West High School senior Nicole Cedeno-Huff braves the wind as she prepares to have a photo taken in her graduation robe on Monday, May 18, 2020. (Bill Roth / ADN)

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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East High School special education and life skills teachers from left, Mary Thomas, Casey Ondek, and Laurie Decker congratulate and cheer for a graduating senior passing by in a vehicle on Monday, May 18, 2020. (Bill Roth / ADN)

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.

East High School honor graduate and student body president Nick Chard had his photo taken in front of the school as Principal Sam Spinella looks on Monday, May 18, 2020. Chard will be attending UC Berkeley on a Naval ROTC scholarship and plans to study mechanical engineering. (Bill Roth / ADN)

“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.

Service High School graduating senior Carter Christopherson pretends to shake hands with principal Frank Hauser while keeping social distancing after he walked across the stage on Tuesday, May 19, 2020. Christopherson, who was named captain of the soccer team for a season that never happened because of the COVID-19 pandemic, will be attending University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. (Bill Roth / ADN)

“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.”

East High School graduating senior Yaneri Abreu had her picture taken with her grandfather Serame Castillo as ASD graduates were honored on Monday, May 18, 2020. Abreu said she will be attending Georgia State University on a full-ride scholarship to study biology. (Bill Roth / ADN)
East High School teachers cheer as graduating senior Marcel Davis passed by during the first day of diploma pick-ups for ASD students on Monday, May 18, 2020. Davis said she has been accepted to UNLV to studying nursing. (Bill Roth / ADN)
West High School senior Nicole Cedeno-Huff gets help from her brother George Cedeno-Huff as she prepares to have a photo taken in her graduation robe on Monday, May 18, 2020. (Bill Roth / ADN)
West High School graduating senior Dream Toluao-Faiupu, wearing a Samoan tuiga, is photographed by her mother Ula Faiupu as ASD students were honored individually instead of the traditional commencement ceremony during the COVID-19 pandemic on Monday, May 18, 2020. (Bill Roth / ADN)
West High School art teacher Rachel Wall used chalk markers to decorate vehicles carrying graduating seniors on Monday, May 18, 2020. (Bill Roth / ADN)
West High School graduating senior Maria Leituala celebrated with relatives Maranatha Tilo, left, and Noreen Tilo, right, on Monday, May 18, 2020. (Bill Roth / ADN)
West High School principal Sven Gustafson talks with a graduating senior on Monday, May 18, 2020. (Bill Roth / ADN)
Only one family at a time was allowed to watch as Service High School graduating seniors were honored by crossing the stage on Tuesday, May 19, 2020. Alex and Lea Nicolas along with Allea, 13, and Alexandria, 9, watched Alexis Nicolas crossing the stage. (Bill Roth / ADN)
Service High School graduating senior Alexis Nicolas moves her tassel from right to left after walking across the stage on Tuesday, May 19, 2020. (Bill Roth / ADN)
Service High School graduating senior Stephanie Leigh prepares to walk across the stage on Tuesday, May 19, 2020. (Bill Roth / ADN)
German Immersion teacher Evelyn Newhouse waved and shouted ’Congratulations ’ as Service High School graduating seniors passed through the parking lot on Tuesday, May 19, 2020. (Bill Roth / ADN)

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