Claremont students use their heads to help others
Each month, the students of Mountain View Elementary School learn about a core value crucial to becoming well-rounded individuals. Throughout the month of May, the focus was on “confidence.”
It has been emphasized largely in conjunction with state testing, but the word also applies to the generosity shown by 22 students who donated hair at the Locks of Love event held at the school on Monday, May 21. The take added up to a veritable Rapunzel's worth of tresses—more than 32 feet—that will be used to make hairpieces for underprivileged kids who have lost their hair and need a boost of confidence.
Kids who will receive the high-quality prostheses include those with cancer, the autoimmune disorder alopecia, and trichotillomania, a disorder in which a person compulsively pulls out their own hair.
Mountain View staff like event coordinator Paula Asinas, who teaches fifth grade, started talking to students with long hair at the beginning of the year, asking them to hold off on getting their haircut. Two weeks ago, a delegation of students went to all the classrooms with a ruler, measuring to see which girls had hair long enough to donate a ponytail of at least 10 inches. Those who qualified were sent home with a consent form.
Meanwhile, Ms. Asinas reached out to parents, local hair salons and area businesses to ensure there were stylists on hand to give participants a fashionable cut after the ponytails were snipped off and to put together some goody bags for girls who opted to donate.
"We wanted to be able to give them something because it can be traumatic to cut off that much hair," Ms. Asinas said.
The goody bags included gift certificates and coupons to local eateries like Yogurtland, Jamba Juice, Buca de Beppo and the Pita Pit and small bottles of lotion from The Bath Workshop. Kids Fun Cuts in Upland donated a hair bow to present to each participant and Ms. Asinas created a raffle basket for all participants.
By the day of the event, 18 students had committed to getting their haircut. Watching their peers take the plunge during the school assembly, 3 others were inspired to join in the event. The office staff got their parents on the phone to okay their daughters' participation and the number of donors ticked upwards.
Calyssa Lomeli, 11, was one of the students who reconsidered, ultimately donating 12” of hair.
“I thought about it. At first I said no, but then I wanted to do it because it was for a good cause,” Calyssa said.
Notable donations included a gift of 29 inches of hair from Triniti Ho who, along with getting her hair cut at the event, donated a ponytail saved from a previous haircut. A total of twenty-six inches was collected from 8-year-old twins Adeline and Abigail Burns.
After donating 15 inches of her hip-length hair, Zenna Eissa still has hair below her shoulders. The event constituted her first real haircut outside of occasional trimming by her mother.
"I helped someone have hair and they won't be made fun of anymore," she said.
The hair—which has been gathered in braided coils individually sealed in Ziploc bags— will be sent to Locks of Love. The hairpieces made by the nonprofit, which would retail from $3,500 to $6,000, are not your average wigs. They are custom-made, attaching with a vacuum seal that makes them hold fast, and can even be worn while swimming and showering. The organization provides the prostheses for free or on a sliding scale to families who would not be able to afford such a high-quality hairpiece.
According to the Locks of Love website, the gift of hair can be a life-changing experience: “This sense of security allows the children to get back their self-confidence and be kids again.”
Eleven-year-old Elayna Aguilar, who donated 13” of hair, is feeling confident after the experience. She showed off her shorter ‘do at her brother’s soccer game to unanimous approval.
“They said it looked even cuter because it was donated,” she said.
The Locks of Love event was a great way to teach students another value that has been highlighted this year. Empathy.
“I think it's a really positive way to teach students about caring for others,” said Mountain View principal Clara Dehmer.
Eleven-year-old Alyssa Aguilar was in the giving mood and donated one of her natural gifts, a whopping 17" of hair.
“I did it because I thought someone else needed my hair more than I did,” she said.
There’s another benefit to the girls’ donation beyond the fact it will help a child in need. Summer is coming and, with it, comes weather that can make long hair a bit uncomfortable.
“It gets sort of sweaty,” 11-year-old Kiersten Clark said. “It feels good to have no hair on my neck.”
"I feel better. My neck can breathe now."