An Air of Progress and Achievement: 350 SHS Graduates Embrace Next Step

June 27, 2014

by Mike Vinci

There was an air of progress and achievement inside Salem High School on Friday, June 13, as 350 graduating seniors received their diplomas in front of family, faculty and cameras.  Due to unfavorable weather, the graduation ceremony was held inside the school, between the gym and a remote viewing via large screen projection in the auditorium.  Students and their families were informed that the ceremony would be indoors while attending graduation rehearsal earlier in the day.  Students excitedly congratulated one another in the large gym while awaiting their final march through the hallways that they have called home for the past four years.

Tracy Collyer, the current principal at Salem High, noted in her opening remarks how honored she felt to have ushered the class of 2014 into SHS in their first year when she was the freshmen dean.  She warmly spoke about experiencing the students’ transformation since she welcomed them into the school during their initial orientation.  In her opening statements for the ceremony, Tracy spoke of how she valued the privilege of being the first person to welcome them to school and the last person to congratulate them on their graduation.  She then spoke to the parents and family who were in attendance:  “This represents an accomplishment for you, as well as your child,” to which the graduates turned to their audience and gave a standing ovation.

Tracy’s opening remarks followed the high school’s chorus singing the “Star Spangled Banner” and the Pledge of Allegiance, read by student Crystal Napoli.  After the homage to America, the chorus returned to the stage to be led by the high school’s beloved chorus teacher, Ellen Bosh, while singing “When I grow Up” from the musical, Matilda.  After the stirring rendition of the chorus number written by Tim Minchin, the members of the SHS band joined their fellow musicians on the stage for a final performance together.  The number was “Tonight” from West Side Story, and thanks was given by both student speakers, as well as faculty throughout the night, to the band’s director, Marty Claussen.  The conductors for the band were Anna Fallisi, Jacob Gallagher, and Crystal Napoli.

After the band played, the class valedictorians, four in all, were given the floor to speak to their fellow graduates and all those who attended.  First was Brenna Blakslee, who spoke about all of the major events that the average Salem High student experiences throughout their time at the school.  Next was Andria Auger, who made reference to the fact that her graduating class got to attend the school when the long-awaited renovation vote was finally passed.  She spoke with pride about how even though she and her fellow 2014 classmates will not attend the school while it is being worked on, she is none-the-less happy that she got to be part of the movement that got the vote approved.  Following Andria was Erika Smith who gave a deeply personal speech about the people who helped her and pushed her in her time in high school.  She thanked several people for helping her become the successful student she is today.  Finally, Charles Peters provided an insightful dialogue on how the graduation ceremony represented not only an academic achievement, but also signified the seniors’ growth as people.  All four valedictorian received booming applause from their peers and audience members as they stepped off the stage and rejoined their fellow grads.

As Tracy Collyer prepared to bring Class President Kristen Foster to the stage to give her speech, she explained that well over $6 million in grants and scholarships had been awarded to the class of 2014 as they equipped themselves for their years in higher education.  The impressive number was well received by the audience, and the students seemed genuinely impressed with themselves.  Then Kristen took to the podium with a speech she began working on in February.  She was welcomed by gracious clapping from all around.  Before her speech, as she was with the rest of her class in the larger gym awaiting their guide marshals to bring them to their seats, Kristen, who will attend Colby-Sawyer College for childhood development, spoke about her role as class president.  “The president is like the voice of the class, so I’m just as much delivering a message by the students as I am delivering a message to them, in my speech.”  When she began speaking, everyone was paying close attention.  She told personal stories about how she made great friends in the marching band and conveyed words of solidarity with her fellow grads, saying that when she first arrived as a freshman at Salem High, she did not expect to be giving a graduation speech, but knew that she was “in it for the long haul.”

The ceremony, which began at 6 p.m., was over just past 8 p.m. and as everyone filed out of the high school, extra hugs and congratulations were exchanged.  For some of the attendees, this would be the final time they were exiting the building that they had been going to so regularly over the past four years.  The seniors were easy to pick out among the crowd as they had on either a blue or white robe with the classic academic’s cap atop their heads, and as they made their way outside, a chant was started, consisting of only one word, “Seniors!”  Congratulations to the graduating class of 2014.