The Duluth East class of 2020 will miss out on many of the traditions associated with the final months of high school.

There won't be an in-person prom, honors night, graduation ceremony or all-night grad party for this year's seniors.

"It's just kind of weird leaving it with no resolution," teacher Samantha Daly said. "East has a big sense of community, and we have big end-of-the-year assemblies, so I think not getting to have that stuff is significant. You get no closure on the year."

That's why teachers and staff decided to come up with a unique way to celebrate the graduating class in a year that will forever be marked by the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Wednesday, hundreds of students and many of their parents made their way to the school for a "Senior Drive Through" event — a one-stop shop for seniors to return school property, pick up yearbooks and caps and gowns, receive award and scholarship certificates and enter a drawing for prizes.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

A line of vehicles bearing Duluth East seniors move from station to station along Greyhound Drive during Wednesday’s Senior Drive Through. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)
A line of vehicles bearing Duluth East seniors move from station to station along Greyhound Drive during Wednesday’s Senior Drive Through. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

One by one, vehicles made their way down Greyhound Drive, stopping at six tents along the way, where staff and a handful of volunteers were able to spend a few minutes seeing students face-to-face.

Teachers also returned letters the students wrote to themselves in the eighth and ninth grades, and the whole experience was capped off with cupcakes at the end of the line.

Teachers were decked out in school colors, and Greyhound mascots were roaming the area as up to 30 vehicles arrived for each half-hour increment scheduled in advance. Some of the vehicles matched, with window decorations, balloon and signs waving.

That included Gaby Johnson, who wore her Greyhounds soccer shirt as she rode in the front passenger seat, with mom Patty driving and dad Matt in the back.

"It was my parents — they really decorated the whole thing," she said. "They wanted to make it memorable."

Teachers greet seniors and their family members arriving at Duluth East High School for Senior Drive Through Wednesday. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)
Teachers greet seniors and their family members arriving at Duluth East High School for Senior Drive Through Wednesday. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

Johnson said she was grateful for the opportunity to return to school, even just briefly.

"I think it was a little emotional for my parents and myself, seeing some of my teachers that I've really grown attached to," she said. "Obviously, this is not the way that I wish I could've ended my year, but I think all the effort they put in was really nice."

Denfeld put on a similar effort last week, except staff grouped together to deliver the goods to students at their homes. Students at both schools are signing up for individual times to visit the school and walk across the stage for commencement videos that will be produced by WDSE-WRPT.

"There are so many things we do to celebrate our seniors at the end of the year that we're missing out on," East Principal Danette Seboe said, "so we're trying to find creative ways to still do that and get them here to celebrate with us on a smaller scale."

A banner signed by Duluth East seniors hangs along Greyhound Driver outside Ordean Stadium. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)
A banner signed by Duluth East seniors hangs along Greyhound Driver outside Ordean Stadium. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)