peters and Erika Smith. The boys wore blue caps and gowns while the girls wore white.

Some recalled when freshmen dean Tracy Collyer, now the principal, told them on the first day of school four years ago that their time at Salem High would pass quickly.

The five spoke of how they grew as individuals and as a class over those four years.

“We survived the ups and downs, the drama, and the seemingly endless homework,” Blakslee said. “Since that first day, we have made many lasting impressions together.

But for Foster, the ups and downs included coping with the death of her father her junior year. She told of how everyone at the school helped her through that tough time.

“We are more than an average high school,” she said. “We are a community.”

Auger and Smith spoke of how they endured four years in an aging school building with a leaky roof and unattractive, multicolored tiles.

But the students and community rallied for a new building, prompting residents to vote in March to renovate the school, Auger said. The speakers thanked their families, classmates and everyone at the school for their support over the years.

“We proved it’s more than about a building,” Auger said. “Good teachers and staff equate to good students.”

Peters told the graduates that four years at Salem High has prepared them for change — whether it be in life or New England weather.

The rain forced the ceremony to be moved from Grant Field to Davis Gymnasium, where several hundred friends and family members watched from the bleachers.

Down the hall, another several hundred people watched the graduation on a large screen in Seifert Auditorium. The school administration announced the change about 10 a.m. yesterday.

Collyer and Superintendent Michael Delahanty praised the class for their talent and ambition.

“I applaud you for your perseverance and determination for reaching this very important milestone,” Collyer said.

Delahanty said he’s known some of the graduates’ families since he began as the principal of North Salem School in 1987.

“I really marvel at what these young men and women can do,” he said. “I am in awe of your potential.”

The original contingency plan called for the commencement to be held moved to 10 a.m. today, but there were doubts about this morning’s weather as well.