After the speeches were over, the graduates marched down the center aisle of chairs assembled on the lawn outside Samuel Phillips Hall, and walked along a paved pathway to another lawn in front of the Addison Gallery of Art. There, the students assembled in an enormous circle. From under a tent, Palfrey read off their names in random order and passed out diplomas, which were handed from one student to the next until they reached their owners.
Parents, friends and family gathered behind their respective students as the diplomas made their rounds.
Andover residents Paul and Laurie Fraser watched as their son, Connor, received his diploma.
“It’s gone by quickly,” Paul Fraser said. “He worked hard to get himself in here. It was a perfect fit for him.”
A product of West Elementary and Middle schools in Andover, Connor Fraser was looking for a challenge when he took the initiative himself to apply to the school, his parents said.
He’s glad he did.
“It was great,” said Fraser, as he clutched his diploma after the ceremony. “When it was hard, it was hard, but in the end, it was worth it.”
Paul Fraser said the school really “encourages kids to find their passion and then supports them.” His son worked as one of the news editors for the Phillipian, the student paper, and is now going to Columbia University in New York, which has a top journalism school.
After the last diploma made it around the gathering of newly minted graduates, the students rushed the middle, holding diplomas aloft and dancing together while parents, relatives and faculty trained cameras and smartphones on the spectacle.
The 38 students from Andover made up a little more than a third of the 90 graduates from Massachusetts.
Among them was Erin Johnson of Reading. Her mother, Meg Mikita, said seeing her daughter earn her diploma was “bittersweet” because it’s the last time she’ll attend a graduation at Andover. Her other daughter, Emily Johnson, graduated from Phillips in 2010.