Like so many other last day of school celebrations, students at New Hope Academy Charter school brought cupcakes to school Tuesday, signed classmates' t-shirts and hugged the friends they won't see in class every day over the summer.
They can now put away textbooks and bring out their sunscreen, as many described upcoming plans to spend time swimming and visiting family in beach locations.
But many students also shed a few tears Tuesday, recognizing it was the last day they would be with what they described as their New Hope family.
In April, Commonwealth Court affirmed a state Charter School Appeal Board decision that upheld the York City School District's decision not to renew New Hope's charter.
And in May, New Hope's board of trustees voted to close the school and liquidate its assets, making this year's graduating class its last.
Underclassmen plans: Katena Wilson, who finished 10th grade at New Hope this year, said she was one of the students who cried as she said goodbye to the teachers she's come to admire. Wilson said she'll visit family in the Bronx this summer and try to go back to Helen Thackston Charter School in the fall, where she attended middle school.
Marlon Davila, who finished ninth grade this year, said he's going to miss the teachers and friends he got to know at New Hope. Next year, he'll be attending William Penn Senior High School in the York City School District, he said.
"I'm going to the high ... because I have to," he said.
Leah Hutchinson, who will be in 10th grade next year, said she's planning to attend York Catholic. But she doesn't know of too many classmates who are going to the new school with her, and she said she's disappointed to leave New Hope behind.
"It's sad because New Hope teachers are like your family," she said.
The reality of the last day for the school didn't hit everyone in the same way, said Kiersten Sutton, New Hope's director of community partnerships. Some students still haven't realized it, she said, and others were hit hard Tuesday morning.
"It's kind of all over the place," she said.
Graduate reactions: Senior Domminique Salisbury said he started at New Hope in his seventh grade year, the first year the school was open. At that time, Salisbury said it was a chance to start a "new chapter" outside of the York City district schools he had previously attended.
Now, he and several classmates said it's "special" to be the last graduating class from New Hope, even if it's also sad.
"We achieved something," said Alyssia Muhammad. Classmate Yashira Rosado agreed.
"It's one step toward the best of our future," she said.
Muhammad and Rosado said they both appreciated New Hope's partnership with the Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center. Muhammad said she's planning to join the Alvin Ailey dance company in New York, and Rosado is attending Empire Beauty School to study cosmetology.
Salisbury and his classmates, Stef'aun Roscoe and Aasif Allen, said being the last New Hope class makes them want to achieve more after high school. Salisbury plans to enlist in the Army, he said. Roscoe is attending Delaware Valley College to study zoology and Allen is attending Mount Aloysius College to study early childhood education.
Graduation is bittersweet, they said.
But despite the sadness of their closing school, Salisbury said it's time for celebration.
"We've got to end with happiness and joy," he said.
— Reach Nikelle Snader at firstname.lastname@example.org.