ALLENSTOWN — Not every high school can have half its graduating class speak at commencement, but that's what happened when PACE Charter Academy senior Ashley Cutter took the podium Friday afternoon.
Cutter, of Pembroke, was one of two seniors making up the first graduating class of the public charter school, which opened in the fall of 2011. Cutter and classmate Tyler Racine, also of Pembroke, were two of 20 students across all grade levels who finished the year.
“When I first started here, I didn't know what to expect, and I don't think the teachers knew what to expect either,” Cutter said in her address to the student body. “But we all figured it out together. PACE really is a partnership.”
The school's name is an acronym for the elements the school emphasizes—personal growth, academics, career paths and essential bonds with community and family. The curriculum, which includes internships and independently designed project, focuses on enabling every graduate to enter the workforce or pursue higher education.
PACE Director Edie Allyn spoke of the school's humble beginning.
“I was thinking of where we were a year ago today, and I think, with the exception of a couple people in this room, PACE wasn't even a notion in anyone's mind,” she said. “When we started it was white walls, a borrowed desk, and I think there's still four or five chairs donated from the Pembroke Academy class of 2002 up there.”
Allyn said the school is not made of its materials, but of the faculty and students involved. She encouraged all her students to think about their goals and work to achieve them.
“We cannot unscrew your heads and pour stuff in,” she said. “You have to make it get in there yourself, and that's my challenge to you. There's no magic potion that will instantly do that. There's only work and experience. I challenge you to use the tools that you have to work every day to expand your world.
Cutter was accepted to Nashua Community College, where she plans to study early childhood education.
The PACE faculty presented her with a framed copy of her acceptance letter.
Racine, who did not attend the official ceremony but arrived afterwards for the school's festivities, said he will enlist in the Army.