Just over a year ago, Nydoria Harrison was making daily visits to see her 3-pound newborn daughter, Nelleigha, in the NICU. The infant would wind up spending two months there, forcing Nydoria to put the summer classes she’d planned to take on hold.

For a time, Harrison wasn’t sure if she’d be able to complete high school.

But on Thursday, Nelleigha toddled around Frederick High School, fussing when her mom — clad in a cap and gown — handed her off to a relative so she could pose for pictures.

“I feel like a weight lifted,” Harrison said, beaming, a soothed Nelleigha back in her arms.

Harrison, 20, was one of 36 graduates who celebrated Thursday at Frederick County Public Schools’ summer session commencement. They wore a rainbow assortment of robes and hailed from different corners of the county, but they were united in their feelings of pride and relief.

“For each of you here today, the path to this major milestone — your high school diploma — has been a unique journey,” Superintendent Terry Alban told the graduates. “This year, we all faced an unanticipated detour.”

For Grant Robley, the accomplishment had been delayed by the struggles of the coronavirus pandemic. He wasn’t “a great virtual student,” he admitted, but he sees the past year as a “learning curve.”

And he’s thrilled to be done.

“I can finally walk free without something pulling me back,” he said.

Robley planned to go out for a celebratory lunch with his family after he walked across the stage. Later in the day, he’d head to work his restaurant job.

After the ceremony Thursday, 2-year-old Matthew ran excitedly into the arms of his uncle, Jesus Zamudio. At 19, Zamudio said he had to take a detour on his way to graduation in order to complete a required English class.

“It feels good,” said Zamudio, now a Frederick High School alumnus. Former teachers surrounded him and his family, embracing him and shaking his hand. “I feel really happy.”

Follow Jillian Atelsek on Twitter: @jillian_atelsek

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