SALEM -- A gorgeous summer evening was the backdrop for the 220th commencement ceremony at historic Salem Washington Academy on Friday.

On the lawn that sits in the shadow of the historic school, 57 graduates - young men dressed in purple cap and gowns, young women in white - received their diplomas, thus closing the book on a memorable chapter in their lives.

It is a small class compared to most, but there is no shortage of diversity in the Class of 2010.

Dave Montgomery, who was the recipient of a New York State Advanced Regents Diploma with Honors, will be attending Clarkson University in the fall to study engineering.

"I'm strong in math and science, but I've always had the desire to build things," he said. "I used to play with Connex (toys) as a kid a lot. I used to sit there for hours building. I enjoy that type of thing."

Andrew Levesque, as a chapter president of FFA, said he reminds his class that agriculture is an important part of the community.

"I will be representing the area at the World Dairy Expo in Madison (Wis.)," he said.

Levesque will attend the Community College of Vermont for one semester while completing an internship in Washington, D.C. He said he would like to be a teacher one day.

Valedictorian Jennifer Stellar described the class as "unique."

"We're all individuals. We have art students, a lot of music students, some really talented athletes," she said.

Stellar, who graduated with a 94.8 cumulative GPA, will attend Siena College in the fall but hasn't decided on her field of study.

"I like to draw and paint, I like to sing and I like to act in school plays," she said.

She said most students embraced the small town they grew up in.

"Everyone enjoys the town because there's a greater sense of community. Whereas, in a bigger town, you might not know each other. Here, we all know each other by first names and know everything about each other because we've been going to this school since kindergarten for the most part."

Principal Michael Teator addressed the Class of 2010 with some final words of advice.

"If there's any real advice I can offer you, it's this: High school is something you complete; life is something you experience," he said, adding, "Success is defined in many ways, and when you find success, it will come from common sense and dignity, which I know is very strong."

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