Operation Hand-Me-Gown: Graduating With A Gesture of Generosity


The West High class of 2018 in their graduation regalia. Courtesy: Anchorage School District

Attention Class of 2023: there’s a new program in town. It’s called Operation Hand-Me-Gown.

Operation Hand-Me-Gown has been launched by senior Alana Belle Tirado, the reporter of this article. We have entered the twilight year of the high school experience. Our graduation date is set for Tuesday, May 16th. 

Many of us have already bought graduation caps and gowns. You might be wondering what you are going to do with your graduation garb after one day’s worth of use. Maybe you picture wearing your gown, taking it off after graduation, and then throwing it in the closet or in the basement. Would you really wear it again? Probably not, unless you want to incorporate it into a Halloween costume or you run dangerously low on clean laundry. 

Operation Hand-Me-Gown offers a better alternative: you can donate your entire cap/gown set to students of the incoming class of seniors (class of 2024). Instead of keeping the gown in storage until the moths eat it, the gown can be reused by another student. Gowns are expensive. You can help the next seniors save their money. We went through the pandemic, inflation, high gas prices, and so much more. We, class of 2023, should graduate with a gesture of generosity. Donating is all for a reasonable, logical cause. A plan to obtain the names of seniors willing to pledge their gowns to the operation will be launched in February.

Operation Hand-Me-Gown has even been graciously sponsored by teacher and IB Coordinator John Ruhlin, who also heads all International Baccalaureate (IB) affairs at West High School. Ruhlin has mentioned that many graduation gowns simply end up being thrown away, further contributing to the problem of overflowing landfills. 

After graduation and before the school closes, those of you who pledged to donate caps and gowns can drop them off at the front office. If you would like to keep your tassel as a memento, you are able to do so. With your donation, you must indicate your height, weight, and size.

Fireweed Cleaners, a local dry cleaning company that has been operating since 1967, has generously agreed to sponsor Operation Hand-Me-Gown and will dry clean the donated gowns for free. Fireweed Cleaners has a reputation for altruism and goodwill, as they also sponsor the Coats For Kids program for students in need. We extend our gratitude to Fireweed Cleaners.

Operation Hand-Me-Gown will not end with the class of 2023. The students of the IB Program will continue the operation even after our graduation. The class of 2024 will do the same for the class of 2025—the class of 2025 for the class of 2026, and so on and so forth. The class of 2023 shall be remembered for passing the torch with positivity. Operation Hand-Me-Gown begins with us.


Alana Belle M. Tirado, Student Journalist

Senior ’23