HEMPSTEAD, Long Island (WABC) -- A high school on Long Island held a graduation ceremony for its first graduating class on Thursday despite the coronavirus pandemic.
Nearly 100 students from the Academy Charter High School in Hempstead received their diplomas with loved ones looking on.
"I'm ready to go to college," said an ecstatic Shaniece Henderson.
The graduates and their families gathered outside the Calvary Tabernacle Church and clapped and cheered as school officials acknowledged each student one-by-one.
Inside the church, each graduate wore a mask and was allowed only two family members or friends to witness their big moment.
Students had to pick up their diplomas from a table while school officials, who were all wearing masks, looked on from the stage and congratulated them from a distance.
Student Leslie Cobb said he is thankful to school officials for finding a way to have the graduation ceremony.
"Two months ago, we could have swore we weren't graduating," he said. "This is great. I never smiled so much in my life. This is the best day of my life."
Parents were also thankful.
"I'm glad that everybody is okay and everybody has their graduation today," parent Shameeka Reaux said.
Thursday's graduating class was the first graduating class for the new charter school.
"I'm overwhelmed. This has been almost 12 years in the making," school board chairman Robert Stewart said.
Barrington Goldson, founder and CEO of The Academy Charter High School, echoed Stewart's sentiment.
"The feeling we have today is one of exuberance, excitement. It's a dream that we never thought we would live to see," he said.
Several members of the graduating class will be attending some of the country's top schools this fall, including Harvard, Princeton, Yale and New York University.
Coronavirus News: Nassau County high school holds graduation ceremony despite coronavirus pandemic
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