Snip, snip, snip. A 12-inch ponytail dropped to the floor, and the crowd went wild.
The buzzing of hair shears is not what you expect to hear at a middle school assembly. But anything can happen at this Michigan middle school in the name of paying it forward.
On Monday, in front of the entire student body, 10 girls at Saginaw’s Swan Valley Middle School cut their hair for charity. Their locks were donated to Children with Hair Loss, a Michigan-based nonprofit that provides free hair replacements to kids and young adults grappling with cancer treatments and other medically-related hair loss.
“My hair would make a child or an adult feel happier than 12 extra inches of hair ever made me,” said 13-year-old Autumn Snook, one of the donors, who parted voluntarily with 12 inches of her blonde locks.
“I wanted to give kids and adults the ability to look the way they want and express themselves.”
A teacher came up with the idea to impart a lesson
The event was the brainchild of a sixth-grade math teacher, Heather Quellet. She and her seven-year-old daughter were inspired after watching a neighborhood friend grapple with alopecia, a condition that causes bald spots on the scalp.
“I thought this could be a really good opportunity for students to learn about courage and sacrifice,” Quellet said.
So she teamed up with school counselor Sandy Kreager to plan it all out. In October, the school had an assembly to honor Amber Baase, a high school senior who has been donating her hair for several years. At the end of the assembly, Quellet cut her own hair.
“I decided that would be kind of a kickoff,” she said. “I thought I could do it at the beginning of the year to show them what it would be like, because they’re probably going to be nervous.”
Five months later, the 10 girls sat before their classmates in the school’s gymnasium, donating their hair and receiving applause.
“We even had two boys volunteer, but their hair wasn’t long enough,” Quellet said. Children with Hair Loss requests donations of at least 8 inches of hair.
To help students adjust to their new ‘dos, the hairdressers who did the cuts also styled each girl’s hair to their liking.
“We really wanted to show the students that they could do something very easy to give back to those who need it in the world,” said Kreager. “It can be something as simple as just letting your hair grow.”
It’s just one of many acts of kindness at this Michigan school
Hair donation is the latest in a growing list of ways these Michigan middle schoolers are paying it forward. The school uses a character development program set up by the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation to explore concepts like courage, commitment, patriotism and integrity.
Each month the principal holds an assembly where students’ and teachers’ outstanding community service is recognized as acts of “Viking Valor,” named for the school’s Viking mascot.
Late last year, two female students were honored for leading a coat drive after they realized some needy teenagers didn’t have warm jackets for the winter.
Other students have sewn blankets and pillows for a local VA hospital.
For the Swan Valley School District, character and service aren’t just values, they are traditions.
“The world is full of giving and receiving,” Kreager, the counselor, said. “When we give like this, people receive, but when we’re thankful, we get it back.”