DERRY — It was the next step on a future path for this group of graduates.
The Next Charter School awarded 17 diplomas to its class of 2020 during a ceremony held June 12 at the Tupelo Music Hall's new outdoor venue space off A Street.
The ceremony was also live streamed through Derry's local cable station and on social media.
The charter school opened in the fall of 2013, and is housed at Gilbert H. Hood Middle School, its third location since it opened its doors. The public school offers a students an alternative way to learn. This was the fourth graduation ceremony.
The ceremony, the fifth for the Next Charter School, 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.
It was a unique way to host a commencement, too, as parents and families parked vehicles in the Tupelo parking lot maintaining social distancing as they watched the sunny ceremony.
Next staff members heralded the graduating class, saying they worked hard and persevered through challenges during their years in the classroom.
Next offers its 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.
Students were introduced individually by Next teachers, staff members or other supporters, then received their diplomas via small plastic school bus rolling down a wooden seesaw toward the graduate.
In closing the graduation ceremony, Next director Joe Crawford told the class the past few months were a challenge.
"A month ago I wasn't sure how to do graduation," Crawford said. "We are here today because the community values you."
Crawford told the graduates the past few months also made students strong and ready for what life brings next. He quoted a speech by Abraham Lincoln, citing a "rise to the occasion" message for what lies ahead.
For Crawford, it was also his own personal message to graduates to "see the world for what it is and what it might be."
Crawford also credited the Derry school district administration, staff, community, and Next board of trustees for ongoing support.
Members of the class of 2020 are: Daniel Jordan Clements, Judah Graves, Cameron Whitney, Michael Bearce, Alivia Beauregard, Michael Bertolaccini, Nicole Dow, Hannah Freitas, Dylan Fortin, Oliver Leary, Kaley Garon, Jack Keevers, Natalie Kort, Kyle Regan, Seth St. Hilaire, Darlin Samson and Juliana Stefanile.