Graduating high school students across the country have seen their senior years clouded by the global pandemic. But for the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School class of 2021 — a creative, pioneering group of five students — a virus wasn’t going to be the thing to define them.

“They weren’t going to be held back,” said charter school director Pete Steedman on Wednesday, seated in a circle beside the school’s graduating seniors during the traditional senior class lunch picnic at Owen Park.

“They clearly had a direction, they maintained their individual passions and those passions are still alive and well,” Mr. Steedman said, gesturing at the soon-to-be graduates, who chatted over sandwiches. President of the board Steve Nierenberg also joined the students for lunch.

Graduation ceremonies for the 2020 and 2021 class will take place in a joint ceremony on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at the charter school campus in West Tisbury.

Ethan Aubrey-Taylor, Hannah Hagen and Max Dankert reminisce. — Ray Ewing

The ceremony will be held outdoors and socially distanced, with masks required. Parents, recent alumni and guests of the graduates are invited to attend, though the typical schoolwide ceremony will be pared down. The school’s young students, who normally present gifts to the graduates class at the ceremony, will not be in attendance.

The charter school will also celebrate its 25th anniversary this year, making another milestone for the school and its graduates.

Mr. Steedman said the class of 2021 is known as a group of vibrant individuals with interests in travel, marine ecology and especially in the arts. “Their journeys have been so different but the spirit of the charter school — of individualism, while still being a part of their community — has really thrived in this class,” Mr. Steedman said.

Max Dankert, who plans to study illustration and graphic design at Montser

rat College of Art in Beverly this fall, said the charter school was where she first discovered her love of art.

“The charter school really sparked my interest in art. It pushed my motivation to just keep growing and growing and expanding my creative mindset,” she said, noting guidance from art teacher Ken Vincent throughout her artistic journey.

Treyman Meyers plans to work on the Island this year before moving “off the rock” to Colorado next summer to pursue his love of fishing. Treyman spoke broadly about the school’s impact on his path.

“Without the charter school, I wouldn’t be the person who I am right now,” he said. “I would definitely have 100 per cent different friends, I would be working a different job, I’d be doing everything differently.”

Each of the nine graduates came to the school at different times for different reasons, but all called experience formative.

“You can kind of find your own group at the charter school, no matter who you are, which I really liked,” said Oliver Danielson, who came to the school in sixth grade. Oliver will be taking time to pursue his love of travel after school, with plans to explore Italy and unfamiliar areas in the U.S.

Hannah Hagen, whose mother taught at the school, has attended the charter school since kindergarten. She described the community as a second family.

“When I first got to charter school, it felt like a second home to me and that hasn’t really changed,” she said. In the fall, Hannah will head to California College of the Arts via cross-country road trip with her father, but leaving the community feels bittersweet, she said.

This year, the pandemic brought unexpected challenges for the seniors, with classes mostly on Zoom and many school traditions, like student mentorships and portfolio exhibitions, canceled.

The graduates agreed they missed in-person classes and senior traditions like Harvest Festival and Secret Pixies — the little things that make up the fabric of the experience.

But even so, students said they were able to stay the course, finishing their culminating senior portfolios with pride. Max Dankert said her project centered on illustrations inspired by music and sound, while Treyman Meyers’s project investigated the impact humans have had on the ocean.

“I already knew that senior year was going to be special so . . . it ultimately didn’t really affect a whole lot,” said Max, the others nodding.

Back together on Wednesday, munching on lunch and reminiscing, it was as if no time had passed.

As the students described their adventures ahead, many said they would miss the school community, citing things like seeing kindergarteners in the hallways, morning meetings — even when they didn’t want to go — and the cozy school building.

“I’m moving across the entire country for a different school. It’s going to be exciting but it’s going to be hard not being able to see [everyone],” Hannah said.

Other things would be easier to part with, she said, exploding affectionately into descriptions of the scent of burnt popcorn wafting down the hallway and overcooked broccoli in the cafeteria.

Graduation season at the charter school, known for its personal touches, has been slightly abridged this year due to the pandemic, Mr. Steedman said — though the essential bits, like gathering the community together, will remain.

And there are a few surprises in store for the ceremony Saturday, Mr. Steedman said, including the unveiling of a new school flag designed by Hannah Hagen. The flag is the class gift to the school this year, a symbol of artistic expression and togetherness very much emblematic of the group.

Ethan Aubrey, a class of 2020 alum, and three of his peers will also take part in the commencement exercises this year, after last year’s ceremony was canceled due to the pandemic.

And as the school gears up for the weekend celebration, teachers, administrators and school board members all expressed the same hope for the class of 2021 — good luck, and a heavy dose of plain old young adult life after a challenging year.

“I hope for them, whether it’s in the world of work, whether it’s college or travel, that they get some normalcy back,” said Mr. Steedman. He continued:

“They are truly resilient and they have a tremendous amount of positivity and caring for each other. After everything they’ve gone through, it speaks volumes about their character and what they value in the school.”