DERRY — It was the next step on a future path for this group of graduates.
The Next Charter School awarded 11 diplomas to its Class of 2019 during a ceremony held June 13 at the Derry Opera House.
The charter school opened in the fall of 2013, offering a public high school of choice students seeking an alternative way to learn. This was the fourth graduation ceremony.
The ceremony gathered families, faculty, friends and students for an afternoon of celebration, honors, and accolades for a job well done with a strong vision for the future.
Next is housed at Gilbert H. Hood Middle School, its third location since it opened its doors.
The school offers students an alternative way to learn in a classroom setting, and also forges relationships between students and area businesses and other areas where internships, or capstone, learning initiatives can thrive.
That includes presentations, classroom requirements and a journey to learn at all different paces, depending on each particular student.
For many of the students, that unique, individualized learning environment offered not only the small classes and personalized learning plans, but a capstone program, a field-based internship sending students out into positions in area businesses to work in a real-world environment in addition to attaining regular high school requirements for graduation.
Keynote speaker Matt Blanchette, co-owner of Revelry Studios in Manchester, told graduates his own life journey, working at various jobs through the years to support himself, but also hoping to put his love of music somehow into the life mix.
Blanchette said life will have struggles.
"But you can't be afraid of struggles," he said. "I struggled with decisions — don't be afraid to fail. Without struggle, there is no growth."
Blanchette told graduates to not be afraid to "throw a dart" and see where it lands. You can always change your mind, he said.
"And you don't have to love your job, but you have to love your life," he said.
Students were then introduced individually by Next teachers, staff members or other supporters, then received their diplomas.
The ceremony also included the annual "Lift Ups" where family, friends, and others in the audience shouted out a simple phrase for a graduate to "lift them up" followed by a simple, single clap.
In closing the graduation ceremony, Next director Joe Crawford told the class to never be afraid to ask for help.
"This group has come together, you did not get here alone," Crawford said. "As you continue your journey beyond high school, you will need help. I promise you there will be people around you to offer you help and guidance. Learn from those around you and accept help. You will also be called to help someone someday like yourself."
Crawford also credited the Derry school district administration, staff, community, and Next board of trustees for ongoing support.
Members of the Class of 2019 are: Elizabeth Bacon, Jacob Batten, Dylan Bugley, Kira Louise Cote, Christopher Tobin Houghtaling, Destiny LaFontaine, Ariana Marble, Aaron Jog, Trevor Pascarelli, Corey Sarofian and Jewel Sullivan.