Graduation during a pandemic

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - While they were robbed of their last weeks in high school, graduating seniors across the Anchorage School Districts are still getting the chance to pick up their diplomas at the institutions they've called home for the past four years.

There are times that the schools have set aside for diploma pick up individually. At each school, parents and their grads need to sign up for a time to come and pick up them up along with other significant items like senior shirts and letters from their teachers.

In addition, the district has provided yard signs for each student to take home and show off to their neighborhoods.

How the schools are approaching the pick ups vary by location. Some are set up outside, while others have scheduled times to have students come inside.

At Eagle River High, Principal Tim Helvey showed Channel 2 how they're having a little extra fun with it. They can't have the students shake his hand as they pick up their diplomas because of guidelines, so they set up a cardboard cutout of him on stage for a nice photo op.

"We're giving them that last 15 minutes to have some fun and come in and say goodbye basically," Helvey said.

Additionally, the students were able to get a more professional solo picture taken of them as well.

Students there had mixed feelings about how they were being celebrated.

Some were happy that the bizarre coronavirus chapter of their education is over, and ready to be done with school. Others were pleasantly surprised that they weren't getting their diplomas in the mail.

Eagle River's 2020 valedictorian, Devin Higgins said she is very grateful that the school district and her teachers worked so hard to give them anything symbolizing graduation. However, given the circumstances, she couldn't help but feel underwhelmed.

"To the point where I don't feel like I'm graduating," she said, "I'm wearing a cap and gown right now, but I just don't feel it."

While there's no doubt thousands in the class of 2020 feel that way, there's more to how she's feeling about graduation, and more to their end of high school.

She shared the main idea of her valedictorian speech that she delivered to her classmates virtually.

"This graduation isn't about the last quarter of senior year," she said, "it's about all the years we spent. 13 years from when we were little kindergartners, to when we were freshmen to when we were seniors. So this is about a lot more than COVID-19."

While she is concerned about how college at the University of Alaska Anchorage will be for her in the fall, she said she believes the coronavirus has only made the class of 2020 stronger.

"I feel a little better actually, because this was such an abrupt change and that's kind of how college is. It's kind of like a test for us almost," she said.

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