LEWISTON — Melody Kelly was almost there. She had more than enough of the 24 credits necessary to graduate from high school. But she failed science and so she had to do it.

She had to suck it up and go back to school in the summertime.

“It was hard,” the 20-year-old said Thursday night.

Tyler Sonia had been grinding away for six years trying to graduate. He was almost there at the end of the last school year, but he needed a little more. So while his friends were hitting the beaches, this 20-year-old was in a classroom at the high school, trying to get it done.

“Passing the classes, that was the hard part,” Sonia said. “I don’t care that it took six years. I got it done.”

Kelly and Sonia were two of 17 people who collected their diplomas Thursday night in a first-of-its-kind August graduation ceremony.

“I love it,” said Linda Neczypor, a 12th-grade teacher at the school. “I love the new tradition.”

Neczypor teaches summer classes. She sees the faces of students who couldn’t get all of their work done before the graduation ceremony in the spring. They have to work a little harder, she said. They have to push themselves a little more to overcome the magnet draw of summer outside.

“I really see a lot of the kids who just missed the mark,” she said. “I’m glad to cheer them on.”

Also cheering were the family and friends of the students who went the nontraditional route to graduation. There were dozens of them in a room at the high school Thursday night waiting to witness their sons, daughters, boyfriends and girlfriends finally collecting that diploma.

“I’m proud of him,” said Chantelle Bradrick, Sonia’s girlfriend. “It’s a great accomplishment.”

For a time, it appeared he might not graduate at all. He’d been trying, but he was a busy guy and for a while, graduation was not a priority.

“He’s been working a job for four years and going to school at the same time,” said Laura Calder, Sonia’s mother. “It was hard, but he did it. He did it and I’m proud of him.”

Student Apikake A. Tantine was awarded the Central Maine Community College “Courage to Grow” scholarship, which recognizes an adult education student who shows particular zeal in pursuit of a diploma.

In a summertime graduation, there is a departure from the same old nuggets of wisdom and advice from graduation speakers. They modify their speeches because they know these students are a little different from those who graduate in the spring.

“Each and every one of them has a unique story that brought them here tonight,” said Lewiston High School Principal Gus Leblanc. “All of them have persevered. They have overcome.”

In her keynote address, state Rep. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston, encouraged the group to keep the momentum, to strive to keep learning and to help others.

“You’ve shown that you know how to get over hurdles that might lie in your way,” she said. “You are graduating tonight because you worked hard.”

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Lewiston High School summer graduating class of 2010

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