Meet Salem’s Class of 2023

In the next two weeks, 2,800 high school seniors from Salem and Keizer will walk across a stage, turn their tassels and receive diplomas.

Starting today, Salem Reporter is publishing a series of profiles of the Class of 2023, highlighting one senior from each high school in the Salem-Keizer School District.

Most of this year’s graduating seniors had their freshman year cut short, when schools across Oregon closed for a long spring break that turned into a months-long shutdown.

They spent their sophomore year attending school online, and in some cases working or caring for younger siblings. Some said they fared well with fewer distractions and a lighter schedule. Others struggled to stay engaged, or passed classes easily but languished with few social activities or creative outlets like theater and band.

Some students were supposed to graduate in 2021 or 2022, but took longer because life – in the form of jobs, caregiving and disengagement made worse by the pandemic – delayed their plans to finish high school.

Collectively, the Class of 2023 has earned $61.5 million in scholarships. About 274 of them will graduate with the Oregon Seal of Biliteracy, meaning they’ve demonstrated the ability to read, write, listen and speak both English and another language fluently.

Salem Reporter reached out to principals at each high school and asked them to identify a graduate who was extraordinary in some way. We interviewed each graduate alongside a teacher or counselor who played a role in their success at school.

Over the coming days, you’ll meet 10 students, including an aspiring chef who learned to cook so she could take care of her family as a kid, a French horn player who helped rebuild his school’s band program after Covid, an actor who’s already held leading roles in local theater productions, and a mother of two who’s earning her diploma as her oldest daughter gets ready to start kindergarten.

Salem Reporter will update this page with each profile as it runs. We hope the series provides a snapshot of the Class of 2023.

Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

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Rachel Alexander is Salem Reporter’s managing editor. She joined Salem Reporter when it was founded in 2018 and covers city news, education, nonprofits and a little bit of everything else. She’s been a journalist in Oregon and Washington for a decade. Outside of work, she’s a skater and board member with Salem’s Cherry City Roller Derby and can often be found with her nose buried in a book.