Thousands of Anchorage high schoolers will be greeted with words of encouragement at graduation ceremonies this week as part of United Way of Anchorage's annual Grad Chalk campaign.

Anchorage School District Superintendent Dr. Deena Bishop says this week, more than 3,500 students will celebrate earning their diplomas, with several events at Sullivan Arena.

Early Monday morning, dozens of volunteers, former Anchorage graduates and University of Alaska Anchorage students joined Bishop to decorate the walkway outside the arena with messages of support and congratulations written in sidewalk chalk.

Bishop says she wrote a note that read “We’re done!” But she also wants the students to look forward to their future, not just back at the past.

“They do need to know that it's called commencement for a reason,” Bishop said. “That means that you start something. So, really, the rest of their life could start and, hopefully, if we've done our job, it's going to be a great life for our kids."

Grad Chalk is part of United Way of Anchorage's Grad Blitz 2019, a campaign aimed at raising the city's high school graduation rate to 90% by 2020. 

"I think Grad Chalk is really a great way for the community to come out and show support for our graduating class and kind of show them, you did this great thing, and it is a big deal, so congratulations on doing that," said Ariane Kelsey, manager of volunteer and community engagement at United Way of Anchorage. "But also, we do it as a way to show the underclassmen, the people that are making their way to graduation, that there's something to be working towards and to be excited about."

United Way is encouraging people to show their support for Anchorage graduates online by using #ANCGrads. 

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