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Alaska Airlines Employees Help Turn High School Students into 'Prom Princes and Princesses'

SITKA — A group of students from Mount Edgecumbe High School will be transformed into "prom princes and princesses" later this month by a volunteer group of Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air employees and their families and friends.

Mount Edgecumbe is a state-run boarding school in Sitka, Alaska. Its students come from all over the state — many from bush communities — and must pass a rigorous application process.

"It's difficult for students to attend prom because they're away from their families," said Terri Bogren, who works in Alaska Airlines' accounting department and founded the Prom Princess program. "My goal is to make sure that everybody who wants to go to the prom gets to go to the prom. We are like their ‘fairy god families' to help them get ready for their ball."

This is Bogren's sixth year organizing the Prom Princess program. She grew up in Yakutat, and empathizes with the young students who are far from home.

Bogren and her team of about 60 volunteers spend the weeks leading up to the March 29 prom collecting donations of gently used dresses, shoes, purses and other supplies. Employee raffles and fundraisers help pay for tuxedo rentals, offered at a deeply discounted rate from The Tux Shop in Tukwila, Wash.

"This is our way of saying ‘thank you' to the students, to reward them for the education they're getting and that they're staying in school," she said.

Prom at Mount Edgecombe goes back to the school's founding in the 1940s. For the past several years, Bogren's volunteers have helped make the annual event extra special.

"These students are leaving the comfort of home and their surroundings and relocating to a town accessible only by boat or plane. Homesickness is a big thing," said Bernie Gurule, academic principal at Mount Edgecumbe. "Prom gives students something to look forward to."

The school sets up webcams at the entrance to prom each year, encouraging students to stop and show off their outfits for far-away families.

"The kids absolutely love prom, they really do. They're very proud of themselves," said Gurule.

Volunteers from as far away as Phoenix travel to the Southeast Alaska town the weekend before prom to help students choose their outfits and begin to make alterations. One week later they kick into high gear, styling hair, painting nails, applying makeup and more.

"The students are in awe," said Bogren. "Many of them are from very rural towns, and have never used makeup or worn a formal dress before. The primping and pampering our program provides really helps build their self-esteem."

People interested in supporting the Prom Princess program through time or donations can contact Terri Bogren at terri.bogren@alaskaair.com.

Alaska Airlines, a subsidiary of Alaska Air Group (NYSE: ALK), together with its partner regional airlines, serves nearly 100 cities through an expansive network in Alaska, the Lower 48, Hawaii, Canada and Mexico. Alaska Airlines has ranked "Highest in Customer Satisfaction Among Traditional Network Carriers" in the J.D. Power and Associates North America Airline Satisfaction StudySM for six consecutive years from 2008 to 2013. For reservations, visit www.alaskaair.com. For more news and information, visit the Alaska Airlines Newsroom at www.alaskaair.com/newsroom.

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