SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

June 7, 2013

Column: Inspiration at Salem High School

David Angeramo
The Salem News

---- — As another school year comes to an end and we prepare to send the next Salem High School class out into the “real world,” I have had the chance to reflect on this group of young women and men who will be graduating on June 7. Recently, the weekly broadcast of “SHS News” had a feature with a montage of interviews with seniors as they complete their four years. When asked what they would miss the most, student after student commented on the people — their friends and their teachers. When teachers are asked what they like the most about Salem High School, what do you think their answer is? Inevitably, it is the students.

This year’s senior class of 2013 has had more than its share of successes. Some are very noteworthy and public, like the list of colleges they were accepted to and the awards and scholarships they earned. However, other students have had more personal triumphs that often go unnoticed. Whatever the situation, each of this year’s graduates has their own unique story that they have authored and will leave behind. Below are three examples of SHS seniors who met challenges head on, made their mark, and will not be forgotten.

Growing up with English as her second language as well as a specific learning disability, Jennifer Pena-Moreta had these and other obstacles that most of her classmates did not have to deal with. However, Jennifer has never been one to make excuses. Her desire and determination has enabled her to be successful throughout high school. Jennifer spent countless hours after school with her teachers as she worked hard to stay up with her peers. She is forever thankful for the teachers and support she has had at Salem High School and in the Salem public schools. Unselfish, Jennifer gave up being a cheerleader so that she could earn money to help her family. She has been accepted to Salem State University, hoping to become the first person in her family to earn a college degree.

Many times over the last four years, Jake Batista found himself wanting to give up on school. Jake did not find school easy or enjoyable, like many of his friends. Despite the challenges he faced, Jake persevered, captained the hockey team, and will receive his diploma with his class. With a passion for working with cars, Jake found his calling in his automotive classes and has enjoyed an internship at Ira Subaru. The experience has gone so well that Jake now has a steady full-time job while many others are having difficulty finding one. As a testament of Jake’s character, he took the time to talk to and mentor a younger student that was struggling like he did. More impressively, when Jake heard of the Boston Marathon bombings, he sent an email to one of his teachers. Knowing the teacher was planning on going to the marathon, Jake wanted to make sure that he was unharmed. This was such a moving gesture that his teacher will never forget.

Every morning, the students at Salem High School are welcomed by the enthusiastic voice of their peer, Andrew Kavanaugh, as he reads the morning announcements over the PA system. In addition to giving students all the information they need to get through the day, Andrew can always be depended on to greet everyone he meets with a warm smile. A talented saxophone and trumpet player in the Salem High School band, Andrew uses his kindness to motivate and uplift his fellow classmates. Andrew has been an integral part of creating class spirit for the Class of 2013; his diligence in the classroom and persistent optimism has earned him the respect of fellow classmates and faculty alike. Andrew will proudly be attending Salem State University to study criminal justice in the fall. As a young adult with a form of autism, Andrew sets an example not only for others with a disability, but also for all of us. After he won a spot on the Senior Prom court, his classmates showed their support and admiration for Andrew with a standing ovation.

The students highlighted above represent only 1 percent of the Salem High School graduating class of 2013. (I am limited in space and could not share all of their stories.) Our goal as educators is to engage and inspire our students, to prepare them for their future, and to help them reach their potential. However, at the same time we are teaching our students, we often find ourselves learning from them. The students are the reason that we look forward to coming to work every day. The students motivate us to work as hard as we can to give them the education and experiences they deserve. The students are the inspiration at Salem High School. Thank you and best of luck to the Class of 2013.

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David Angeramo is principal of Salem High School. This is one in a series of columns from the Community Advisory Board for the Salem schools.