You’ve spent four years working hard at school and you’re ready to take that walk to get your diploma, but there’s a wrinkle: You need to shell out $30 for a cap and gown.
Some families don’t have that money to spend.
Enter Alexandria City High School junior Henry Anderson and his new Gowns for Grads effort, which aims to upcycle graduation attire and get it into the hands of students who are facing financial hardship.
Anderson says he got the idea when his sister was graduating.
“I remember one of her friends didn’t have a gown. They couldn’t afford it,” Anderson, 17, says.
Parents went looking for gowns, and found them in the community, but Anderson started thinking.
“How is there not, at school, something that can support these students that can’t afford gowns?” he says.
The driving force for Anderson comes down to equity — making sure the financial barrier of having a gown isn’t keeping people from walking to get their diploma and that they don’t feel embarrassed. He says it’s also good for the environment because the gowns and caps are being upcycled.
Anderson says getting the administration at Alexandria City High School, the city’s only high school, on board was easy.
“They were all really supportive,” Anderson says. “I emailed the executive principal (Peter Balas). And he put me in contact some other people who would be able to help me a little bit more. And all of them loved the idea. And were super supportive and willing to help and just really helped me get it off the ground.”
ACHS recently changed the design of its graduation gowns, Anderson says, so he’s hoping to have gowns ready to go for next year’s graduation.
Before then, Anderson says part of his focus is on figuring out the logistics: How people can request gowns and how he can distribute them.
Anderson is just getting started on the project. Right now, there’s a donation bin at the main office at Alexandria City High School. He’s also working on getting a website set up and has an Instagram page gowns.for.graduates_achs.
Raising awareness is the most important thing at the moment for Anderson: “I hope that it’ll help get the word out to more people and help with the mission.”
Featured photo courtesy Henry Anderson
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