SALEM, N.H. — “In a way this school is like us,” Salutatorian Faith Occhipinti said in her speech. “When we came in we were just confused little freshmen in desperate need of some long overdue repairs.”
The 257 students of Salem’s Class of 2019 grew with the school, literally and figuratively, as the school went through a multi-million dollar renovation that was completed just as the students were gearing up for their senior year in August.
When they started as freshmen the students didn’t have a cafeteria or gym, and as they aged and changed so did the school, and the routes to get to their classes, Principal Tracy Collyer recalled while speaking Friday night.
“This class, more than any others, has had the most change,” Collyer said. Classmates cheered on each other's accomplishments as Collyer recalled the students’ triumphs in the new spaces, including the boy’s volleyball semifinal win that happened the day prior to graduation in the new Davis Gym.
There was a standing ovation for Emma Bernard, who was given an honorable mention for her decision to join the Marine Corp after graduation.
And together the more than 150 students pursuing higher education were awarded over $12.2 million in scholarships, Collyer said.
Occhipinti reminded everyone “this was not a solo journey.”
She recalled the story of how her AP Psych teacher Mr. Early gave the class bags of chocolate just before the exam her junior year. It was not a gift, but an assignment — thank two teachers who had inspired you. It was a hard choice for Occhipinti, she said, because of the many great teachers.
She thanked the teachers, staff and friends who helped make hardships easier. And she reminded her fellow classmates, high school was hard and they got through it together.
“Salem Class of 2019, the class that makes it happen,” Class President Lily Fischer said. “Struggle? We’ve been there. Construction? We’ve done that. Lived through a schedule change? Maybe next time. But final products — that’s what we are known for.
“A completely renovated building, a set of strong-willed students, and a unified message to walk off of Grant Field with: Even when life knocks us down, we have to build ourselves up like Tuscan Village,” Fischer said, the crowd laughing with her.
Each student speaker soaked in the bittersweet moment of graduation, reflecting on the pivotal moment, talking about the changes they saw during their years growing up.
Valedictorian Regan Harnois, who topped his class with a 4.37 GPA, spoke about how everyone should hope to find success, defining it for themselves.
“‘What do you want to be when you’re older?’” Harnois recalls people asking. “This is an extremely loaded question to be asking a 17 or 18-year-old as he or she is just beginning to enter adulthood.”
He said his answer for the question is to be successful, though he hasn’t quite figured out exactly what it will look like.
“Success can ultimately take on whatever form you want,” Harnois said, listing many definitions of success. “While our paths following today may diverge from one another there is one thing we can all count on tying us back together — being a part of the Class of 2019, the class that was, in whatever form of the word that may be, successful.”
ABOUT SALEM HIGH
Number of graduates: 257
Valedictorian: Regan Harnois
Salutatorian: Faith Occhipinti