BEVERLY — Unlike most graduation ceremonies, there were no grand processions, musical interludes, or sea of mortarboards tossed into the air on a big football field.
Northshore Recovery High School is not like other schools, and neither is its graduation.
Instead of a few speeches by top students and dignitaries, each of the 14 graduates stepped to the microphone and told his or her own story about the struggle to overcome addiction and earn a diploma from Northshore Recovery, one of the state’s four high schools for students recovering from addiction.
“This moment seems so surreal,” said Sarah Ciaramitaro of Gloucester, as she held her 1-year-old son. “I thought I was destined to become a burnout, a dropout. I didn’t think I was worth any of this. I came here a scared little girl and will leave with all the hope in the world, all because nobody gave up on me and I didn’t give up on myself.”
The ceremony was held on the bottom floor of the Memorial Building, where the school is located. About 100 people attended.
Many of the students said they came to Northshore Recovery after being in and out of rehab programs and struggling in their hometown schools. Many were reluctant at first to open up to the help that was available, but eventually learned to trust the teachers and staff.
“At first I despised the fact that I had to change who I was,” said Zachary Hall of Beverly. “Then I realized I could not do it alone. The help here is off the charts.”
Teachers and staff members spoke about each student, saying how inspired they were by their perseverance and resilience. Guidance counselor Maureen Sullivan pointed out that graduate Michael Bennett drove more than an hour every day from Acton-Boxborough to attend Northshore Recovery.