ORONO, Maine — Eight students from Orono High School’s alternative education program graduated Thursday, each with plans to continue on to the military, community colleges or other higher learning institutions, according to the program’s director.

The students had either dropped out of high school at some point, fallen behind in attendance or lacked a sufficient number of credits, said Andy Frace, a teacher of 35 years who runs the program.

He said the alternative education courses are geared toward hands-on, project-oriented learning away from the high school setting.

“They seem to thrive in that kind of situation,” Frace said Friday afternoon.

Frace said one student will work toward becoming a certified nursing assistant, while another will attend Eastern Maine Community College to study plumbing and heating.

One of the graduates earned the first high school diploma in his family.

RSU 26 Superintendent Douglas Smith, school board Chairwoman Lisa Buck and Orono High School’s principal and assistant principal attended the event.

Frace said the program is expected to expand next year to include between 15 and 20 students, but it needs to move to a larger facility before it can do so.