SALEM — Superintendent William Cameron last night told Salem High School's graduating class that the only 21st century skill worth having is a "creative and insightful intelligence."

It is the "essence of what's left of you" after the MCAS have been taken and the Advance Placement courses completed, he said. And it is the key to our collective future, according to Cameron.

"The welfare of everyone here tonight depends on just how intelligent we have helped you, the members of the class of 2011, to become in your time with us," he said.

That time ended last night in a packed fieldhouse full of the friends and family of the high school's 276 graduates. Those who spoke from the class reflected on their fast four years together and looked, optimistically, toward tomorrow.

"'If you can dream it, you can do it,'" Senior Orator Meghan Debski said, quoting Walt Disney.

Salutatorian Kurtis Banville urged his classmates to "endeavor for more."

"Living life with regrets — wondering 'what if?' — is no way to live," he said. "Take a risk. And even if you fall, get back up and try again."

Mayor Kim Driscoll said public education is the most important service the city provides. She called it an "investment in humanity" and asked graduates to use their education to give back.

"I'm relying on all of you to help make not only Salem but the world a better place to live, work and raise a family," Driscoll said. The mayor also thanked Cameron, who has taken a job as superintendent of Central Berkshire Regional School District, for his service in Salem.

Valedictorian Victoria Phu challenged her classmates not to let the strong bond that has formed during their four years together weaken with age. If you should see someone years from now, she said, "Please don't do that thing where you make awkward eye contact and then look away from each other quickly."

Instead, "Say hello," Phu said. "Have a real conversation."

She also asked her class not to focus too much on looking back or forward.

"Revel in this moment," Phu said, "because all too often the present is overlooked."

Salem High School Class of 2011

Number of graduates: 276

National Honor Society graduates: 37

Principal's David Angeramo's advice: Pay it forward. "I firmly believe it is often the little, unexpected kindnesses in life that make the biggest difference," he said.

Quoted voice from the New England Patriots' past: "Even if you fall on your face, you're still moving forward." — Former owner Victor Kiam

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