Anchorage’s graduating seniors get ‘Pomp and Circumstance’ at a safe social distance

Graduates, wearing caps and gowns, are picking up memorabilia boxes from their high schools this week.

State health mandates have limited gathering sizes and prevented high schools from holding traditional graduations this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, so the Anchorage School District had to come up with new ways to honor its 2020 graduates.

This week, Anchorage high schools are distributing memorabilia boxes containing a diploma cover, honor cords, certificates, awards, letters of congratulations from teachers and staff and other small gifts.

In total, 3,202 students are graduating from the Anchorage School District.

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Seniors, many dressed in graduation gowns and caps, are driving with their families to the city’s high schools to pick up the boxes and take celebratory photos on campus.

As “Pomp and Circumstance” played over a PA system on Tuesday at East High School, principal Sam Spinella stood in front the building and congratulated each student who arrived.

“They worked hard to get their education and diploma," Spinella said. "At least we can recognize them in this way. It takes a lot longer, but it’s worth it.”

At Service High School, the graduation box pickup is a 29-hour event over three days, said principal Frank Hauser. Seniors are still able to walk across a stage, take a picture and turn their tassel — but without the usual audience.

“We’re wanting to make sure we’re following all the guidelines, making sure we’re social distancing, having our PPE’s on, and making sure everyone is safe but yet still celebrating and recognizing each student,” Hauser said.

East High School graduating senior Yaneri Abreu will attend Georgia State University on a full-ride scholarship to study biology.

Asked what she thought about the graduation, Abreu said, “Something different. New, but very exciting. We have to adapt to a new world. I was very grateful to see all the teachers come out and show their support.”

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Emily Goodykoontz

Emily Goodykoontz is a reporter covering Anchorage local government and general assignments. She previously covered breaking news at The Oregonian in Portland before joining ADN in 2020. Contact her at

Bill Roth

Bill Roth is a staff photojournalist at the Anchorage Daily News.